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By Erasmus Ikhide
MORE than ninety percent citizenry must have been having the last laugh over the Nigeria Police travail in the hands of pension scheme manipulators who have short-changed the agency, just the same way it has been short-changing Nigerians. The Nigeria Police is the notorious officially endorsed armed bandits that have been maiming and killing the citizens across the country with the slightest provocation.
A few months ago, a mobile police officer attached to Diamond Bank, Apapa Lagos, shot a container truck driver to death for refusing to part with N100 note. The Diamond bank and Sterling bank beside it were set alight along creek road, opposite Folawiyo Tank Farm. For that singular act, Apapa was closed to business for days.
Two weeks ago, the intemperate governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike told Nigerians that the Police have been responsible for the criminal syndicate that has been terrorising the state. That’s a weighty allegation coming from the state governor who has the privilege of accessing security reports from all the security apparatus in the state on a daily basis.
Time will fail me to list the ill plaguing the police force. But a good number of its men have held their heads very high, discharging their duties professionally in the face of most harrowing and inhuman condition of work. This can be confirmed when former President Goodluck paid unscheduled visit to the police college in Lagos, 2014 or thereabouts and found that the institution had no water, toilets, doors, windows, beddings and the rest. The total lack of weaponry and other gadgets was another issue entirely. In genuine cases of crime fighting, they have had to wade off criminals with their bare hands or get killed from the firepower of more equipped criminal gangs.
The half-hearted Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, like the ones before him has been allegedly submerged in the cesspool of corruption. And because of kickbacks from Police Commissioners across the country, non of them obeys posting orders from the IGP. This has led to security paralysis across board and actual policing in various states has suffered. The corrosive effect is alarming. Now, Police Commissioners collects bribes before posting Divisional Police Officers to lucrative locations!
It will interest you to know that those of them who served and retired in one peace have been having difficulties in accessing their pensions and gratuities. It could be recalled that on the 25th June, 2004, the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced Nigerians to a new pension Reform Act. The Acts was enacted by the National Assembly of the federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to the scheme, there shall be established for any employment in the Federal Republic of Nigeria a contributory Pension Scheme for payment of retirement benefits of employees to whom the Scheme applies under the Act. The Scheme shall apply to all employees in the Public Service of the Federation, Federal Capital Territory and the private sectors.
In the case of the Public Service of the Federation and Federal Capital Territory, a minimum of seven and half per cent by the employer, while the employee also contribute a minimum of seven and half per cent. In the case of the military, a minimum of twelve and a half per cent by the employer, while a minimum of two and a half per cent by the employee. The Act also exempted those who have less than three years of service prior to the commencement of the scheme. Also exempted were those who fall within the category as contained in section 291of 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
In the old pension scheme, employees were entitled to bulk gratuity and life pension of equivalent to last monthly emolument, while in the new Pension Reform, employees are no longer entitled to bulk gratuity and no pension at all. An employee who is on monthly emolument of about N150,000 will on retirement be given a bulk payment of about N3million naira as against the old gratuity of about N10million, while such employee will be placed on what the scheme called pension of about N30, 000 monthly as against the old pension of about N110,000 monthly. Meanwhile, the N30, 000 monthly pensions under the new scheme elapses within a period of fifteen (15) years either dead or alive. In any case, the New Pension Reform does not allow life pension
The Act which include all Public Service of the Federation and Federal Capital Territory and even the military, now allow the military and the Department of State Security Service to opt out of the new Pension Scheme. The choice of the withdrawal of the two organizations was as a result of the negative impact on their personnel. The question now is What are the Criteria for Opting Out?
The Nigeria Police Force is a statutory organization established for the enforcement of the laws and orders. The new Pension Scheme has created a lot of hardship for retired police personnel and if nothing is done to reverse police pension to the old scheme the negative effect will be corruption and inefficiency in the performance of their statutory functions.
The personnel who will retire without gratuity and pension may resort to bribery and corruption to make up for their retirement. Also, a police personnel who has no hope of what to lean on after 35 years of service may not want to risk his life pursuing criminals. Was it not in the new pension scheme that one Alh Abdulrasheed Maina stole the sum of about N21billion Police pension fund? What then is the reform in the pension? Why would Nigerian government not find solution to the corruption in pension commission?
The Nigeria Police is as important as those who were exempted in section 291 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Nigeria Police is as important as the military and the Department of State Services that have already opted out of the scheme which renders the employees of statutory organization like the Nigeria Police non pensionable. What a Policy!
According to the initiators of the policy, the old pension scheme delays payment of pensioners and the system was corrupt. Today that the pensioners have to contribute their pension from their salary has the corruption been eliminated. Are the retirees paid promptly and as at when due. Imagine the retirees of the Nigeria Police who retired from the service from January, 2016 till date, who are under the contributory pension scheme have not been paid their pension and gratuity up to date, yet they contributed their pension from their salaries. It would be recalled that on the 6th of April, 2017, one of the national newspapers publication its edition that “Buhari released N54bn to settle pension backlog”.
According to the publication, the Muhamadu Buhari’s administration released N54bn to clear part of the backlog of accrued pension rights for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016. In the same publication, the Director of Information, Ministry of Finance, Mr. Salisu Danbatta said that the sum of N41.5bn had already been released to PENCOM to enable them commence the payment of those who retired under the Contributory Pension Scheme and who were yet to be paid.
Danbatta also in his account, quoted the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun as saying that N12.5bn being outstanding for January, February and March, 2017, was also released, bringing the total to about N54bn. The Minister also said that to avoid future accumulation of pension arrears that henceforth, the monthly allocation to the PENCOM based on the appropriation of 2017 will be regularly paid along with monthly salaries of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
It would be recalled that all Federal Government workers began the monthly Contributory Pension Scheme in line with the Pension Act. The monies the federal government now owes its workers before the commencement of the Act is recognized in form of the issuance of Federal Government Retirement Benefits Bonds. Upon retirement of an employee, the bonds are to be liquidated and added to the balance of the retirement savings account of an employee to get the amount he or she is entitled to.
To ensure that government settled backlog of accrued rights, Pension Fund Administrators are not allowed to grant retirees access to their retirement savings until the Federal Government released the accrued rights components. This means that a retiree cannot access his or her Retirement Savings Account (RSA) through the Pension Fund Administrator without the accrued rights components held by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
So for Public Service workers who migrate to the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) in 2004 shortly before they retired, they are entitled to two components of retirement benefits. That is, the contributions accumulated in the RSA and their accrued right from the time they joined the service to the time they migrated to CPS.
Now, why have the Police retirees who retired from the service from January 2016 to date not been paid their gratuities and pensions? Who is responsible for the delay? Are there any justifications for not paying the police retirees who served in a hazardous service and retired meritoriously even though some of them are criminally corrupt. What has happened to the N54bn purportedly released by the federal government? What then is the essence of the new Contributory Pension Scheme? What stop a retiree from accessing his pension immediately after his first month of retirement?
As the federal government has no answer to the Police legions of problems, so also the Police has no answer to the escalating security challenges. It’s a perfect cul-de-sac, a case of perpetual jeopardy in the ocean of hopelessness, where everyone is to himself and God for us all. We only hope the situation would not get to the tipping point or anomic situation before help comes our way.
Erasmus, A Social Commentator writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
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