PENCOM asset growth hits N5.83 trn in 2016 —FG •Scheme stabilises Nigeria’s pension administration — Buhari

The Federal Government, in Abuja, on Tuesday, commended the fast growth of National Pension Commission (PENCOM) asset which it pegged at N5.83 trillion in 2016, describing it as a vehicle that could close the country’s huge gap in infrastructure.

Speaking at the Pension World Summit, the Head of Federal Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, noted that pension was a gigantic vehicle for sustainable development for the country.

According to her, “Pension matters have been turned from static scheme into creative or contributory scheme such that monies from pension can successfully fund infrastructure that will boost the economic fortunes of Nigeria.”

In his keynote address, the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo cautioned PENCOM about the use of technology, while praising the idea that if the innovation was harnessed transparently, many of the challenges currently faced by the pension body, such as poor coverage and capturing of people from the informal sector, will be effectively tackled.

Obasanjo noted that many African countries were making efforts to address the many pension crises facing them.

He stated, however, that until there was transparency in handling pension funds, not much progress would be made.

“Pension money must never be tampered with, even though we find a way to use these funds for infrastructural development, we must be able to hand pensioners their money at any given time they demand for their money.”

He further said trust was a vehicle that drove pension scheme in any given country, “when people put their monies in a pension scheme, if they have confidence  that any time they need their money, it will be there, then, much infrastructural development will be achieved through pension scheme.”

In her welcome address, the Director-General of National Pension Commission (NPC), Mrs Chinelo Awohu Amazu, said Africa needed to tackle lapses hindering effective pension administration, in order to give life to the aging population.

Also at the Summit, the founders of World Pension Summit, Erik Eggink and Chris Battapha advocated the use of technology for easy accessibility of pension funds.

World Pension Summit was established seven years ago to encourage saving of money at all levels, to help the aging population to retire into confort and teach the retired population how to  live independently in old age.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigeria’s Contributory Pension Scheme had, to  a large extent, stabilised the nation’s pension administration.

According to Buhari, it was globally acknowledged that pension matters occupied a strategic place, not only as a vital component of social security, but also as a vehicle for nation building.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)The theme of this year’s summit is “Pension Innovations: The African Perspective.”

The president, represented by the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs Winifred Ayo-Ita, said the summit would enable countries and stakeholders to brainstorm on how to tackle their economic challenges.

“Nigeria in 2004 established contributory pension scheme due to its advantages such as sustainability as a system with framework that would eliminate incentives for corruption.

“Also, it is noteworthy that within 12 years of implementing contributory pension scheme in the country, it has, to a large extent, stabilised our pension administration system.

“For instance, before the reform, Nigeria has huge pension liabilities in trillions of naira, but now, the contributory pension scheme has generated over N5.8 trillion assets as of June 30, 2016,’’ President Buhari said.

Buhari said the assets had been invested in the various sectors of the nation’s economy.

He explained that globally, pension matters occupied a strategic place, not only as a vital component of social security, but also as a vehicle for nation-building.

The president added that African countries had given considerable attention to pensions due to myriads of challenges encountered in the administration of pensions.

Buhari said the Federal Government had extended the pension scheme to states and local governments, in line with the Pension Reform Act of 2014, adding that many states had adopted the scheme.

The president stressed that states and local governments presently, were on various stages of implementing its pension schemes.

He called on the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) to extend its net to people in the informal sector.

Buhari also directed PENCOM to step up its enforcement drive to public and private sector institutions to ensure full compliance and in line with the enabling law.

According to him, the current administration would make funds available to address some issues of liabilities in the pension scheme.

Earlier, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is the founder of contributory pension scheme in Nigeria, advised many countries to reform their pension scheme.

Obasanjo called on the countries in Africa to emulate Singapore, which had effective and efficient pension system that enabled it to build houses for its pensioners through their pension scheme.

He advised the Federal Government to extend its pension scheme to states, local governments and private sector, to ensure a wider coverage of the scheme.

Obasanjo urged the participants at the summit to strengthen pension laws so that fraudulent people would not find it easy to embezzle the fund.

Eric Eggink, Founder, World Pension Summit, said due to innovation of Android phones, many people could now invest on pension scheme anywhere they use their mobile phones.

Eggink called on workers, both in private and public sectors, to register for the pension scheme, to save for the rainy day.

Mrs Chnelo Anohu-Amazu, Director-General of PENCOM, said after a long period of faltering  economic performance, there had been resurgent growth over the last decade in African countries’ GDP.

She listed African unique entrepreneurial/innovative spirit, emerging from its industries, smaller innovative initiatives such as the portable irrigation technology as some of the factors that led to the growth of African economies.

She, however, explained that Africa’s infrastructure by far remained the most deficient sector hampering the continent’s development.

The summit was attended by important dignitaries including Gov. Nasiru el-Rufai of Kaduna State; former Governor of Cross River, Donald Duke; NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, and President of TUC, Kaigama  Bala.