Administration of pensions in federal judiciary
BEFORE the advent of the 2004 pension Act, pension administration in Nigeria was bedeviled with all sorts of challenges ranging from inadequate funding and misappropriation of pension funds to delays in payment of benefits, lack of authentic records/data of pensioners, existence of ghost pensioners etc. This has been a thing of the past in the judiciary as a lot has been accomplished since the taking over of this responsibility by the National Judicial Council.
Pension rights of federal judicial officers
In 2007, the responsibility of the administration of Pensions of Federal Judicial Officers was transferred to the National Judicial Council viz; the Pension Rights of Federal Judicial Officers (Administration of Pension) Act 2007. Since then, the National Judicial Council has been paying the Pensions of the retired Federal Judicial Officers from its Annual Budgetary Ceiling.
Upward review of pension of federal judicial officers
In 2016, the National Judicial Council, through the Office of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission reviewed upward, the Pension of the retired Federal Judicial Officers with retrospective effect from February, 2012, and paid arrears to the affected retired Judicial Officers. The review was in line with the provisions of Section 173 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. This exercise will be a continuous one.
Payment of pensions
Payment of pension (Monthly) has always been a priority to the Council and as such all payment processes gets completed not later than 25th of every month. It is also a point to note that Judicial Officers that retire from service gets their gratuity latest two weeks from the date of the submission of request for payment provided that all the required support documents are made available and verified.
Contributory pension scheme
With the advent of the Contributory Pension Scheme in 2004, the contribution of employer and employee were both handled by the National Pension Commission. They made remittances into the Retirement Savings Accounts of the employees of the Federal Judiciary under the Contributory Pension Scheme on the basis of 7.5 per cent for the employee and 7.5 per cent for the employer, bringing the total contribution to 15 per cent for a month.
In 2012, the National Pension Commission (PenCom) transferred impromptly the responsibility for payment of Accrued Pension Rights of the Federal Judiciary Staff to the National Judicial Council. This development prompted the Council to commence the payment from the budgetary ceiling of the Federal Judiciary, after the actuarial valuation of the Liabilities of the Federal Judiciary Staff.
In 2018, the council created a data base center for the pension department to ensure custody of the bio-metric data of all retired judicial officers and staff of the federal judiciary. The council also deploys an Easy-Pay Module to facilitate an electronic payment in the department, such as; e-Voucher, e-Vote Book, e-Expenditure Control, e-Checking and e-Mandate. This has tremendously brought progress, accuracy and speed with which payments are done in the Pension Department.
Verification / enrolment exercises
It is a tradition that annually, pension department embark on verification of all pensioners who are currently captured in the payroll of the council with the aim ascertaining the genuineness of their true existence so as to curb the menace of making payments to the non-existing pensioners. This is usually done periodically by taking the exercise to the door steps of all the retirees across the 36 states of the Federation including FCT, Abuja.
To further simplify the exercise, the use of Information Technology has been deployed in recent time.
Training and development
- Training of staff: – Pension industry has always been a dynamic industry with changes and challenges coming up by day. This affirm the fact that the industry is still evolving and that makes it necessary for the Council to always consider keeping its staff abreast with the trend and developments in the industry through special and tailored programs by well-informed professional bodies such as the ASCON, ITF, CMD etc.
In addition, the department has made series of commitment in conducting training programs annually for its staff in collaboration with National Pension Commission as well as having interactive sessions with Pension Desk officers of all Courts and Judicial Bodies.
- The pre-retirement training: The Council is very much informed and in tune with its responsibility of preparing its staff for retirement and as such a lot of efforts and resources have always been channeled toward accomplishing this task. This has helped tremendously in preparing the staff for a life after service. The program is usually a three-day program that entails lecture series, visitation to farms / SMEs and also interface with the participants’ spouses so as to tune them to empathizing with their partners upon retirement.
The successes recorded in the administration of pensions in the Federal Judiciary must not have been achieved without some challenges. Some of the challenges are highlighted as follows:
- Non-provision of special funds by the budget Office of the Federation outside the budget ceiling of the Federal Judiciary for payment of Pensions to retired Judicial Officers.
- Duplication of Retirement Savings Account Number (RSA) by some employees, thereby, causing hindrance on accurate remittance of monthly contributions.
- Late submission of required documents for the process of retirement benefits.
- Lack of financial support by PenCom to carter for the liability of paying the Accrued Pension Right of Federal Judiciary Staff upon the taking over of such responsibility from PenCom.
Aminu Safana is Assistant Director, Pension, National Judicial Council