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OPINION

FG Disobeys Own Law, Flouts Workers Pension Remittance

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Collaborators

Seven years after the Federal Government amended the Pension Reform Act, which stipulated that employers should remit 18 per cent of workers’ monthly emoluments into their RSAs, the government is yet to comply with its own law.

 

  • 121,543 retirees have less than N550,000 in their RSA balance, says PenCom

The Pension Reform Act promulgated in 2004 had stipulated that workers and employers should contribute 7.5 per cent each of the monthly emoluments into the workers’ RSAs with their respective Pension Fund Administrators.

 

 

The amended PRA 2014 mandated all employers under the CPS to raise workers’ pension remittance to 18 per cent.

 

 

According to the amended law, eight per cent of the workers’ monthly salaries should be the employees’ contribution, while the employers should contribute the remaining 10 per cent.

 

 

The contributions are kept by the Pension Fund Custodians, administered and invested by the PFAs.

 

 

The essence is to ensure that the funds continued to increase until the workers retired which would further translate into higher returns on investments and give retirees higher monthly stipends.

 

 

But while most private sector employers have complied, the Federal Government had continued to remit the old amount of 15 per cent into the workers’ RSAs seven years after.

 

 

Managing director of a Pension Fund Administrator, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity on Tuesday, confirmed that the Federal Government had not been remitting 18 per cent of all its workers’ salaries as stipulated by the law.

 

The source said, “Even the 15 per cent is not paid up to date. The Federal Government workers that are paid through the accountant general office are paid regularly, but those that are paid through PenCom are not up to date.

 

“The workers who have done the biometric data capturing are those paid through the accountant general office, but those that have not done data capturing are done by PenCom through the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

 

During a recent oversight visit of the Senate Committee on Establishment & Public Services to PenCom, the Director-General of the commission, Aisha Dahir-Umar, had also hinted that the Federal Government was not complying with the Pension Act.

 

While speaking on the challenges confronting the CPS, Dahir-Umar had said, “Other challenges include FGN’s non-compliance with the new minimum statutory rate of pension contribution of 18 per cent since 2014.”

 

She added, “It is perhaps appropriate at this juncture to highlight some of the major challenges of the commission.

 

“As you are aware, the fundamental objective of the pension reform is to ensure that every worker receives his retirement benefits as and when due.

 

“However, it is sad to report that there are, today, a large number of Federal Government employees who retired from March 2020 to March 2021 under the CPS that are yet to receive their pensions due to non-payment of their Accrued Pension Rights.

 

“This challenge, which started in 2014, was essentially triggered by the appropriation of insufficient amounts for payment of Accrued Pension Rights of FGN retirees and further aggravated by late or non-release of full appropriated amounts.”

 

Our correspondent learnt that more workers had been retiring without pensions under the Contributory Pension Scheme because they retired with very low contributions in their Retirements Savings Accounts which the Pension Fund Administrators have returned back to them because they could not be placed on payroll, findings have revealed.

 

Most of the retirees had worked under the Federal Government but their contributions were either short-paid for seven years or not remitted regularly, industry operators who didn’t want to mentioned said.

 

Figures obtained from the National Pension Commission on ‘quarterly report’ on Tuesday revealed that no fewer than 121,543 retirees had got their savings refunded to them because they had less than N550,000 in their RSA balance.

 

According the law, contributions below N550,000 were considered too low to be divided as monthly emoluments and should therefore be returned to the contributors.

 

Director, Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy, Ivor Takor, worried that the continuous default would make poverty to return into the pension scheme.

 

He noted that the CPS was introduced to solve the problem of non-payment of pensions that characterised the Defined Benefits Scheme but unfortunately, the same problem of non-payment was happening again.

 

 

According to him, the government had been budgeting several billions which could not be accounted for to eradicate poverty for those who were not its workers, but allowing poverty to reign among those that worked for it.

 

 

A former President, Trade Union Congress, Peter Esele, said the woes of workers were worsened with three per cent less payment and galloping inflation.

 

 

He said, “The challenge is that those who are not collecting pension are majorly in the public sector, not in the private sector. The compliance is better with the private sector than with the government.

 

 

“For government not to comply with 18 per cent, government is setting a very dangerous precedence and undermining the interest of the workers, and thereby compromising their future.”

 

 

A former Director-General, Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, Richard Borokini, said, “The implication of that is that when those workers are retiring, they will not get enough funds either as lump sum payment or as monthly pension stipend. On both sides, the workers will be losing.”

 

 

He worried that the law was introduced by the government but that the government was not complying fully.

