EXECUTIVE SECRETARY’S SPEECH AT THE CEREMONY FOR THE PAYMENT OF ACCRUED PENSION ARREARS TO PENSIONERS OF DEFUNCT AGENCIES
It is my distinct pleasure to welcome our distinguished guests and our valued pensioners to this momentous occasion to mark the payment of a significant part of the outstanding pension liabilities owed to pensioners of Defunct Agencies on PTAD’s payroll. I am especially delighted to welcome the Honorable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, to the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate’s Head Office. I also extend the delight of the entire PTAD Staff. Honorable Minister, we know how very busy you are and therefore thank you most sincerely for making the time to grace this occasion.
Today’s event is a further demonstration and affirmation of the unwavering commitment of the Federal Government to the welfare of pensioners under the Defined Benefit Pension Scheme (DBS), under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In order to truly appreciate the importance and impact of this occasion, it will be appropriate to highlight the Directorate’s journey in the implementation of this additional mandate for the management of pensions and severance liabilities of ex-workers of about 12 Defunct/Privatized Agencies.
The Pension Reform Act of 2014, mandates PTAD to administer the pensions of retirees of Federal Government Ministries, Departments & Agencies that did not transit to the Contributory Pension Scheme. This mandate essentially covers the retirees of Police, Customs, Immigration, Prisons (now Correctional Services), the Civil Service as well as Federal Government Parastatals and Research Institutes that were previously managed by Boards of Trustees and government appointed Insurance Underwriters.
In addition to the above, PTAD also received directives from the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning in February 2017, to take over the management of pensions and severance benefit liabilities of ex-workers of NICON Insurance Limited, Nigeria Reinsurance Corporation, Delta Steel Company Limited, New Nigeria Newspapers Limited, NITEL/MTEL, Savannah Sugar Company Limited, Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria, Nigeria Aviation Handling Company, Nigeria Defence Academy (Civilian Staff) Nigeria National Shipping Line, Assurance Bank Nigeria Limited and Federal Housing Authority.
These were commercial parastatals of the Federal Government that were either privatized or liquidated under the Public Enterprises Privatization and Commercialization Reform of the Federal Government implemented by the Bureau for Public Enterprise between 1999 and 2005, and which resulted in the disengagement of existing workers of these Agencies. The disengaged workers were either paid five years lump sum pension or severance benefits as compensation as a result of their disengagement.
The resulting grievances from the disengagements and severance payments gave rise to agitations which continued for more than a decade. It was therefore President Muhammadu Buhari’s directives to resolve these matters that led to the Honorable Minister of Finance directing the Directorate to take over the management of the pension liabilities of these ex-workers in order to better protect and enhance their welfare.
To implement the directives received, PTAD worked directly with the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE) and other related stakeholders to ascertain the qualified ex-workers, compute their pension entitlements and subsequently enrolled them to monthly pension payments from October 2018. On their enrollment, Pension liabilities ranging from 84 to 219 months had accrued and were inherited by PTAD. PTAD has over the last few years gradually but insignificantly been settling these accrued arrears.
Today is a landmark in the journey of bringing succor to these group of retirees. We will today complete the payment of all outstanding liabilities due to ex-workers of two of the Defunct Agencies – namely Nigeria Reinsurance Corporation (total 126 inherited months completely liquidated) & New Nigeria Newspapers Limited (Total 219 inherited Months Completely liquidated). We will also settle a significant portion of the outstanding liabilities due to the ex-workers of another three Defunct Agencies – NICON Insurance Corporation, Delta Steel Company Limited & NITEL/MTEL.
The pension liabilities that are to be paid today are the arrears which accumulated between the time, when the lump sum pension were earlier paid to October, 2018 when the disengaged ex-workers were enrolled to the monthly pension by PTAD, and therefore represent the unfunded pension liabilities that were due to these pensioners at the time the Directorate inherited them.
Our Special Guest of Honour, the Honorable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning has graciously agreed to personally oversee the completion of the payments we are about to make today.
Let me reassure our valued pensioners of NICON Insurance Corporation, Delta Steel Company Limited and NITEL/MTEL that the Directorate is fully committed to the full liquidation of the outstanding arrears due to them after these payments. As we have reiterated over time, we will continue to work closely with the Federal Ministry of Finance and other relevant government agencies to achieve this objective as quickly as possible.
It is noteworthy at this point to add that the Directorate did not inherit any pension assets from these Defunct/Privatized Agencies to help offset these liabilities at the time of take-over. It has therefore been through the unflinching commitment and support of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget & National Planning, the Committees of both the Senate on Establishment and Public Service, House of Representatives Committee on Pensions, the other oversight committees of the National Assembly and most importantly, the commitment of Mr. President to the welfare of pensioners that the Directorate has been able to continuously pay the monthly pensions of these ex-workers from 2018 to date.
It is also important to add that the Directorate has been able to offset some portion of these inherited outstanding liabilities over the last two years. This has been accomplished through savings realized in the course of pension administration within the year. Most significantly, PTAD has paid off the outstanding balance of the severance benefits or pension entitlements due to ex-workers of Savannah Sugar Company Limited, Nigeria Aviation Handling Company, Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria, Federal Housing Authority, Nigeria National Shipping Line and Assurance Bank.
The funds that will be utilized to make today’s payments is from the recoveries made from the liquidation of the Federal Government pension investments with the Crown Agents Limited of United Kingdom and other pension assets recovered from various Insurance Underwriters to date. PTAD is still striving to recover the remaining pension funds identified under the Insurance Underwriters. You will all recall that, I had, earlier this year, announced the successful recovery of a little over 15 billion Naira from the Crown Agents of United Kingdom. I also indicated that once the necessary approvals have been received, the recovered funds would be disbursed towards further liquidation and/or reduction of the Directorate’s unfunded pension liabilities. I must therefore appreciate the support of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Federal Ministry of Justice, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation towards the successful outcome, of the long and sometimes difficult negotiations with the Crown Agents Limited of United Kingdom that has led to the event of today.
I cannot complete this speech with paying tribute to the highly committed, highly productive, highly empathic, highly knowledgeable and innovative staff of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate. These are an exemplary group of Nigerians determined to change the narrative as far as Pension Administration is concerned. Regardless of Corona Virus lockdowns, the Directorate declared itself an emergency service necessitating all staff coming in in shifts to enable us achieve most of our set goals.
On a final note, let me extend my heartfelt gratitude to all for honoring our invitation to this momentous occasion. I trust that you will agree with me that it is a further demonstration of our commitment to ensuring that “…….the laborof our heroes past, shall not be in vain”
Thank you all and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.