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The scourge of ghost pensioners

Pension, whether excessive or inadequate, is now on the front burner of public discourse (thanks to Zamfara State’s cancelled N10 million upkeep for former governors)…

Pension, whether excessive or inadequate, is now on the front burner of public discourse (thanks to Zamfara State’s cancelled N10 million upkeep for former governors) in Nigeria. But in this item the menace of ghost pensioners is the issue.

Ghost pensioners are simply non-existent persons created and fraudulently inserted into pension payrolls; or deceased pensioners who are retained on the payroll. In both cases their pensions are paid into the pockets of criminals.

Pension criminals operate in most countries around the world and steal billions of Naira regularly as ghost pensioners are   paid alongside real pensioners that are biometrically verifiable.

It is a serious issue because the trillions of Naira paid to ghost pensioners around the world could have been used in providing basic public facilities and services. This is especially so in developing countries, where most   ghost pensioners exist.

For instance, a Ghanaian publication, Modern Ghana, reported that a project initiated by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP) has expunged some 34,000 illegal names on pensioners’ payroll in Greater Accra, Eastern, Volta, Central, Ashanti, Western and Brong Ahafo regions.

The ghost names represent 38 per cent of the pensioners registered during the project, which was implemented by an American company at a cost of $2.385 million.

The team capturing the biometrics of the pensioners discovered that many of the pensioners in some areas have died, but their names remained on the payroll and their allowances were being claimed by “unknown” persons, meaning the ghosts, or creators of the ghost pensioners.  The MoFEP said that the Greater Accra Region alone had 18,527 ghost pensioners.

To mitigate payroll management problems, the Rawlings administration introduced the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Database II (IPPD II) in the late 1990s.

The Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) of Ghana has cautioned all pensioners who have not undergone the SSNIT biometric registration to do so before the 1st of February 2020, or risk being deleted from the scheme.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that “Officials have uncovered a potential mother of all scams in the Philippine National Police (PNP), involving “ghost pensioners,” who were paid more than P1 billion of the PNP’s funds over the past five years.”

Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo said the scam was worth between P200 and P250 million every year since 2006.

Mr. Robredo said that 2,000 of the ghost retirees had been stricken off the list of 58,000 pensioners.

“These are not retired policemen. In fact, many are not even police officers. They’re just fake names,” he said.

The National Television of Uganda (NTVUganda) reported thus in March 2017: Ghost pensioners have marred the Pension Scheme in the country. The tax payer loses at least 1.3 billion shillings montly to ghost pensioners.

Ugandan Daily Monitor newspaper reported on December 1, 2013, that “a huge sum of Shs70 billion paid out in pension has gone to ghost pensioners. Last year (2012), police discovered that Shs300 billion pension was swindled using ‘ghost’ claimants.”   Some officials of the Ugandan Ministry of Public Service were prosecuted for the disappearance of the pension funds

Nigeria’s Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), reported detecting and dropping 24,021 ghost retirees from the payroll in 2018.

Pakistani Tribune Express quoted Mudassir Khan, Senior Executive Vice President of the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), saying that the Bank has unearthed 600,000 ghost civilian and military pensioners who have been receiving up to Rs43 billion annually.

And in 2018, the current Pakistani Federal Railways Minister, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, announced that about 20,000 ghost railways pensioners had been detected and their pensions stopped.

The existence of ghost pensioners is a big worldwide racket involving the theft of billions of Naira in countless countries.

Pension management entities in Nigeria should note that endless vigilance is the best weapon against ghost pensioners.


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