 

 

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OPINION

In Search For Justice For Keren-Happuch Akpagher

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Keren

Not long ago, we were jolted by the news of the unfortunate death of Miss Keren-Happuch Akpagher, a 14-year-old boarding student of the Premiere Academy, Abuja. From her mother’s narrative, Keren was said to have been molested in the school, and as a result, died a few days later. It will be easier for you to understand how jolted I was when you know that I am a mother of two children – daughters – in the same school.
The mother narrated that Keren called her that she was sick and requested to be picked up. She did take her home on Saturday, 19 June 2021.
According to a media report, her mother, Mrs Vihimga Akpagher, said, “By the morning of Monday, June 21, 2021, I noticed that her condition had deteriorated and took her to hospital, and while examining her, the doctor saw a discharge, ran a test and discovered that it was a condom that was left in her. They tested her urine and it contained sperm; and like that, infection and sepsis led to her death.”
After reading the news report, I quickly called the school for clarification. The head of the school told me the school’s side of the story. According to the principal, Mr Chris Akinsowon, “Keren Akpagher, reported to the clinic on 17 June, 2021 with a complaint of redness of the eye. Her mother requested that she be taken to see an ophthalmologist on Saturday, 19 June, 2021.
She was taken for the appointment in the morning of the same day. On her return to the school, her mother further requested to take her home because Keren was insisting on going home for that weekend. An exeat was granted and she was released to her mother on Saturday afternoon in a stable condition.”
He further said that the school only got to know about her hospitalization in the morning of Monday, 21 June, 2021. “We mobilized immediately and paid her a visit at the hospital on that day. It was with deep sympathy that we later heard of her demise early the next day, Tuesday, 22 June, 2021,” he told me.
When I inquired into the allegation of sexual molestation, the principal noted that there was no report of sexual molestation by the deceased girl or any person whatsoever throughout the events that eventually led to the death of the poor girl. He said he was surprised to hear the deceased mother allege that. He informed that the matter has been reported to the police and that the school has honoured the police invitation and is currently cooperating with them in their investigation.
Since the breaking of the news, our PTA platform has never been this engaging as all parents are keenly following the investigation. To demonstrate our interest in getting to the root of the matter, some of us are even mulling retaining a legal team to represent the PTA in the proceedings, should the case get to court.
I understand that the police, expectedly, have conducted an autopsy and the report is expected to be out in four to six weeks. The autopsy is supposed to shed more light as to the cause of Keren’s death and give a clue as to the circumstances surrounding her death.
It is heart-rending to read that some group of people, going by the name Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Responders, take to the street to assert that the report that is yet to be released affirms that Keren was raped and sodomized. They went further to allege that the school and the police – two stakeholders with very high stakes in the search for justice in the matter – are trying to cover up the case.
I wonder where they got their information. It is barely a fortnight the autopsy was conducted by Dr Desmond Ike Okonkwo, the principal pathologist at the Maitama General Hospital, who was appointed by the police for the exercise and witnessed by the school and family representatives. In ideal situations it takes up to six weeks for such reports to be released.
On this note, I call on the NGOs and in fact, all stakeholders to refrain from rumour mongering as this may jeopardise the investigation. I make bold to say that all the stakeholders in this issue, except for the alleged perpetrator(s) and/or his/their collaborator(s), are keen on getting to the root of the case.
In this case, there is a coincidence of interest in justice. Every right-thinking stakeholder – the family, the school, the police/government, the PTA, the GBV Responders and the general public – is in search of justice, may be for different reasons which may include to ensure that the perpetrator(s) and/or his/their collaborator(s) is/are brought to book, to help get closure, to maintain law and order, to manage reputation/clout, to get reassurance and so on. As a result of this interest in justice, it will be a disservice to one another, to ourselves and to even the spirit of the late Keren for any stakeholder to assume that it is the only one interested in justice in this matter.
We should be patient and allow the police, who are in charge of this investigation to do their job with due process and without interference. In no time, the report of the autopsy will be released and we would have a clearer picture as to the cause of Keren’s death and a possible pointer as to if she was sexually molested or not.
Like most other stakeholders, the PTA are anxiously waiting for the outcome of the police investigation and their next line of actions.
We are closely monitoring the processes and will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that we get to the root of the matter but, no matter how agitated we are, we are willing to allow the due process take its course. I enjoin all other stakeholders to also align with this decision so we forge a united front in our concerted efforts towards unravelling the circumstances that surrounded Keren’s death.
By Georgia Agada

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OPINION

The Making Of A Dictator

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Dictator

To understand the implications of the regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) regime’s plot to muzzle the media, it is necessary to trace the journey of the media and of the concept of freedom of expression in the service of democratic governance.

