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Ajaero: Retirement is like death sentence under current pension scheme

Joe Ajaero, president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), has called for a return to the old pension scheme regime. Ajaero spoke at the 2024…

Joe Ajaero, president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), has called for a return to the old pension scheme regime.

Ajaero spoke at the 2024 National Pre-retirement summit in Abuja, on Wednesday

The programme had as its theme “challenges, strategies, prospects and opportunities at retirement in Nigeria,”.

It was organised by by XEM, a global opportunity and capacity development hub in Africa.

Ajaero said the current regime falls short of the fundamental purpose it was set up to address.

He stressed that retirement ought not to be a death sentence but something every worker should be looking forward to.

According to him, currently the federal government is alleged to owe nearly N260 billion in pension arrears, with federal parastatals accounting for an additional N40 billion.

He said many workers have fear about what would become of them after retirement because it does not offer security.

He said: “The pension scheme, as it currently stands in Nigeria, unfortunately falls short of its fundamental purpose; to provide for workers in their old age.

“The medium for storing Pensions, which is the Naira, has maintained an unstable value and has kept depreciating over the years. It is only a stable platform that can truly serve as a solid store of value that can sufficiently maintain the value of contributions when workers retire.

“Pensions are meant to offer security and peace of mind, ensuring that retirees can enjoy their golden years without financial stress and in good health.

“However, the reality for many of us is starkly different. It is worrying that most retired members encounter not just health challenges but many others leading to untimely deaths because of the character and nature of our Pension scheme which pauperises them financially at retirement.

“Retirement under the present scheme may therefore become a death sentence for many and this has many consequences for behaviour of workers in active service.

“The federal government it is alleged owes nearly N260 billion in pension arrears, with federal parastatals accounting for an additional N40 billion. Some states have arrears stretching up to eight years. In the private sector, reports indicate that many companies are in arrears of up to three years, deducting contributions from workers’ salaries without remitting them to the respective Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs).

“The Micro-Pensions designed for the informal sector remain inadequately activated, further complicating the financial security of our informal economy workers.

“The non-contributory pension funds are still subject to severe looting by those who are supposed to manage them without consequences.

“We had wished that the various statutory agencies saddled with the responsibility of protecting workers are alive to their responsibilities. These challenges create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty for the average worker approaching retirement in Nigeria.”

Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan, Head of Civil Service of the Federation, said the service is working hard to improve the welfare of workers.

According to Esan, the service is committed to create opportunities for workers.

She said the service has created a strategy plan spanning 2021-2025 which is geared towards staff welfare.

She said the service has developed a concept of retirement plan in collaboration with Institute of Public Service of Nigeria and also the Bank of Agriculture.

The essence of the collaboration with the BOA is to encourage workers to get involved in the entire value chain of agriculture through training and soft loans.

George Akume, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said the government has been working assiduously to improve the lives of the citizens, particularly retirees.

Akume, represented by Dr. Maurice Mbaeri, Permanent Secretary, General Services, Office of the SGF, said the public service provides several opportunities to empower public servants and prepare them towards retirement.

Dr. Eugenia Ndukwe, Convener of the summit, said it was organised to address the pressing needs for a supportive ecosystem that enables retiring Nigerians to transition smoothly, pursue their passions and maintain financial stability.

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