WE have been discussing the status of implementation of the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) in states of the Federation. Today, we will be discussing Abia State. Abia state is among the states that I term to be the hibernating states. These states have enacted laws on the CPS, but cannot be said to have keyed into the CPS because they are not complying with their own laws. Therefore, they are as good as haven not keyed into the CPS.

Governor Ikpeazu

Abia state enacted law on CPS in 2017. However, the state is yet to establish a Pension Bureau; yet to register employees with PFAs; yet to commence pension contributions; yet to conduct Actuarial Valuation; yet to open Retirement Benefits Bond Redemption Fund Account; yet to commence funding of Accrued Rights and no Group Life Insurance Policy. This information is available on the website of the National Pension Commission (PenCom).

The Guardian newspaper of 30th August 2019 carried a story with the caption “Abia pensioners hold prayer summit over outstanding arrears”. According to the newspaper, the pensioners commenced a two days prayer summit to ask God to cause payment of their pension arrears that had accumulated from 2014 to that day. They alleged that the least paid pensioners in the state is on a N500 monthly stipend.

Former Governor Orji

On 22nd March, 2020, Pension Nigeria carried a story, which quoted Aham Uko, the state’s Commissioner for Finance, to have that the state government has an outstanding pension arrears of over N21 billion, adding that the government had commenced efforts to liquidate the amount. He stated this while addressing journalists on the verification of pensioners in the state.

The State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on 1st May 2021 during the celebration of Workers Day, urged the Abia State government to clear salaries and pension arrears as workers and pensioners were dying in their numbers because of the failure of the state government to pay salaries and pension as and when due.

Former Governor Kalu

It is a matter of great concern, workers and well meaning members of the public, especially us at the Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy at the level of poverty, destitution and deprivation foisted on pensioners in Abia state and members of their families as a result of the failure of the state government to pay arrears of pension that has accrued since 2014. Moreover, the state government has no plan to safeguard the future of the state civil servants through putting structures and systems in place for their pension. Future poverty and destitution is staring workers of the state and local government in the face.

The adage that “rest is sweet after labour” may after all not hold for Abia state workers and pensioners. The adage holds sway only for workers who have got their rest planned for them by their employer in this case, the state government during the period of their labour. Unfortunately for civil servants of Abia state, planning for workers retirement is alien to the Governor of Abia state.

The advent of paid employment, introduced planning for rest after labour through the introduction of pension schemes. This is institutionalised through the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention 1952 (No.102), which established the right of all to Social Security and expressed the responsibility of national governments and international communities to guarantee that right in practice. Pension is the most visible pillar of any social security scheme of any country.

Seventeen years into pension reforms in Nigeria and the implementation of the CPS introduced under the Pension Reform Act 2004, which repealed the Pension Act 1990 that was of universal application in the of the public sector of the federal, states and local governments in the country, Abia state government enacted a law on the CPS in 2017 and stopped at that level. Then some other states such as Lagos, Osun, Kaduna, Delta, Ondo, Edo, Ekiti states and the FCT, who have also enacted laws on CPS have put structures in place to implement the laws, and are fully complying with the provisions of their various laws thereby securing the future welfare and wellbeing of their workers and pensioners.

The following persons have ruled Abia State from the introduction of the Contributory Pension Scheme in 2004 to date. They are Orji Uzor Kalu (May 29, 1999 –May 29, 2007); Theodore A. Orji (May 29, 2007 –May 29, 2015; and Okezie Ikpeazu (May 29, 2015 – date).

All these former and incumbent Governors of Abia state as well as their political office holders, collected and continue to collect their salaries and enjoyed and continue to enjoy benefits attached to their respective offices regularly.

 

Former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu is currently a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where he is the Chief Whip and a chieftain of the ruling party, APC. Theodore Orji is also a Senator. The two of them are in the National Assembly, receiving mind blowing salaries and allowances as and when due.

 

The question in the minds of workers and pensioners in Abia state is who will bail them and members of their families from poverty and destitution that these former and incumbent Governors have consigned them into? They have lost hope in politicians from the state and also the political parties, because the politicians lack empathy and concern for the plight of workers and pensioners. The political parties, on their part, are opposite sides of the same coin, whose shared concern is how to get one of theirs into the Government House, who will superintend on how they share and loot the common wealth of the state. It is for these reasons that they have turned to God. We all know that God will no longer put on a mortal body to come and grant answers to their prayers. He has delegated such duties to the sons of men. Who is that person?

 

All the workers and pensioners belong to trade unions, to whom they pay membership dues. Trade unions, on their part, are affiliated to labour centers; in the case of Nigeria, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). A percentage of the membership dues workers pay to the unions are also paid to the NLC and TUC as affiliation dues. The role of unions and the Labour Centers is to champion issues that have to do with the conditions of service and welfare of their members and to be their voice in times like the current one, in which workers and pensioners in Abia state and some other states of the Federation find themselves in.

1 COMMENT

  1. The problem is that Contributory Pension Schemes are not necessarily the answer for pensioners. They attempt to make pensioners “shareholders”, but then expose them to the risk of loss of their hard earned money. In addition pension funds are subject to theft. We need governments to be honest and pay their pensioners as promised. Any other approach will not help and increases the risk of theft of the pension funds.

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