 

 

The Age of Enlightenment or Age of Reason of the 17th and 18th Century introduced the idea of Individualism which meant that the individual citizen of Old World Europe could justifiably hold an opinion different from those of others, including his monarch.

 

 

It advanced the pursuit of reason and empiricism and prompted the ideals of liberty –or ability to do as one pleases– and tolerance of ideas that one probably disagrees with– fraternity and constitutional government, which limited the powers of the monarch who was no longer regarded as divine.

 

 

The Age of Enlightenment was propelled by the growth of the press, the first of which were circulated in England in the 1620s. The penny newspaper, cheap tabloid, debuted in America in the 1830s to contribute robustly to conversations on democracy.

 

 

In England, the press took over the vocation of confronting the English monarch from the House of Commons that was established in 1341, when landholders took their petitions and grievances to the King through the Parliament.

 

 

The Nigerian press, that started with “Iwe Irohin Awon Yoruba,” first published in 1859 by Reverend Henry Townsend in Abeokuta, contributed significantly to the efforts of the nationalists to deliver Nigeria from the vice grip of colonial Great Britain.

 

 

It is regrettable that the press that stood in the vanguard to take out the colonialists, before confronting the jackboot military in Nigerian politics, is now the victim of politicians, who are beneficiaries of its daring.

 

The press in New World America became an indispensable institution of American politics to the extent that Thomas Jefferson, an American President, remarked that if he were asked to choose between “a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.”

 

 

The job of surveillance and report of events that the media performs in the public space, for the mass, atomised, associational and complex society spread across the wide geographical spread of modern nations, is what terrifies regimes run by the likes of Major General Buhari.

 

 

The press has become a veritable institution of the democratic traditions even before the 21st Century, and there is hardly a country in the world that does not have its media, no matter how rudimentary it may be.

 

 

Even the Constitution of Nigeria gives every Nigerian the right to establish a media in order to express their freedom of speech, uphold the fundamental objectives of the constitution and hold the government accountable to the people.

 

 

The Federal Government of Nigeria, run by the All Progressives Congress, the political party that rode to power on the back of the media, while waving what has now turned out to be a banner of fake progressivism, is about to destroy the ladder it climbed to get to power.

 

 

After disembarking from the back of the proverbial tiger, the APC is determined to castrate it and pull off its fangs. The denizens of the APC must have gone through the grace notes of Nicolo Machiavelli, the Italian nobleman who recommended that anyone who assumes power must neutralise those who helped them acquire the power. It adds up, really.

 

 

The Minister for Information and Culture of this regime, Lai Mohammed, that is currently suffering from a bout of recidivism, relapsing into bad habits, is turning out as a cross between Josef Goebbels, Fuhrer Adolf Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda, and “The Thought Police,” of Oceania, the dystopic society of George Orwell’s novel, “NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR.”

 

And if you dug into the past of Buhari, you would discover a military Head of State, who promised some journalists that he would tamper with the freedom of the press, and did with the obnoxious Decree 4 that he employed to send Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, journalists from The Guardian newspaper, to gaol for reporting the truth.

 

The President and the Minister of Information are probably using Olusegun Odebunmi, Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, who has vehemently argued to the contrary, as the conduit to promote the annoying bill.

 

The bill, according to Odebunmi, will protect and guide the Nigeria Press Council and reduce quackery, fake news and hate speech, as if there are no laws that already check libel, slander, defamation of character, fraud, cybercrime, sedition and insurrection.

 

Some of the more offending provisions of the dreadfully obnoxious bill empower the Minister of Information  to “establish and disseminate a National Press Code and standards for media houses and journalists;” approve the establishment of media houses; grant them licences; and monitor them and their journalists as they comply with the code.

 

Indeed, anyone or body corporate that owns, publishes or prints a newspaper, magazine, journal or any other periodical without documentation by the Council, shall be liable for an offence and shall be prosecuted.

 

 

Violators of the proposed law shall be fined N5 million or spend three years in prison; pay additional fine of N20,000 for each day the offence continues to be committed; face the possibility of a suspension for six months or more; in addition to striking out the name of the offending journalist from a register to be compiled an infallible NPC.

 

 

Another absurd aspect of the bill is that newspaper vendors who sell or distribute the newspaper, magazine or journal shall be liable for an offence and shall be jailed for one year or pay a fine of N250000.

The mother of all the offences is fake news, a piece of news published and established to be fake thereafter, attracts N5 million fine or two years in jail to the journalist, in addition to N2 million compensation to the “victim,” which may be an individual, body corporate or government.

 

But if the guilty party was a media house, it shall pay a fine of N10 million or be closed down for one whole year! In addition, the offending media house shall pay N20 million compensation to the victim of the fake news.

