Pension Payment: Mix reaction trails Kaduna State Contributory Pension Scheme
By: Femi Mustapha
There was a mixed reaction by pensioners in Makarfi Local Government Area of Kaduna State over the Contributor Pension Scheme, (CPS) introduced by the Mal Nasir El-Rufai’s administration in 2016 under the Kaduna State Pension Reform Law.
When the governor launched the project; he explained that over the years, the pension system had been a nightmare for the pensioner, a heavy strain and fraud-prone burden on the resources of the government.
El-Rufai said his government did not think it is fair that the pensioner should face delays in payment or be subjected to the perennial stress of physical verification, often in arduous conditions. This statement was a sort of joy and hope to the pensioners in the state.
However, speaking to Peoples Daily in Makarfi LGA, a 70-year-old retired teacher, Haruna Usman, said he served the state for 35 years and he has 37 people under his control and there are times because of delay in payment of pension he doesn’t have anything to feed them. He, therefore pleaded with the government to pay them as and when due.
“Go to the rural areas and see what pensioners are facing, it was one of my schoolmates that sent me N20,000 to use and eat. If the government wants to help us they should not waste time in paying us our entitlement, those who you still owe their gratuity please pay them,” he begged.
Another retiree from the Mayeri community, Bawa Mustapha, said most of his mates died while waiting for their pensions. He lamented that the State Government would have to move down to the grassroots to see the ordeals of the pensioners and not just be confused by remarks of those he tagged as “VIP” pensioners who reside in the metropolis.
He said those VIPs are people who have accrued wealth through the conversion of government’s resources to themselves, hence could not speak on behalf of those who are in the grassroots.
Similarly, a resident of the Tudun Wada community, Makarfi, and also a pensioner, Alhaji Haruna Ibrahim, who is battling with terminal sickness and has served the state for 28 years, said the new pension scheme is not helping matters; calling on the government to revert to the old scheme. “We are calling on the government to withdraw the new system and go back to the old scheme. The new one is suffering us,” he pleaded.
In a sharp reaction, the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, (NUP) in the LGA, Muazu Musa, said Governor El-Rufai is doing his best to see that the welfare of “senior citizens” are addressed and their pensions and gratuity paid as and when due.
He explained that the pension today is a contributory scheme and recipients are in two categories – those in the old scheme and those who have migrated to the new scheme. Muazu who is still on the old scheme added that those of them on that scheme received their pension monthly although days late, while those on the new scheme are the ones complaining of delay in payment.
Also, speaking on the CPS, the Advocacy and Communication Coordinator, Save the Children International, (SCI), Murjanatu Kabir, said the State Pension Reform Law is part of the effort made by the State Government to ensure that no one lives under the standard poverty line even after retirement.
According to her, this strategy has helped retirees to keep up with their responsibilities and cater to their family and their livelihood during old age.
The SCI Communication Coordinator added that this has helped the pensioners in so many ways, most of them rely solely on their pension to continue their normal lives and beyond that, the flexibility of accessing medical fitness at least once in 2 years as stated in the law is another benefit for them.
“The pension is serving as salary to the beneficiaries, therefore filling the gap of entering into extreme poverty at old age.
“This law is a shield to the vulnerable group particularly the aged, even though they are not strong enough to go out and source for their daily income, the pension has covered this gap by providing a monthly remuneration to upkeep their livelihoods.
“Most of the rural pensioners or their families do not have adequate awareness of their retirement benefits, it is good to create an avenue through the media outlets to do a program to sensitize the rural people on the Kaduna State Pension Reform Law. This will help reduce the level of ignorance about the law, particularly by people living in the rural area,” she said.
Giving credence to this, the Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Pension Bureau, Professor Salamatu Idris Isa, said recently, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, approved the sum of N1,235,000,000 for the payment of gratuity and death benefits for the State and Local Governments’ retirees and families of deceased beneficiaries.
She also said that N1,035,000,000 was allocated for the payment of the retirees and families of the deceased in the 23 local governments.
It would be recalled that Governor El-Rufai upon assumption of office in 2015 championed the passage of the Kaduna State Pension Reform Law in 2016.
El-Rufai said the interest of the pensioner and the sustainability of government pension obligations were uppermost in his mind when the government championed the passage of the law.
According to El-Rufai then, “We knew that we needed new legal and institutional arrangements to manage public sector pensions.
We were concerned about the huge size of the inherited arrears of pension and gratuity of almost N15bn.
And the fiscal challenges many states have faced since the collapse of the oil price, with many unable to pay even current workers, meant that the agony of pensioners may worsen without reform.
“And the untidy arrangement we met on the ground indicated a stillborn hybrid that operated on the defined benefits platform while keeping a poorly-implemented contributory pension scheme on the books. That is why we passed the new pension reform law,” he said.