Nigeria needs 20-year plan to address pensions liabilities, says El-Rufai
• Sacks vehicle inspection officers for alleged corruption, indiscipline
KADUNA State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, has said that the nation needs a 20-year plan to offset pensions liabilities incurred from defunct public institutions like Nigeria Airways, Nigeria Telecommunication (NITEL) and others.
El-Rufai spoke in Kaduna during a stakeholders’ sensitisation conference for North West on Pension Reform Act 2014 organised by the National Pension Commission (PENCOM).
Meanwhile, the government has sacked all officials of the state Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) and ordered the closure of the agency’s office.
Media Aide to the Governor, Malam Samuel Aruwan, in a statement issued Tuesday said that the closure of the VIO office in Kaduna, “is due to the corruption and indiscipline of the personnel, and their lack of respect for the public”, adding, “an executive order giving immediate effect to this decision has been signed by the Governor El-Rufai.”
The Director-General, National Pensions Commission, Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, whose welcome address supported the stance of the governor, said that effective and sustainable pension systems remained a challenge in the country as well as in most African countries.
She noted that the Federal Government took a remarkable step in changing the pension landscape in the country through the enactment of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) in 2014, saying that, “the Act provided novel solutions to what appeared then, as intractable challenges of the old defined benefit scheme.”
El-Rufai, who was also the Director General, Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) at the period most of the country’s public entities were privatised, pointed that Nigeria Airways had a huge pensions arrears, adding that the only way to pay such arrears was to privatise and sell the national carrier.
He added that even at the sale of the national carrier, it was difficult to settle the pensions arrears.
The governor also explained that by 2001, a step was taken to sell NITEL, which according to him was valued at $500 million.
Said he: “But NITEL’s pension liability was N43 billion, it was a lot of money then in 2001, and N700 billion was the total pension liability of the Nigeria Airways. So there was a big problem, but there is no problem in this world that is new, somebody must have faced it before you.
“We suggested that the Federal Government should pay one percent of the pension liabilities from the federation account, but the then Attorney General of the Federation, the late Chief Bola Ige kicked against it, saying that it was totally unconstitutional. Our plan was that in about 20 years, Nigeria would have been done with pension liabilities. We briefed the then President of the country, Olusegun Obasanjo, and he said it was a national problem, which needed to be solved.”
Aruwan said: “The Kaduna State Government has dissolved the Vehicle Inspection Office. The governor has signed an Executive Order giving immediate effect to this decision. All personnel of the VIO are to promptly withdraw from the streets, and the permanent staff of the agency are directed to report with their uniforms to the Commissioner for Works, Housing and Transport.
“With this decision, the casual staff have been suspended forthwith. The permanent staff of the defunct VIO are to report to the Commissioner for Works, Housing and Transport for further instructions. Anyone found on Kaduna streets purporting to be a VIO from today, Tuesday, 8th December 2015, will be treated as an impostor and will be arrested by the police for immediate prosecution for impersonation.”
Aruwan, however added that, “an appropriate announcement will be made on when a replacement agency will be ready to commence operations.”
He argued, “following deliberations at the Executive Council and the Security Council, the government came to the conclusion that the VIO as currently constituted does not serve the public interest,” pointing out that, “the government has noted complaints from members of the public and the security agencies regarding widespread indiscipline, misconduct, alleged extortion and disrespect to citizens by VIO personnel.
“Government is taking steps to review and reassign the functions hitherto performed by the VIO. A new structure, fitter for purpose and oriented for proper public service, will be formed and announced soon.”
The government also stressed, “while a replacement agency for the VIO is in the works, the Kaduna State Government wishes to reiterate that no staff or agency of the public service is allowed to collect or receive cash payments. State laws prohibit the collection of cash revenues by any person, authority or organisation. All payments to the government must be conducted through a bank or via electronic channels.”
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