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CJN seeks better treatment for senior citizens, calls for elimination of graft


Justice Walter Onnoghen

Justice Walter Onnoghen

Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has expressed the need for better treatment of senior citizens and for the elimination of graft in the coountry.

Justice Onnoghen made the calls in two separate events last week in Abuja at a workshop on contributory pension laws, practices and ethics, organised by National Pension Commission (NPC) in patnership with National Judicial Institute (NJI) and in his opening remark as chairman of the 9th J-K Gadzama LLP Annual Public Lecture held at the J-K Gadzama Court, Abuja with the theme: “Corruption and the Nation’s Economy; Lawyers as Change Agents”.

The Acting CJN urged individual organisations to re-examine its attitude towards Nigerian senior citizens so as not to make them regret their services to the country in any capacity.

“Pension funds governance must be aligned with good corporate governance. We owe a duty to this generation and future generations to ensure pensioners receive their benefits as and when due”, he said.

Justice Onnoghen had recalled the first of such interactive workshop organized for judges and senior law officers in 2013, where the process of making laws on Contributory Pension Scheme more practicable, competitive and transparent was highlighted. “Following the success of that workshop, a follow up was held on October 3 and 4, 2013. This afforded a platform for judges to deal extensively with the provisions of the Pension Reform Act, 2014 and also contributed immensely to the then proposed Pension Reform Bill of 2013, enacted into law in 2014. This became possible because the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) rose to its responsibility under Section 20 of the Pension Reform Act, 2004, now Section 23 of Pension Reform Act, 2014,” he said.

According to him, how well pension assets are managed, pension laws are implemented, how well pensioners are treated and how well the laws and rules are fairly applied will guarantee that every person who worked in either public or private sector receives retirement benefits without delay.

At Gadzama’s lecture, he called on all Nigerians including organizations, institutions and professional bodies to join hands in the fight against corruption before corruption consumes the country.

Justice Onnoghen who was represented at the event by Justice Musa Dettijo Mohammed (JSC) commended Chief J-K Gadzama (SAN) for the lecture series which has been sustained for almost a decade. He lamented the devastating effect of corruption on the nation’s economy saying, “if we do not arrest and eliminate this monster, it would consume our nation and we will not have any nation to bequeath to our children and future generation”.

Presenting his paper, the guest lecturer, pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, examined the concept of corruption and the imperatives of fighting corruption in Nigeria. He took a critical look at the role of lawyers in the fight against graft in his EFCC days.

Ribadu said: “By their training and practice, lawyers are well entrenched in our systems, from politics to business. There are no business transactions that is done without involvement of a counsel, sometimes not just as a lawyer but as a party to the transaction. Lawyers are needed as company secretaries, as legal advisers, as arbitrators, et cetera. This, in a way has placed lawyers in a position of advantage where they can easily be absorbed in corrupt practices or fight it, if they choose to.”

On the issue of pensions, Director General, National Pension Commission, Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, said inadequate funding of retirement benefits by the federal government is a serious challenge towards the implementation of Pension Reform Act 2014. According to her, five per cent of federal government monthly wage bill was inadequate to pay the accrued benefits of federal government retirees. She also listed delay in releasing funds to pay the accrued benefits, non-implementation of new rates of pension contribution for federal government employee, non-implementation of the 33 per cent pension increase as approved in December 2014 in line with Section 15 (4) of the PRA, 2014 pursuant Section 173 (3) of the 1999 Constitution as part of the challenges confronting pension administration in the country. Other challenges are, overwhelming expectations for the Contributory Pension Scheme under the regulation of Pencom to solve all pension and social security issues; paucity of assets that qualify for Pension Fund Investment as well as poor corporate governance practices necessary to attract investment in pension fund.

Earlier in her welcome address, Administrator, NJI, Justice Roseline Bozimo, stated that the workshop was designed to enable participants cross fertilize ideas on grey areas of the PRA.

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