 

To all this nonsense, the press that is gradually becoming a victim of the state, is telling anyone who cares to listen that there is literally a fire on the mountain and it is kindled by the APC regime.

 

The print media is stating its case in a rather dramatic manner. It sets the image of an inmate, whose mouth is sealed by a tape made of prison bars. And below the image is the following sorry narrative:

 

“Information Blackout is what the National Assembly (dominated by APC, erstwhile friend of the media), wants to achieve with the NPC and NBC (Media) Act Amendment Bills.” The media also notes, “It’s not just against the media… it’s about the society’s right to know, your right to be heard.”

 

What the media didn’t add is that the acts of both the legislative arm, that is proposing the Amendment, and the Executive Branch, that is encouraging the compromise of the liberty of the media and the Nigerian citizens, are the stuff of which dictators are made.

 

The ominous signs are just too obvious.

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OPINION

Dancing On The Blood Of Zamfarans….

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BLOOD

Recently , no fewer than 40 persons were reportedly killed following attacks by suspected bandits on some villages in Zamfara state. The villages are Wari Tsaune, Gidan Adamu, Gidan Maidawa of Faru, all in the Maradun Local Government Area of the state.

 

It was also reported that the attacks left hundreds of others, including women and children with various degrees of injury.
Also several cows were said to have been rustled during the attack and shops in the affected villages were looted by the gunmen. This is a furtherance of the story of “sorrow, tears and blood” which has plagued Zamfara state in the last five(5) years.

 

Curiously, it was less than a week that Matawalle dumped PDP for the APC that his own local government came under serious attacks.
Who dun-nit ? The answer is not far fetched.

 

In this dystopia-like situation, widespread sobriety is expected of everyone especially the public office holders in Zamfara which is why the gross insensitivity displayed by the Deputy Governor, Mahdi Aliyu Gusau is offensive, wicked, and imbecilic.

 

It was reported that barely 24hrs after the said attack which left a river of blood and tears, the deputy Governor held a rally in the state capital. The said rally was to show the presence of his party in the state.

 

I am now of the utmost conviction that his recent show of shame is a piece in the puzzle of insecurity which has plagued Zamfara.

 

This is one of the many vices of the party which made Governor Matawalle ditch the party for the All Progressive Congress. A party which is insensitive to the plight of its members and those it governs should not be a platform for anyone with selflessness and purposeful leadership to build his lofty agenda and aspirations on.

 

 

The first piece of the puzzle which I will like to share was a tweet by Femi Fani Kayode few weeks ago in which he stated “May God deliver Zamfara & Nigeria from the evil of a madman that is determined to soak the state & our country in blood.

 

This man is responsible for the instability, bloodshed & violence we have suffered in Nigeris over decades & he works for the CIA. Many fear him but I do not.” He further affirmed “He is pure evil & I am going to expose him. The sword of truth will cut him down & the light of righteousness will expose his dark & evil ways & secrets.

 

What he is doing in Zamfara; the NW & indeed all over Nigeris today is unacceptable. He is a dangerous snake filled with hate, poison & blind & vaulting ambition even at his age”.
This is an indication that the sponsors or sponsor of banditry in Zamfara is known and can be revealed.

 

The second puzzle is the bold action of His Excellency, Governor Bello Muhammed Matawalle when he publicly challenged everyone in the state to follow demonstration of sincerity by swearing by the Holy Quran that he knows nothing about the banditry ravaging the state or anybody coordinating it. In his words on March 21, 2021 at the state capital while receiving an award as the Khadimul Quran conferred on him by the Centre for Quranic Reciter, he said; “I have sworn with the Holy Quran that if I know, or if I am part of, or I know anybody who is coordinating this (banditry), or with my hand or any of my family, may Allah not give me (speaks in Arabic) in this life,” he said.

 

Matawalle added, “I dare all the people from Zamfara State, from our father, Aliyu Gusau to Yarima Bakura and all the cabinet members, right from the inception of the political dispensation of the state, to take this oath as I did.”
Curiously, none of these aforementioned persons took up the challenge.

 

The last piece of the puzzle here is the celebration by Mahdi Aliyu. This only affirms the said attack a day before his rally was a successful muderous plot while the rally was a celebration of the successful execution of the evil plot.

 

With these three puzzles, it is evident one need not to look too far for the mischief makers behind the wickedness which has engulfed Zamfara for over five(5) years. The inssentive action of Mahdi Aliyu Gusua was dancing on the blood of innocent Zamfarans

 

 

Abdukadir Sulaiman,

a public affairs analyst.

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