Zamfara Assembly Repeals Law Granting Ex-Governors, Others Pension

 

Former governors, deputy governors, and other political office holders in Zamfara State will no longer enjoy the payment of pension and other entitlements.

This development comes on the heels of outright repeal of the law that approves such payment by members of the Zamfara State House of Assembly.

The lawmakers abolished the law on Tuesday following a bill laid on the floor on the legislative chamber of the Assembly complex in Gusau, the state capital.

Presenting the bill, House Leader Faruk Dosara (PDP Maradun I) urged his collogues to as a matter of urgency consider the complete repeal of the law.

The law, according to him, provides the ‘jamboree pay’ for the former political leaders of the state at the detriment of the retired civil servants who have not been paid their entitlements over the years.

Dosara stressed that this category of past leaders were receiving over N700,000 million naira annually at a time when the state’s economy cannot accommodate such.

Seconding the motion, Tukur Tudu (PDP Bakura) explained that the abolition of the law was highly necessary as was detrimental to the socio-economic well-being of the people.

Following a series of deliberations and contributions by members, the Speaker, Nasiru Magarya, ordered the Clerk of the House to give the bill first and second reading.

The House, thereafter, went for a committee of a whole which led to the third reading of the bill.

The bill scaled through the third reading while members passed it and resolved that it should be sent to the state governor, Bello Matawalle, for his assent.

In a statement shortly after, the spokesperson for the House, Mustapha Kaura, noted that all past political leaders in Zamfara would no longer enjoy any entitlement, unless those prescribed by the National Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

Meanwhile, the lawmakers also received an interim report by the House Standing Committee on Religious Affairs led by Kabiru Dansadau (NRM Maru South).

The committee was asked to investigate the controversy surrounding the appointment of the Jumu’at Mosque Imam in Birnin Magaji Ward of Gummi Local Government Area of the state.

According to Kaura, the committee’s report indicted the district head of Birnin Magaji ward, Lauwali Hassan; district head of Gamo, Abubakar Adamu, as well as the Secretary of Gummi Emirate Council, Aminu Aliyu, among others of being culpable in the alleged scam.

It also accused them of collecting bribe from the imam which sparked some pocket of crisis in the area.

In its recommendation, the committee proposed the outright suspension of the principal officers of the emirate, pending the conclusion of its investigations.

The house agreed to this and extended the duration of the investigations by three weeks.

It has adjoined sitting until Wednesday.

Earlier, Speaker Magarya inaugurated the new Clerk of the House, Shehu Anka, paving the way for him to assume duty officially.

Withdraw Life Pensions For Ex-Officials, SERAP Tells Abuja Council Chairman

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Mr Abdullahi Candido, to withdraw the bill seeking payment of life pensions to former chairmen, vice-chairmen, speakers and other officials of AMAC.

According to a statement on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the human rights group issued a 14-day ultimatum for the withdrawal of the bill.

In an open letter dated October 11 and addressed to Candido, it described the payment of such money as unconstitutional and illegal.

It said, “If the bill/edict is not withdrawn within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, we will take all appropriate legal action to challenge the illegality and to compel you to comply with our request.

SERAP disclosed that under the bill, AMAC’s past council chairmen would receive an annual pension of N500,000 while former vice chairmen are to receive N300,000 each and former speakers will be paid N200,000 each.

It added that the payment of life pensions would cost the council several millions of naira of taxpayers’ money annually.

“The payment of life pensions to the council’s chairmen, vice-chairmen and speakers would cause massive financial crisis and cripple the council’s ability to discharge its mandates of providing public goods and services to the people of Abuja.

“It would also put in jeopardy citizens’ access to those services,” the group decried.

SERAP believes payment of life pensions to AMAC’s officials undermines the concept of representative government.

It insisted that such action was a flagrant violation of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 and the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act.

The group said it also amounts to an abuse of official power, position, and resources for personal gains, and reverses the notion of government as the public’s servant and not its master.

The letter read: The payment of life pensions to AMAC’s former officials is a copycat of the unconstitutional and illegal life pension laws that have been passed by several of the 36 state governments in Nigeria.

Your council is setting a bad precedent as the first local council in Nigeria to introduce life pensions for its officials.

This would send a dangerous message to other councils and risks opening the floodgates of life pension bills/edicts in several of the 774 local governments across the country.

Rather than spending millions of taxpayers’ money on life pensions, your leadership should prioritise addressing the poor state of basic amenities and deficits in educational institutions, primary healthcare facilities, potable water, sanitation and the basic infrastructural needs of the residents within the council’s area.

