Published On: Mon, May 13th, 2019

Save our soul, Pensioners cry out to Buhari over deductions, non-increment of arrears

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By Christiana Ekpa

The Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) has cried out to President Muhammadu Buhari to save their soul from various neglects suffered and untold hardship of its members in the hands Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Funds (NSITF) due to deduction and refusal to increase their arrears for 6 to 12 years now.
This was even as the Union resolved to take lawful action deemed necessary against the NSITF management if it failed to address the pensioners plight raised in their letters.
Our correspondent gathered that NUP had written over 10 letters to NISTF, which its negotiation team always tacitly waived aside with a statement of attending to it later, which they never did, especially on the 2013 increment in their arrears.
This followed a petition written by the pensioners to the Minister of Labour and Employment with Ref; FMLE/2019/001, dated 7th February 2019 titled “Save our soul” as well as the Managing Director of NISTF dated August 2018 which the President, the Minister of labour, the National Chairman of Salaries, Income and Wages Commission and the General Secretary National Union of Pensioners were copied and made available to our correspondent.
The petition which was respectively signed by the Chairman of NUP, Aham P. Mbazigwe -Akonye and the Secretary, Ayo F. Olutekunbi shows that NSITF did not pay the increases in pension arising from August 2013 increases in the wages and salaries of workers.
Further investigation by our correspondent showed that the Managing Director of NISTF summoned a meeting and constituted a committee after threat by the NUP to picket NISTF but nothing was done as the Executive Director (Finance and investment) as well as General Managers (GM) Administration, investment and Risk of the Scheme told the Pensioner Executive that the figure contained in the report were above the financial approval Capacity.
Part of the petitions read:” the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) NSITF Branch wishes to draw of the attention of the NSITF Management once again to the following letters addressed to the management and refusal to give responses to the correspondences, (a )our letter ref: 2017/001 dated Ist March 2017, (b) our letter ref; 2017/003 dated 21th June 2017
(c) ref:2017/004 dated 11th June 2017 (d) Nigeria Union of Pensioners National Headquarters ref: NUP/NHQ/SB/21/VOL. 1 dated 26th Sept 2017
(e) NUP National Head Quarters red: NUP/NHQ/SB/21/VOL.1 Dated 20th
Oct.2017. (F) Our letter ref; 2017/007 dated 22th Nov. 2017 (g) our letter ref: 2017)008 dated 16th March 2018 (h) our letter date 29th March 2018 (I) our letter dated 27th April 2018 (J) our letter dated 5th July 2018.
“The National Union of Pensioners (NUP) NSITF Branch, a prominent stakeholder in the NSITF Scheme considered non response to our letters which majorly centered on various neglects suffered and untold hardship by members of our union in the hands of NSITF management as a flagrant disrespect and disregards to the plight of the pensioners of the scheme.
“It must be said that never in the history of NSITF that Pensioners have been treated in a shabby way as witnessed by the present set of NSITF management.
“Having considered the untold disregards and neglects of the NSITF Pensioners by the management, the Pensioners have been pushed to the wall in seeking redress to the point raised in the aforementioned letters
“The Union has therefore resolved to take the bull by the horns by giving the management two weeks to address the pensioners plight raised in our letters failing which we would be force by your inaction and hatred to the Pensioners to take lawful action deemed necessary against the NSITF management.
On national housing issue, the Union alleged as follow: “ in line with our position I item 4, we cannot forward documents and records which are in the custody of the Fund to them. Accepting that some of us are with their NHF passbooks and may have withdrawn their contributions, others still sent theirs to NSITF for updating.
“All we are legitimately asking for is the updating and return of such passbooks on individual bases. See also EXH “E1 & E2” wherein we unequivocally stated the facts.
Further investigation shows that, the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission had written letters to the Managing Director of NISTF asking them to enforce implementation by increasing the pension rate for the pensioners.
The letter reads: “I am directed to refer to your letter Ref. No NSITF/AC/42/IV/ of 19th July on the subject above and to inform you that the increase of Pension rates for your Pensioners should correspond to the increase in salaries and recent allowances of your employees.
The letter signed by G.A. Oguche for the chairman, dated 27th August 1999 further reads: “ I am further directed to inform you that the increase should not be based on 150% which applies to the harmonised public Service Salary Structure(HAPSS) and it associate salary structure”
A similar letter was written to the Scheme on 26th Jan. 2000 with ref.
No SWC/S.8/70 The Income and Wages Commission had in June 2018 invited the management of NSITF in a letter titled “Re: 2013 increases in salaries and allowances of NSITF and non-implementation of increase Pension arising from increases in salaries of NSITF workers with effect from August 2013.
“I am directed to refer to your letter Ref.no NSITF/ADMIN/AC/6/S.1A dated 15the may 2018 on the above mentioned subject and invite you to a meeting which is scheduled to hold as follow; Date Thursday 14th June 2018 at 11:00am, conference room of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.”
But it was gathered that, the Scheme did not honour the invitation by the commission as well as the invitation from the Minister of Labour and Employment titled “Re: save our soul” signed by I.A Plebe for the Minister.
All efforts to reach the management of NSITF proved abortive as the calls and text massages put across to the executive director, admin, were not responded to.
But NSITF in document obtained by our correspondent while responding to the letters of the Commission, said the section of the Constitution quoted in the letters does not specifically state that NSITF must increase pension when the salaries of its staff are increased.
However, the spirit of the section is that pension should not stagnate.”
The responses letter dated 15th May, 2018 reads: “Re: non implementation of increase Pension Arising from increases in Salaries of NSITF workers with effect from August 2013.
“I have been directed to acknowledge your letter ref. No. SWC/S/04/S.611/22 of Feb. 2018 on the above subject. Kindly recall the Federal government 33% increase in Pension in July 2010. The management of NSITF commenced the implementation in Sept. 2015 which brought arrears of 58 months “In order to offset the arrears, an agreement for quarterly payment was reached in a meeting held on 27th August , 2015 at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment by both the NUP NSITF and NSITF Management.
“In that meeting, it was agreed that the Sum of N32,357,766.19 33nillion will be paid quarterly into the Pension account for the payment of arrears. As at March 2018, 36 months of the 58month of arrears have been paid in 12tranches with a balance of 22months to complete the payment of the arrears.
According to Assistant General Manager, Benson Grace who signed the letter for the Managing Director/CE “ Section 173(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria state that Pension shall be reviewed every five years or together with Federal Civil Service Salary reviews, which is earlier” It added, “note that the above section of the Constitution as quoted in their letters does not specifically state that NSITF must increase Pension when the salaries of it staff are increased. However the spirit of the section is that Pension should not stagnate.
“Management therefore wish to advise that for the sake of continuity, the Pensioners be informed to remain with the 33% as stated above.
Please be assured of the Managing Director/Chief Executive’s highest regards” the letter added.

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