BY: Vitalis Ugoh, Calabar
Worried by the numerous challenges encountered in the process of drawing its pension and gratuity, the Nigeria Police Retirees (NPF) have called on the National Assembly to go ahead and pass the Police Pension Board Establishment bill to exit the Police from the PenCom Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).
Also the group has urged the National Assembly to ignore the letter from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr. Boss Mustapha urging them not to pass the bill.
Recalled that “the SGF had in a letter dated July 21, 2022 to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) saying, “I write to acknowledge the persistent by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to be exempted from the contributory Pension Scheme, under the Pension Reform Act, 2004 and the several reasons canvassed to support this request”.
“While not being oblivious to the various concerns raised, I refer to the previous position of the then President, conveyed in SGF’s letter Ref. 59149/5.1/C/11/255 dated 20th July, 2012, for the Nigerian Police Force to continue to be covered under the contributory Pension Scheme and to further inform you that the directive has not change”.
This he said, “is in consonance with the federal government white paper on the report of the presidential committee on restricting and rationalization of federal government parastatals, commissions and agencies when the federal government approved the recommendation that the only military be allowed to opt out of the Contributory Pension Scheme”.
But the Retirees in a petition to the National Assembly signed by the Vice Chairman of Delta state chapter, Mr. Bright Kakada, the Federal Capital City chapter chairman, Mr. Abayimi Akeremale, Chairman Cross River chapter, Mr. Chris Effiong, the Legal Adviser, Elder Ofem Bang and 22 others said, “the police should be exempted from the CPS like the Army, DIA, and DSS. We hopefully expect the highly esteemed Legislators to hear our cry for undiluted assistance and as such the SGF letter should be ignored” .
They argued that “the legislative function of amending Sec. 5 (1)(a)PRA 2014 to accommodate the NPF by the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) had attained an advanced stage before both chambers went on recess in July 2022, to resume plenary on 20/09/2022.
“However, NPF retirees under the CPS were to observe in the course of time that the SGF, Boss Mustapha, a political appointee of the Executive arm of government, had breached all protocols guiding devolution of power (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary) to constitute a parallel legislature with the DG PenCom, Aisha Dahir-Umar on which platform he wrote the letter under reference: 59149/S.1/C.1/11 dated 21ST July, 2022 to “terrorise” the IGP, Usman Alkali Baba to keep on hold any effort at getting Sec. 5 (i)(a) PRA 2014 amended to accommodate the Nigeria Police Force (NPF)”.
“We began to wonder what gave the SGF, whose radius is within the Executive arm of government, the impetus to exceed the limits of his authority. Such authority, as far as we are concerned, is irrational-illegal. The letter was copied to the DG PenCom, Aisha Dahir-Umar, the Police Service Commission, the Senate President, the Speaker, House of Representatives and the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Pensions. The absurdity in the action of the SGF, Boss Mustapha, to say the least is reprehensible, inconsistent and contradictory with best administrative practices” .
The Retirees said, “a public hearing where most Nigerians from various walks of life demonstrated solid support for the exit of the NPF from the obnoxious CPS cannot be thwarted by intimidation from the SGF. There is no way the duo of the DG PenCom and the SGF can subject the integrity of the Senate and House of Representatives to disrepute over an inconsequential and ineffective letter.
“On the other hand, we have implicit confidence in our esteemed legislators in the NASS, especially when we reason that it is not logical for the SGF, to truncate a legislative process on private bills that originated from within the NASS and not from him as an individual holding a political appointment in the executive arm of government”.
When contacted, Effiong, the Cross River chapter chairman of the retirees said “our extensive research has proven significantly that the SGF’s letter under reference, addressed to the IGP and copying the DG PenCom, the NASS, PSC and others did not originate directly from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Neither was it written on his instructions as his position on our grievances has been well known before now. The letter in question has no concrete proof for the existence of any federal government white paper allowing only the military to opt out of the CPS” .
Equally commenting on the matter, Mr. Ofem the retirees Legal Adviser said, “we appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Pension where the committee eventually recommend our exemption from the PenCom CPS. We are appealing to the NASS to ignore the letter from the SGF and proceed with the passage of the bill because he (SGF) has no power to interfere with legislative process of the NASS. Therefore, we humbly urge our esteemed legislators not to renege on proceeding with amending the Sec 5 (1) (a) of the PRA 2014 to accommodate the NPF”.