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Nigeria needs N204bn to settle pension backlog

The League of Federal Service Contributory Pension Retirees says the Federal Government will need N204 billion to clear the backlog of arrears owed its members.

The Coordinator, Mr. Chike Ogbechie, who decried the non-payment of allowances and pensions of retirees for 14 months, made this known at a news conference in Abuja, Wednesday.

Ogbechie said that since 2014, the budget for the accrued pension had been inadequate for the payment of retirees allowances. He said the Ministry of Budget and National Planning often reduces whatever is budgeted by the Pension Commission (PenCom) to pay the pensioners yearly.

“And so this year again they have slashed the figure of N113 billion to N50.1 billion. So we have made a case to the National Assembly that if the sum of at least N204 billion is not approved for Accrued Pension scheme in the 2017 budget, the backlog will expand.

“And this one year backlog of payment will expand even up to two years and you can imagine what retired public servants will be experiencing.’’

He maintained that the inadequate budget was responsible for the haphazard release of funds by the Ministry of Finance. “In the 2016 financial year, funds were released for only five months out of 12, amounting to a total of N18 billion out of the year’s budget of N50 billion.

“We have approached the ministry over the issue and it promised to improve its priority attention to this particular cost centre, but honestly, we are still looking forward to practical fulfilment of same.’’

Ogbechie also said that contributory pension retirees had been short-changed over time because the Federal Government had failed to apply the constitutionally mandated review of pension.

He added that the pension was reviewed twice in 10 years by 15 per cent in 2007 and 33 per cent in 2010.

He pleaded with the Federal Government to take urgent measures to reverse the situation and institute a regime of prompt payment of benefits to retirees.

Other pensioners who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) narrated their frustrations as they have to depend on their relations for upkeep.

Mrs. Stella Fatoyinbo, who retired in March 2016, said it has been tough having to depend on family, friends and well-wishers.

“When we were working, we devoted our entire time to serving the civil service for either 35 years or retired at 60 years; and there was no time to do any other thing but focus on the job. We believed that when we retired, we will immediately start enjoying our pension benefits. I just pray that the government will live up to its responsibility and pay us our pensions.’’

Mr. Simeon Abu, who retired in January 2016, said that he served for 35 years but was yet to be paid. He said that most corrupt practices in the civil service were fuelled because of fear of the future.

“Looking at tomorrow is the reason they are doing what they are doing today because they know that by the time they retire government will not take care of them. So they will do what they can to cut corners to make life meaningful for themselves after service. So pilfering from government is their way of saving for the rainy day,’’ he said.

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