The leadership of AMAC ought to be exercised for the purposes of providing public goods and services to the people of Abuja and not to grant personal benefits for past officials.

The AMAC is constitutionally and statutorily obliged to act in the public interest.

Implementing the edict would defeat the very purpose for which your council is established, that is, to provide public goods and services.

Granting life pensions to council’s chairmen, vice-chairmen and speakers would seriously undermine the accountability of the council and citizens’ trust in its leadership.

People have the right to honest and faithful performance by public officials, who are under a fiduciary duty to the public.

And no public officer should put himself/herself in a position in which his/her personal interest conflicts or is likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of his office.

That is exactly the case with the life pensions.

The public trust to AMAC leaders and officials is not without its corresponding burden: accountability to the public is the obligation of all who hold public offices, including the position of chairman of AMAC.

This notion of accountability requires you to take immediate steps to withdraw the life pensions bill/edict.

You reportedly stated that the payment of life pensions was meant to ‘honour past heroes of the council who sacrificed their talents and energy in building the council.

This is to celebrate Nigeria’s 59th independence anniversary as well as celebrate the 35th anniversary since AMAC’s creation.

It would be a disservice if the past leaders and ambassadors of the council are not honoured.

No Forensic Evidence To Prove Maina Stole Money – Lawyer

 

A lawyer and rights activist, Frank Tietie, has said that there’s no forensic evidence to prove that the former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, stole any money.

Mr Tietie said this while reacting to the arrest of Maina on Wednesday.

“There is no forensic evidence to prove that Maina stole money directly”, he said in an interview on Channels TV’s Politics Today.

He, however, noted that he was optimistic that with the arrest, Nigerians can now see an end to the “mysterious Maina saga”.

Tietie who believes the ex-pensions boss has enjoyed a lot of protection, also says he hopes that “all of those forces who have always wanted him, who have always been scared of him would now come and face him and he should be given the opportunity to say the whole truth”.

“Miana definitely has enjoyed some measure of cooperation from the state authorities in such a confusing manner.

“At a point he was declared wanted, only to be reported to be protected by the DSS,” he added.

Maina had been declared wanted by the EFCC for an alleged N2 billion fraud in November 2015.


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Afterward, he disappeared from the public glare only to resurface in October 2017 and was reinstated as a Director in the Ministry of Interior – a situation that sparked criticism from Nigerians.

Tietie, however, believes that the controversial reinstatement and seeming protection was a deliberate act to lure him into releasing some sensitive information.

In an exclusive interview with Channels TV, after his return, the ex-pensions boss had said that if given a chance, he could prove his innocence to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Beyond that, he also promised to uncover some proceeds of corruption within nine months.

“Mr President, I will give you information and documents that will fetch you over N3trillion now in Nigeria, give me nine months. Within the first three months, I will show you N1trillion just like I showed you N1trillion in this 2017,” Maina had said.

Tietie, on the other hand, believes that with the level of confidence exuded by Maina, he could indeed possess “sufficient intelligence with regards to the situation of pension”.

“I think he was reinstated as a bait, in order to allow him release all of those sensitive information he has, to bust corruption,” he added.

He, therefore, urged the EFCC to do a thorough job before it proceeds to arraign him, while also calling on the DSS to use the opportunity to also clear itself on the allegations that it had been protecting Maina.

Court Sentences Man Over Alleged N65.5m Pension Fraud

Court Sentences Consultant Over Alleged N65.5m Pension Fraud

 

Justice Darius Khobo of a Kaduna State High Court has sentenced one Mohammed Sodangi, a pension consultant, to four months in prison for an alleged N65.5 million fraud.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said in a statement on Thursday that it received a petition by a group, Movement for Better Future, which alleged massive fraud in the Kaduna State Pension Bureau.

According to the commission, it was alleged that the then management of the bureau conspired with the consultant to steal pension fund through enrolment of ghost pensioners.

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The EFCC said the defendant was arraigned on May 15, 2015, on 13 counts bordering on impersonating and theft to the tune of N65.5 million.

One of the count read: “That you, Mohammed Ibrahim Sodangi, being a Consultant engaged by the Kaduna State Government to undertake the Computerisation of the Kaduna State Pension payroll, sometime between August 2012 and December, 2012 at Kaduna in the Kaduna Judicial Division of the High Court of Kaduna State did take dishonestly the sum of N9,937,163.34 (Nine Million, Nine Hundred and Thirty Seven Thousand, One Hundred and Sixty Three Naira Thirty Four Kobo) only, property of the Kaduna State Pension Bureau without its consent by enlisting your name into the pension payroll and which said sum were paid into your Keystone Bank Plc Kaduna main branch and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 287 of the Penal Code Law of Kaduna State of Nigeria.”

