Weeks ago, a BBC Africa Eye documentary about corruption in the pension system in Cross River State went viral. The twenty-six-minute documentary showed the plight of pensioners in the State and exposed some unsavoury practices of government officials in the management of pensions.
The plight of our pensioners shows that when greed-fueled corruption enters the fabric of society, not even the most vulnerable are spared. We Nigerians (regardless of ethnicity), are taught to respect our elders and revere the elderly. Evidently, these values lie prostrate at the feet of corruption.
In my opinion, there can only be one reason why the pension system in Cross River State has remained in a rot; people high up in government must be benefiting from it. How high up? Your guess is as good as mine.
My hope is that the BBC documentary would have sufficiently stimulated or better still embarrassed the government to act. If they are ready to act, the steps to take to clean up the pension system and restore confidence are quite clear.
Step 1 – On the evidence provided by the BBC, the government should discipline all staff involved in corruption and mismanagement of the pension system. If people are not sanctioned, the government will be sending a message to its employees that there are no consequences for wrongdoing.
Step 2 – Hire a reputable professional services company to audit the pension system, and by this I mean a forensic audit. Use this audit to weed out ghost pensioners and restore the entitlements of those who have been mistakenly or deliberately omitted from the pension payroll.
Step 3 – Take immediate steps to implement a contributory pension scheme for all employees of the state and local governments in line with the Pension Reform Act of 2014.
The Pension Reform Act of 2014 made it mandatory for state and local governments to implement contributory pension schemes for their employees and to have these managed by pension fund administrators (PFAs). According to the Pension Commission (PenCom), setting up a contributory pension scheme requires state governments to do the following:
1. Enact a pension law to conform with the provisions of the Pension Reform Act 2014.
2. Establish a pension bureau and develop a transitional framework.
3. Register eligible employees with the National Pensions Commission (PenCom).
4. Obtain employer codes for all its MDAs from PenCom.
5. Determine the accrued retirement benefits rights of all its employees and pensioners through actuarial valuations.
6. Establish and fund a Retirement Benefit Bond Redemption Fund (RBBRF) with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or a Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) for the domiciliation and management of accrued rights funds.
7. Establish a group life Insurance policy for its employees.
8. Remit pension contributions and employee accrued retirement benefits rights – if any – to a PFA of the employee choice.
It is grossly unfair for people to spend their lives in service to state and local governments only to be abandoned and left to fend for themselves when they retire. Those mismanaging pensions and ill-treating pensioners must remember that if they live long enough, they will one day be pensioners themselves. How they treat pensioners today, may be exactly how they get treated tomorrow.
Iso Bassey, founder of Academix NG, is a Cross Riverian and writes in from the United Kingdom.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Iso Bassey and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
Since You Are Here, Support Good Journalism
CrossRiverWatch was founded on the ideals of deploying tech tools to report in an ethical manner, news, views and analysis with a narrative that ensures transparency in governance, a good society and an accountable democracy.
Everyone appreciates good journalism but it costs a lot of money. Nonetheless, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of news commercialisation.
Consider making a modest contribution to support CrossRiverWatch's journalism of credibility and integrity in order to ensure that all have continuous free access to our noble endeavor.