FG to address backlog of pension arrears

PRESIDENT  Muhammadu Buhari has expressed the commitment of his administration to offset all the backlogs of pension arrears owed federal retirees in the country.

Speaking while declaring open the third edition of the World Pension Summit ‘Africa Special’, with the theme: “Pension Innovation: The African Perspective,” held in Abuja, on Wednesday, Buhari said he would address all inherited outstanding pension liabilities of the Federal Government within the scarce resources available to it.

The president said pension matters occupied a strategic place, not only as a vital component of social security, but also as a vehicle for nation building.

Represented on the occasion by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, the president said, “Before the reform, Nigeria had large pension liabilities in trillions of naira, but now, the contributory pension scheme has generated over N5.83 trillion of pension assets as of June 30, 2016 which are invested into various sectors of the Nigerian economy.”

Within the 12 years of the implementation of the scheme, according to him, it had, to a large extent, eliminated incentives for corruption and had stabilised the country’s pension administration system.

The president expressed delight that PENCOM was currently working to extend the net to cover the informal sector under the micro pension scheme, adding that the commission had been asked to step up its enforcement drive to ensure full compliance by public and private sector institutions, in line with the enabling law.

Meanwhile, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said though he was excited over the success so far recorded in the Nigerian Pension Industry, further innovations must be undertaken with caution. Pension assets, according to him, must be preserved “no matter what we do.”

The former president further stressed: “I like innovation, but innovation must be with caution; we can’t be too adventurous. Pensioners must have access to their money whenever they needed it,” he said.

Earlier, the co-founder of the World Pension Summit, Mr Eric Eggink, said efforts should be made to utilise the advancement of modern technology to significantly boost pension participation.

He said products like micro pension, as well as providing online access to pension products and any innovation that covers the threshold to accommodate players in the informal sector, would be a great boost to the growth of the sector.

Also, the Director-General, National Pension Commission (PENCOM), Mrs Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, said part of the expectations of the summit would be to brainstorm on ideas and experiences on innovative practices in pensions and social security to advance the African agenda of addressing economic and social challenges.