Concerned about the recent N700billion fraud rocking the Pension unit of the Office of Head of Service of Federation and related negative reports in the management of pension funds in some organisations, the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) is working towards amending the Pension Reform Act to prosecute abuses by employers.
The Director General of Pencom, Mallam Muhammad Ahmed made the disclosure at the public hearing by the Senate Joint Committee investigating pension administration in Nigeria. He stated that the proposal was aimed at ensuring that individuals and employers who defaulted in remittance of pension were punished according to the law.
“What we want to do as part of this public hearing is to get the National Assembly to amend the Pension Reform Act to make it a criminal offence for non-remittance. This is to provide a legal framework so that individuals/employers that are responsible for non-compliance with the guideline could be prosecuted,”
He also said that the commission would soon embark on a nationwide exercise to make it mandatory for employers to ensure compliance with the contributory pension scheme.
He said PENCOM was committed to collaborating with relevant agencies to ensure that those responsible for the abuses in the old pension scheme were brought to book.
“We’ve selected about 50 accountants, lawyers and debt collectors. They will go to different parts of this country and make sure that any employer that deducts and fails to remit is compelled to do so. At the end of the public hearing, the recognition of payment of pension will come to limelight and those that are responsible for paying pension especially under the old scheme will be held accountable. The PENCOM boss gave the assurance that necessary safeguards had been put in place to guarantee the safety of all pension assets which stood at N2.4 trillion.
He also commended the National Assembly, for its efforts towards finding lasting solution to some of the large-scale frauds over non-payment of pension by some organisations which damaged the contributory pension scheme.
Meanwhile the Senate had given the commission 14 days ultimatum to clear the backlog of unpaid pensions and save pensioners from further harrowing experiences.
At the Public hearing on management of pensions funds in Nigeria, the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, explained that Senate decided to carry out a holistic investigation of the rot in the nation’s pension management and administration with a view to put a stop to the glaring corruption in the system.
According to Ndoma-Egba, the moral strength of a nation is assessed on how the nation treats the vulnerable in its workforce among which consists of the retirees, who have served their nation faithfully and on retirement they expect the nation they have laboured for to pay their retirement benefits.
He regretted that whereas the pension managers were the custodians of the nation’s pension funds, some of them have decided to divert such monies meant for these vulnerable members of the society, stock such monies to their private account for their selfish earns leading to the untimely death of the retirees.
He charged the relevant agencies to begin to investigate and prosecute corrupt pension managers to serve as deterrent to others, while reminding participants at the forum that the mandate of probe panel was to carry out comprehensive investigation on all issues regarding the administration and management of pension in this country with a view to correct the lapses and bring culprits to book.