N8.7tn pension fund: PenCom bars PFAs from investing in bonds issued by nine states

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The National Pension Commission, PenCom, has barred pension fund administrators from investing in the bonds of nine states that have yet to amend their state pension laws and join the Contributory Pension Scheme, The Punch special investigation reveals.
This restriction might be extended to 15 other states that had joined the Contributory Pension Scheme, CPS, but were not showing full commitment to funding the Retirement Savings Accounts of their workers.
Latest figures from the commission, according to The Punch, showed that as of March 2019, the number of states that had enacted laws on the CPS stood at 27.
Yobe State is still operating the old Defined Benefits Scheme, DBS, and has taken no action towards adopting the CPS.
Six states – Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Benue, Kwara and Plateau have drafted bills, while in Akwa Ibom and Cross River, the bills are still in the houses of assembly.
The commission stated that the states that had commenced remittance of pensions to workers’ Retirement Savings Accounts and were funding their accrued rights were Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Niger, Delta, Osun and Rivers.
The CPS was established under the Pension Reform Act to replace the DBS. This was because the DBS had huge liabilities, which were not being funded, leading to situations where retirees endured long waits to get their entitlements, while many of them died without being paid.
Unfortunately, the same scenario, which was prevalent in states operating the DBS, is now happening in the states operating the CPS due to poor funding of the scheme.
The Head, Corporate Communications, PenCom, Peter Aghahowa, said the commission could not impose the CPS on the states, but could only use moral suasion. “The states have to enact the laws to do the CPS because they are going to operate based on the provisions of the laws. We can only encourage them because of the benefits in the scheme,” he said.
According to him, if any state plans to raise funds through pension bonds, it must have met the CPS criteria before it could have access to such.
For now, he said, those that had not enacted the laws were being encouraged to do so. “We don’t invest in bonds of states that have not enacted their laws. We have some that are not complying properly, some are complying partially. I believe we will review some of those things again. But for now, if you have not even enacted any law, don’t think we will start investing in your bonds.”
Retirees under the CPS have lamented their ordeal as state governments, which have started the scheme continue to falter in remitting contributions to the pension fund administrators
The PUNCH’s investigations showed that most of the states that had passed the law had not been remitting government and workers’ contributions to the Retirement Savings Accounts.
In Delta State, beneficiaries of the CPS said many of them spent over six years after retirement before being paid their entitlements. But the state government said although the scheme started shakily, the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led government was gradually righting the wrong of the past.
Some of the contributors who spoke lamented the delay in process, adding that many of the retirees died before the payment of their entitlements.
They also accused officials of the pension fund administrators of deliberately delaying payment into retirees’ accounts when the state government had released funds to them.
A retiree, Mr Anthony Osanekwu, lamented that he had not been paid his harmonised pension.
Osanekwu, who said he retired as a ‘functioning director’ in 2012, lamented: “We that are in the Contributory Pension Scheme have been suffering. The promises have been on without fulfillment.
“In the same situation, they have not paid the harmonised pension which is the main thing. They just pay something.
“In fact, one of us died two weeks ago and he was buried last week in Asaba here. He retired as a director in higher education. So people, who retired at that level, have been suffering for over five years.”
Another pensioner and member of the state Association of Contributory Retirees, Mr G. O. Aduwa, confirmed that he got his payment three years after retirement.
Aduwa, who left the state public service in 2014, criticised the manner the government was operating the scheme. He said he was worried that the government that enacted the pension law did not abide by it.
Reacting to The PUNCH’s enquiry, Chairman, Delta State Bureau of State Pension, Mr Tony Obuh, said the scheme was being positioned to meet its obligations to retirees.
He said, “There is a plethora of issues and the very enlightened and inquisitive ones know the challenges. Hence, we have a robust relationship, notwithstanding our indebtedness.
“The scheme was programmed to commence on a solid footing, unfortunately it failed ahead of take-off.