Sodangi pleaded “not guilty” to the charge.

In the course of the trial, EFCC presented five witnesses who testified while the defence presented three witnesses.

At the resumed hearing on Thursday, the prosecuting counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, informed the court that the case was slated for judgement.

Defence counsel, A. Moyosore, urged the court to temper justice with mercy, pleading that his client was a first-time offender and has many dependants.

The trial judge, thereafter, convicted and sentenced him to three months in prison with an option of N100,000 as fine on count one, which is an offence of impersonating.

He was also sentenced to 48 months in prison – four months each on count two to 13 to run concurrently and to pay the sum of N100,000 on each count, cumulative of N1.2 million as restitution.

Justice Khobo also ordered a mandatory four months in prison and that the defendant should refund the sum of over N55million by way of bank draft through the EFCC to the Kaduna State Pension Bureau.

We Have Put A Stop To Dehumanisation Of Pensioners, Says President Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari Friday in Abuja said his administration has put a stop to the dehumanization of federal pensioners by ensuring they were paid their entitlements and backlog of arrears as at when due.

The President spoke when he received a delegation of Nigeria Union of Pensioners led by the acting president, Comrade Musa Ayuba Dallatu, at State House.

President Buhari declared that the welfare of pensioners had remained a priority for his administration since May 2015, noting that the retirees deserve timely payment of their emoluments, recognition, and respect for their work and dedication to the country during their active working years.

‘‘In recent times pensioners were ignored, neglected and even persecuted. We have put a stop to that. As you yourselves have confirmed today, we have begun regular payment of monthly pensions and payment of backlog of arrears.

‘‘The Federal Government released N45 billion accrued rights for the contributory pension scheme and N22.4 billion to start payment of ex-Nigeria Airways pensioners,’’ he said.

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President Buhari told the pensioners that the Federal Government also bailed out States to address salary and pension arrears including Paris Club refunds, even as he had authorised schemes for the restoration of Niger Delta Steel Company pensioners, NITEL/MTEL pensioners and Biafra Police war veterans pensioners.

Reviewing the actions taken so far by the administration in connection with the pension industry, the President said the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) had saved N4.9 trillion per annum as a result of payroll clean-up under the Civil Service verification exercise.

He added that the Directorate which supervised the payment of pension arrears to over 50,000 verified Civil Service Pensioners, also oversaw the payment of N917.6 million to 432 war retirees.

According to the President, under his watch, PTAD completed full payment of N5.8 billion to police retirees in August 2018 while in November 2018, N13.7 billion was paid to parastatal retirees and N18 billion to civil service Pensioners.

‘‘These few examples testify to the Government’s positive impact on pensioners’ lives. In addition, we achieved huge savings in budgetary provisions through the elimination of ghost and duplicated details.

‘‘We have restored qualified pensioners arbitrarily removed from the payroll, thus bringing succour and hope to senior citizens, thereby improving the confidence of the entire county in the Government and its policies,’’ he said.

On the requests by the pensioners, including the implementation of the National Policy on Pension Parity and the National Policy on Social Security on Health and Other Related Matters of the Elderly, the President promised to do all within his powers to address them, subject to the availability of funds.

The leader of the delegation had also sought the President’s intervention on the five percent counterpart funding for the payment of local government pensioners and retired primary school teachers which was arbitrarily stopped in 2010.

Comrade Dallatu appealed for the payment of outstanding pension arrears, gratuities and death benefits that have accrued over the years, among others.

Commending President Buhari on the regular payment of pensions, Dallatu said: ‘‘we are bold to say without fear or favour that you have made our lives better than you met it in so many areas, which among others include regular payment of monthly pensions.

‘‘It is an incontestable fact that since the advent of this government under your able leadership, payment of monthly pensions has been more regular than ever. In fact, if the truth must be told, Mr President Sir, we have never had it so good.’

 

Edo To Pay Next Batch Of Pension Arrears From Wednesday

Edo To Pay Next Batch Of Pension Arrears From Wednesday
This file photo shows pensioners in Edo State protest their unpaid gratuities and pension arrears

 

The Edo State government has said that it will commence the payment of pension arrears of retirees in ‘batch 40’ latest on Wednesday, January 24.

The government announced this in a statement signed by the Permanent Secretary and Chairman, Pensions Bureau, Mr I.D. Juwobor, a copy of which was obtained by Channels Television on Sunday.

Juwobor said explained that the announcement was in continuation of the phased payment of pension arrears by the state government.

