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FG, retirees disagree on 42-month pension arrears

By on February 29, 2016

The alleged failure of the Federal Government to make provision for 42 month pension arrears for its retirees in the 2016 Appropriation Bill has drawn the ire of National Union of Pensioners.

The pensioners, which described this as an act of negligence, had vowed to fight this until the issue was fully addressed

According to the Deputy President of the NUP, Alhaji Musa, Ayuba, the union has resolved to elicit the support of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress to fight the alleged injustice.

He made the union’s position known in Abuja during a presentation to the House Committee on Pension Matters.

He said, “Having perused the content of the 2016 Appropriation Act, the union has discovered that there is no allocation of funds in the 2016 budget to accommodate the payment of the 42 months arrears of the 33 per cent pension increase.”

Ayuba said the deliberate negligence had angered the pensioners and were poised for a showdown with the government.

The federal retirees, he stressed, hoped to achieve this with the active support of workers’ pressure groups such as the NLC and TUC.

On the issue of the 33 per cent arrears, the NUP said it wished to place on record that the approval given by the Federal Government in 2010 was 53.4 per cent.

This, it claimed, was arbitrarily scaled down to 33 per cent by a technical committee set up by the government.

A copy of the presentation, which was obtained by our correspondent on Friday, stated, “We reluctantly accepted the 33 per cent in the spirit of the fact that ‘half bread is better than none’ and not on the basis of forfeiting the balance of 20 per cent, which we shall press for after the payment of the outstanding arrears of 33 per cent.”

The union then called for an urgent intervention by relevant authorities to include the provision in the 2016 appropriation before its passage.

It also complained about an unnecessary delay in the payment of death benefits to the families of deceased pensioners.

The NUP expressed worry that the non-payment of the benefits had brought untold hardships on the families of deceased members.

It said it was aware that after the preparation of the monthly pension by the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, the payroll was submitted to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation for direct payment from the budgetary allocations maintained with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Under this arrangement, according to the union, it is the CBN that pays the pensions to individual pensioner’s bank while the bank credits the account of the pensioner.

The union observed that in the process, if the CBN failed to release the funds on time, it would affect the monthly payment of pensions.

It urged the National Assembly to prevail on the CBN to release funds for prompt payment of the monthly pensions.

The federal pensioners said pensioners, who served the country meritoriously and selflessly in their prime age, deserved a better life in retirement.

To avoid the recurrence of lack of funds for the payment of pensions, it suggested that pensions should be funded from the consolidated revenue instead of being tied to budgetary allocation.

This, the union added, would facilitate early payment of the pensions before paying workers’ salaries as a mark of honour and respect for the senior citizens.

The NUP said that despite the union’s call for the harmonisation of the old and new pension rates and other actions taken in the past to address the disparity, there still existed a yawning gap between officers that retired on the same rank.

“As a result of the non-harmonisation of the pensions of some of the pensioners, thousands of pensioners are still out there earning pittance. This is indeed pathetic,” it stated.

But in a response to the issue, the Legal Adviser, PTAD, Kamilatu Kida, stated that its 2015 budget was approved and duly implemented, adding, “The 2016 national budget is still awaiting approval.”

On the outstanding arrears, he stated that 33 per cent remained the government’s policy.

He said, “PTAD commenced the 33 per cent pension payment increase in October 2014, and all arrears for the year 2014 were paid in December 2014. The arrears for 2010 to 2013 remain unpaid as an outstanding government’s liability.”

Kida stated that government had not made funds available for the payment of arrears, adding that once the funds were available, PTAD would make payment.

He also stated that in the fourth quarter of last year, PTAD commenced the payment of arrears and entitlements of the next of kin of police, customs, immigration and prison pensioners.

According to him, monthly pensions of those on the government’s payroll have been paid up to December 2015, adding that payments are subject to the release of funds by the Federal Government.