“Whereas the state government was expected to build up funds ahead of commencement, a number of factors combined to frustrate this. When payment commenced eventually, it was with a heavy burden in the neighbourhood of N15bn.”
When asked if the board was meeting its statutory obligations, Obuh said, “Yes, on a steady and sustainable basis, on the principle of first come first served, with monthly releases from the government.
“With the current monthly receipt of N500m, we pay monthly adhering to the principle of first come first served. At the moment, we are in the September 2015 batch.
Lagos has been consistently funding the RSAs of workers, but has a huge backlog of arrears from the accrued rights.
This had led to delay in payment of pensions to retirees under the CPS.
According to the Lagos State Pension Commission, the state is still settling the accrued rights of workers who retired between 2015 and 2016, and has not commenced the payment of pensions of those who retired after.
A retiree, Mrs Olushola Ola, said, “I retired in February 2018, but I could not be placed on pension now until they settle all 2016 and 2017 pensions.”
In Osun State, many state pensioners, comprising state civil servants, primary and secondary school teachers, said the last remittance to their RSAs was made in September, 2015.
A retired secondary teacher, who left service in August 2016, Mrs Titi Arowosegbe, said the last remittance for all those that retired same year with her was in September, 2015.
She said the last notification of remittance they got was that of the month of September, year 2015.
“Our batch left service about two years, eight months ago and since then, we are still expecting to be paid our pensions. I got the last notification of remittance from my PFA in September 2015. That was almost one year before I left service,” Arowosegbe said.
A retired local government employee, Alhaji Kamar Ibrahim, who left service in December 2018, said the last remittance by his PFA came in August 2017.
When asked about the cause of the delay in paying the pensioners, Ibrahim admitted that many retirees usually commenced processing of their exit papers late.
He, however, said the government should be blamed for the delay in paying the pensioners, saying haphazard remittance of deductions from workers’ salaries and government contributions into RSAs caused the delay.
He added that the delay in remitting deductions as and when due, meant workers would not get interests that should have accrued on the contributions.
“The situation is like this, I left service in December 2018. Government deducted my own contributions for the pension scheme up till the time I left service but the sum is not remitted to my PFA. Government also did not add its own contributions.
“If the government chooses to pay me next week and makes money available to my PFA few days before they call me to pick my cheque, I will not be paid any interest on the deductions because they got to my PFA late. So I won’t get the interest that would have accrued if the PFA had been receiving my contributions as and when due,” Ibrahim concluded.
When asked about how they have been surviving, Arowosegbe said she had turned to vegetable farming.
Mr Gideon Adeniyi and Mr Rasaq Adelu, retired teachers, said they took up jobs at private schools, but later left the jobs because they could not cope with the rigour
The Ogun state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress disclosed that the outgoing administration of Governor Ibikunle Amosun, had not remitted funds to workers the RSAs for 108 months.
The state chairman of the NLC, Akeem Ambali, disclosed this to The PUNCH.
Ambali, however, said the governor had promised to offset all the debts by the end of April.
When contacted on the plight of the pensioners in Ogun State, the Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Bola Lawal, said the state government had not paid gratuities to retired local government workers and teachers from 2011 to 2019.
He further said that retirees from the core civil service had not been paid from 2014 to 2019.
Attempts to get reaction from the state government on the issue was not successful as the commissioner for Budget and Planning, Mrs Adenrele Adeshina, said she did not have the facts with her.
But the NLC headquarters expressed concern about the loopholes in the CPS, saying workers at the state and federal levels deserved a uniform contributory pension scheme. General Secretary of the NLC, Peter Ozo-Eson, said, “The point to be made is that when people have worked and laboured for their fatherland, they are expected to be comfortable after retirement through a reasonable and regular pension plan.
“Part of the issues in the present pension arrangement is that the Pension Act does not compel state governments to belong to the arrangement. A number of them voluntarily joined the contributory scheme while some have not. Among those that have joined, some are remitting contributions regularly, while some are not doing so.”

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