However, pensioners in batch 40 have been asked to present themselves for physical and documentary verification from Monday to Wednesday at the Imaguero School Hall in Benin City, the state capital.

According to the government, the exercise will also afford pensioners in batches 37, 38 and 39, who missed previous verification exercises, the opportunity to be screened and get their records taken to facilitate payment of their arrears.

“Affected pensioners are advised to check the list of pensioners in the batches at the office of the Head of Service on January 22 and 23, 2018.

“They are to come to the venue of the verification exercise with the following: pension authority, retirement letter, letter of first appointment, pension identity card, biometric slip and bank details including bank name and account number,” the Pensions Bureau chairman said.

Upon conclusion of the verification exercise, he said outstanding pension arrears would be credited to each pensioner’s account, “without delay after due process and documentation by relevant agencies involved in the payment process.”

The state government had opted for the phased payment of pension arrears after a reported backlog of about N10billion.

Imaguero, however, said the phased payment of the arrears has reduced the arrears by about N6billion, providing succour to pensioners whose arrears accrued from 1996 to 2000.

Edo Govt Promises To Clear Pension Debts By 2018

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File photo

The Edo state government has promised to clear all outstanding pension debts before the end of the year 2018 with or without the Paris club refunds.

The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, said the state government has paid off N6billion of the N10 billion pension arrears that accumulated between 1996 and 2000.

Mr Obaseki made this known when he met with pensioners in the state on Monday to commemorate the 16th Annual National Pensioners’ Day in Benin City, the state capital adding that the N3.9b arrears backlog would be cleared before December 2018.

He said that the arrears had accumulated between 1996 and year 2000 and that the state government has been clearing them in batches.

“For state pensioners, we set aside N100 million monthly to address the balance of about N3.9 billion. We will increase this amount as the state revenue profile increases.”

He further explained that when his administration came on board, local government councils were unable to pay pensions, hence the state put up measures to enable them generate revenue, which, he said, is gradually yielding positive results.

“We didn’t want to have challenges in the payment of pension anymore. So, we moved from the old system to the contributory pension scheme. You have a governor who understands the pension problem and the only way to resolve this problem is for us to work together,” he said.

On Paris Club refunds, the governor said the state and local government councils got the fund, which was used to pay salaries and pension arrears.

The State Chairman of Nigeria Union Pensioners (NUP), Pullen Noruwa, commended the governor for attending the event and setting up an 8-man committee to address pension matters in the state.

He also appealed to the governor to increase the N100 million set aside for the payment of pension arrears on monthly basis to expedite action on the settlement of outstanding arrears.

Over 66 Accounts Used In Pension Fraud – Malami

national policy, corruption

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami has revealed the existence of over 66 accounts allegedly operated by those involved in pensions’ fraud.

This comes amid growing criticism that has rocked the Buhari led administration following the reinstatement of an embattled former Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Pension’s Reforms, Mr Abdulrasheed Maina.

Many have said that the controversy surrounding Maina’s return and promotion to the position of Director of the Federal Civil Service has put a question mark on the Federal Government’s commitment in the fight against corruption.

The Attorney-General who was a guest on Channels Television’s Question Time, said shocking discoveries and recoveries have been made so far.

 

“Over 66 accounts were used in pension fraud associated transactions.

“There exists 12 pending court cases that are related to the pension fund fraud. Investigations have been ongoing overtime and serious recoveries involving about 270 or more assets involving house and automobiles were recovered.

“There is a very strong allegation that about 217,000 ghost pensioners exist within the system. And you are equally aware that high profile individuals inclusive of political office holders, senior civil servants, the military, the police are equally alleged to be part of the syndicate relating to pension.”

The Justice Minister also explained that the reinstatement of the embattled former pensions’ boss was an idea conceived by his (Maina’s) lawyers and brought to his office.

“As at October 5, 2017, an issue relating to the reinstatement of Abdulrasheed Maina was an issue that was in the process in the Office of the Attorney-General relating to a request that was made by his lawyers sometime back in April.

“Arriving at a decision like this, some legal processes come into play. The first process was a judgment presented by his lawyer on account of which he had sought the intervention of the Attorney General for his reinstatement.

“And in the first process thereafter, was a request from the office of the public service of the federation seeking information to certain enquiries that were met and thereafter there was equally a factor relating to a pending court case in the National Industrial Court in respect of which you equally have to factor in mind before arriving at a decision.”

Mr Malami further said that the process had yet to be concluded in the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.

It will be recalled that Maina was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for an alleged N2bn pensions biometric scam in November 2015, a 24-count bothering on procurement fraud and obtaining money under false pretense.

