By Ikechukwu Amaechi
Nigerian policemen, who have been groaning over poor retirement benefits since the introduction of the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) with the Pension Reform Act of 2004, will have cause to smile soon if feelers that emerged from a three-day investigative hearing by the House of Representatives Committee on Pensions is anything to go by.
The investigative hearing organised to determine the level of compliance with the Act held between Monday, March 9, and Wednesday, March 11, at the National Assembly complex, Abuja.
It was a huge boost for the management of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) Pensions Limited and its clients, policemen, as its request for the approval of a special gratuity for police retirees at the rate of 300 per cent of their last annual gross pay was endorsed by the Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp).
In its submission on Monday, the operators who insisted that the major challenge faced by pension management was the backlog of accrued rights and pension arrears owed by the Federal Government, endorsed the demands of NPF Pensions Limited.
“Some of our constituents, specifically the NPF Pensions Limited, have some specific issues to bring to the attention of this committee,” PenOp said.
“They represent a very critical segment of our society – the police force. We endorse their submission and urge you to take on board their recommendations.”
In its special memorandum on the ways and means of addressing the plight of police retirees under the CPS, which was submitted to the House Committee on Pensions, NPF Pensions Limited disclosed that a request had been made to President Muhammadu Buhari, which if approved, will resolve the issue of constant agitation for exit of the police from the Contributory Pension Scheme.
Making the presentation before the Hon. Alhassan Kabiru Rurum-led committee, Dr. Sule Wuro Bokki, Managing Director/CEO of NPF Pensions Limited, said the PFA was seeking the president’s approval of special gratuity for police retirees at the rate of 300 per cent of their last annual gross pay so that the balances in their Retirement Savings Account (RSAs) will be channeled towards their monthly pension payments.
Dr. Bokki said support for the request was anchored on Section 4 (4) of the Pension Reform Act which provides that an employer, notwithstanding the provisions of the Act, may agree on the payment of additional benefits to the employee upon retirement.
The second request was the recognition and treatment of police officers from the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) and above as public office holders who should retire with their full benefits, such as permanent secretaries pursuant to Section 7 of the Pension Reform Act.
Bokki told the House Committee that whereas the RSAs of serving and retired police officers are being professionally managed by NPF Pensions Limited, and are covered by the same guidelines and safety nets covering the CPS, the issue of low pension can be administratively resolved within the ambit of the Act.
“Our prayer, therefore, is that the Honourable House of Representatives should pass a resolution to the effect that to solve these agitations by police retirees, and for them to remain within the Contributory Pension Scheme, Mr. President should approve the request for improved pension benefits by the police, namely: special gratuity for retired police officers at the rate of 300 per cent of their last annual salary and recognition and treatment of retired police officers from the rank of AIG and above as public officers who should retire with their full benefits, such as permanent secretaries.”
The current Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, who adopted the position of his predecessor that if the two issues are favorably considered, it will permanently solve the agitation by police retirees to exit the CPS, has once again written to President Buhari to approve the request which has also been adopted by the Association of Retired Police Officers of Nigeria (ARPON).
Speaking anonymously at the investigative hearing venue on Tuesday, a senior police officer who came to observe proceedings enthused that, “Now that the Pension Operators, an independent body established to promote the operations of the pension industry, provide for self-regulation and ensure that international best practices relating to the industry are observed by the operators, and which represents all the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs), the Closed Pension Fund Administrators (CPFAs) and the Pension Fund Custodians (PFCs), have unanimously endorsed the request, the days of low pension benefits to police retirees will be over soon.”
The public hearing was sequel to a December 5, 2019 motion in the House “on the need to investigate the non-remittance of contributory pensions by employers and delay or non-payment of entitlements by PFAs and general non-adherence to the provisions of the Pension Reform Act 2014.”