Pension Act Amendment Bill scales 2nd reading in Senate

The Pension Act Amendment Bill has scaled second reading at the Senate.

Nigerian senators [Tope Brown]

This followed the presentation of the lead debate on the general principles of the bill by the sponsor Sen. Aliyu Wamakko (APC-Sokoto) during Wednesday’s plenary.

The bill is titled “The Pension Reform Act 2014 Amendment Bill 2022” and was read for the first time on Tuesday, 5, Nov. 2019.

Leading the debate, Wamakko said that the bill sought to amend the Pension Reform Act 2014, to provide for a definite and reasonable percentage a retiree could withdraw from his/her retirement savings account.

“None of us can claim ignorance of the long-drawn-out anguish of retirees from the Civil Service, Nigerian Prison Service, universities and other federal agencies in the country.

“These retirees rather than enjoy retirement after selflessly serving their fatherland, have continued to live in misery and pain, leading to diseases and even death, as they cannot easily access their benefits.

“There is the existence of a Pension Reform Act 2004, which is now amended as Pension Reform Act 2014.

“The Act provides for a departure from the old pension scheme of ‘Defined Benefits’, to the new Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS). It also provides for the set-up of the National Pension Commission (Pen Com),” he said.

Wamakko said that the bill sought to provide succour to retirees by addressing delay in withdrawing their savings from retirement savings accounts.

“It equally provides for a definite and reasonable percentage a pensioner can withdraw from such account,” he said.

The lawmaker said with PenCom’s over N12.78 trillion accumulated, pensioners should be treated better.

“But the true situation is that only the Pension Administrators are benefitting, while the owners continue to suffer total neglect,” he said.

Contributing, Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi said that there has to be “a fundamental reform in that kind of thing so that the retirees have a say in the amount of money that they receive as lump sum out of their savings account.

“This monthly allowance should be reviewed so that the sufferings of retirees in the federal level can be addressed.

“The area the sponsor did not touch is the area of the states. That is where the bulk of the pensioners live and their life has been devastated. Some of them are dead, some of them are completely neglected.

“I recognise that the Act operates only in at the national level for Federal Government staff.

“Is there no way we can be able to induce in this legislation, some means of forcing the states to pay pension arrears and to also make sure that retiring staff who died in the service of the state are allowed pension allowances that will amount to a living wage.”

Similarly, Senate Deputy Chief Whip Sabi Abdullahi said the proposed amendment was timely.

“Those who are already having the defined contributory pension, they have been relegated from understanding what happened to their money.

“This is the misery that pensioners are suffering from. By 2024 that would have been 20 years of the implementation of this pension reform.

“It is time for us to begin to assess and evaluate the operation over these years and to see the ills or successes with a view to coming up with another comprehensive report that is people friendly that will help the retirees,” he said.

Sen. Istifanus Gyang (PDP-Plateau) said that the plight and distress which retirees faced in the country was enormous.

“The contradiction and irony however is the unfortunate reality that retirees and pensioners face while their accumulated savings are feasted upon by corrupt officials requires that this bill should be given speedy consideration.

“The administrators of pension funds are the ones that draw profits from those funds, while the pensioners, the contributors are left without any consideration,” he said.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, thereafter, referred the bill to the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters for further legislative action to report back within four weeks.

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