He reportedly disappeared from public glare only to resurface in October 2017, to take charge as an Acting Director in the Ministry of Interior with his return sparking reactions and outrage.

President Buhari, however, sacked him on October 23, after much criticism of his administration.

Nigeria’s Pension Industry Grows By 16.1%

Financial Markets, christmas

Nigeria’s pension industry returned a weighted average of 16.1 per cent in the first half of the year but real returns remained negative at 1.3 per cent.

Research firm, Agusto and Company reports that gains can be attributed to higher yields offered in the fixed income market – as government borrows to make-up for its shortfall in revenue.

Given the records, the value of pension assets declined in real terms as average monthly inflow grew by 14.6 per cent, from 71.3 billion Naira in 2016 to 83.6 billion Naira in the first half 2017.

While total pension assets stands at 6.5 trillion Naira or 21.3 billion dollars as at April 2017, Agusto & company expects the pension industry to grow at an average of 16 per cent annually, for the next three years.

FG Fails To Implement 18 Percent Pension

Pensioners, Imo State
File Photo of Pensioners

The Federal Government has failed to implement 18 percent pension contribution for workers.

This comes three years after the Pension Reform Act, 2014 mandated public and private sector organisations to increase the minimum pension of both employers and employees to the retirement’s savings account of workers, from 15 percent of the total monthly emolument to 18 percent

Analysts attributed the non-compliance to the recession, which had taken its toll on the economy.

According to them, the under payment is to the detriment of workers as they would have less funds in their retirement savings accounts.

This is also expected to impact workers’ receivables as returns on investment on their accounts with their respective pension fund

Edo Retirees Hold Special Prayers For Pension Arrears

Kwara Pensioners Accuse Govt. Of Owing Gratuities Worth N5bn
File Photo

Retirees in Edo State have held an inter-denominational church service to push for the payment of their pension arrears and other retirement benefits.

The senior citizens have been protesting since mid-2015 to call on the State government to pay them their pension arrears of up to 42 months.

Some of them said they were yet to be paid their gratuities, a situation they claimed had been worsened by the closure of the State Pensions Board by the immediate past administration.

Speaking on Wednesday during a church service held at the Teachers’ House in Benin City, the state capital, one of the retirees, Mr. Gabriel Osemwenkhai lamented that government has only paid lips service to the plight of pensioners in the state.

“How we manage to survive is only by God’s grace, pensioners in this state are suffering. We can only hope and pray that the governor keeps his promise of clearing all pension matters by the end of June,” he said.

Another pensioner, Mr. Lucky Ikpomwosa, who urged the State government to look into the issue of pension harmonisation, said: “The government should also commence pension harmonisation in the state which is a legal right of retirees.

“Things are getting more expensive by the day but the pension remains the same, this is totally unfair to those of us who have deployed our youthful days working to build this state and the country”.

The pensioners noted that the struggle to get their entitlements has been a lengthy one characterised by a number of protests in Benin City.

Despite their agitations, the senior citizens, however, said they are thankful to God for sustaining them thus far.

Borno Workers Demand Payment Of Salary, Pension Arrears

Borno Workers Demand Payment Of Salary, Pension ArrearsLabour unions in Borno State are demanding for the payment of backlog of salaries, gratuity and pension of civil servants in the state.

The State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Titus Abana, made the call on Monday at an event to commemorate the Workers’ Day in Maiduguri, the state’s capital in North-East Nigeria.

Mr Abana noted with dismay that workers and pensioners were facing untold hardship, due to the ongoing biometric exercise which he said had delayed the payment of salaries.

He decried that while some of the already screened workers were yet to receive their salaries since June 2016, many others have not been invited for the capturing.

“The biometric exercise should be hastened and completed in this month of May 2017, and payment of salaries should be transverse to the Ministry of Finance.

“Also, officers undertaking the exercise should take particular attention of pensioners who are old and weak and may not be able to withstand some of the rigours of the exercise as carried out at the state level,” the NLC Chairman said.

In his response, Borno State Deputy Governor, Usman Durkwa, assured the civil servants that their suffering was for a while and for the overall benefit of the state.

He said Governor Kashim Shettima would use resources saved from the biometric exercise to gainfully employ the teeming jobless youths in the state.

“The government intends to use money recovered from the biometric data capture exercise to employ our teeming unemployed youths and create a sustainable salary payment.

“We further appeal to our workers to show more understanding because they will surely laugh last,” Durkwa noted.

Other demands by the union include full implementation of owner/occupier housing scheme, allocation of newly constructed houses to workers, upward review of pensions, as well as implementation of yearly increment and promotion benefits among others.