The confidence reposed in the 11-year-old Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) by registered workers is beginning to wane due to recent interest being taken in it by lawmakers. The pension assets, which had faced various threats in the past following calls by top government functionaries that the funds be invested in developing ailing infrastructure, is gradually being confronted with more pressure as lawmakers plan to amend the Act setting up the scheme.
The latest move, which has been criticised by major stakeholders, is the second in less than three months by the legislators, who are seeking higher percentage to be accessed by workers instead of the statutory 25 per cent.
In the latest move, a senator is proposing that those who retire before the age of 50 should be given the opportunity to withdraw up to 75 per cent of their contributions irrespective of whatever would be left in the account to either fund programmed withdrawal or annuity plan.
The prime sponsor of the bill, Senator Aliyu Wamako (APC Sokoto), said: “The Bill, when enacted, will provide succour to retirees in the delay and other difficulty they face in withdrawing their saving.
The Pension Reform Act 2014, which came into effect on July 1, 2014, stipulates that every person who worked in either the public service of the federation, Federal Capital Territory or private sector receives his retirement benefits as and when due and assist improvident individuals by ensuring that they save in order to cater for their livelihood during old age.
Wamako said: “Our position is corroborated by the proposed amendment in Section 2(c) of the Bill.
This amendment seeks to ensure that persons who retire before the age of 50 years in accordance with the terms and conditions of their employment Section 16 (2)(c) of PRA 2014 access the RSA in line with the mode stipu lated for employees who disengage or are disengaged from employment before the age of 50 years and are unable to secure another employment within four months Section 16(5).
“The import of the proposed amendment, in line with the foregoing, is to allow the following persons to, rather than withdraw a lump sum based on a computation that allows the balance in the RSA to be sufficient to procure a programmed withdrawal or annuity for life, can withdraw up to 75 per cent as lump sum, irrespective of whether or not the balance would be sufficient to procure a programmed fund withdrawals or annuity for life.”
A few months ago, a member of House of Representatives, Hon. Amadi Dennis Oguerinwa, also moved for the alteration of Section 7 of the Pension Reform Act 2014.
Oguerinwa proposed that the amount to be accessed be increased from the current 25 per cent to 50 per cent, a development that is likely to effectively slash the total contributions.
Commenting on the proposed amendment, the Director, Centre for Pension Right Advocate, Ivor Takor, observed that the promoters of the current amendment failed to note that the Pension Reform Act 2014, established a Contributory Pension Scheme and not a Provident Fund Scheme, stressing that Section 7(1) and 2 of the Act 2014 attested to this.
He said: “The difference between pension funds and provident funds is that members of pension funds are able to take out a small portion of their retirement benefits – typically one-third or one forth-in a lump up-front sum.
The remaining benefits are distributed in monthly pay-outs. On the other hand, members of provident funds can take out as much of their benefits as they would like in a lump sum.
“That the Senate is contemplating a back door re-introduction of a Provident Fund, which was jettisoned 24 years ago in 2017 through the proposed amendment is unthinkable and at best, retrogressive.
“In a country lacking minimum standards of social security for her senior citizens, such as medical care, sickness benefit and old age benefit as provided for in ILO Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No.102) one is at a loss as to what the Senate expects the life of retired workers would be, after collecting 75 per cent of their retirement benefits as lump sum as being proposed in the amendment.”
He said that in view of the fact that one of the objectives of the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) is to assist improvident individuals by ensuring that they save in order to cater for their livelihood during old age, it was doubtful if the 25 per cent balance in a retiree’s RSA, after deduction of 75 per cent lump sum, would, if spread through the retiree’s expected life span, can be adequate to reasonably cater for his livelihood during old age.
Nigeria’s fish deficit hits 2.2m tons
Despite smuggling and abuse of import quota restrictions, Nigeria is currently facing 2.1 million tons of fish deficit.
The Director of Federal Department of Fishery (FDF), Muazu Mohammed, said this in a chat with New Telegraph in Lagos.
He said that the country still depends on one million tons of fish annually as against the 3.2 million tons demand.
Statistically, the country’s total demand is estimated at 3.2 million tons, while it depends on 1.12 million tons of domestic production from aquaculture, artisanal and industrial fisheries.
The FDF boss added that 80 per cent of fish produced in the country are catfish, while other species account for only 20 per cent.
This newspaper gathered that the restrictions have not yielded any positive result because of abuse of quotas and large scale smuggling.
Fish farmers who spoke with this newspaper noted that some of the local farmers government was trying to protect were already out of the business due to lack of fund and other challenges.
Speaking on the development, President, Fish Processors Association of Nigeria (FPAS), Chief Wole Omole, blamed the deficit on government’s policies, which had created uncertainty in the fishery industry.
He said that some members of the association had been facing challenges of finance, debts and smuggling in the business because government had not done enough to protect their investments.
Already, Omole noted that many of the local fish farmers had closed down their fish farms since they have run into debts.
He said: “Let me say this to you, government is just paying leap service to farmers operating in the industry. Money does not get to real farmers who are willing to expand their fish ponds. Also, fish feeding is very expensive in the country. As I talk to you now, I have diverted from fishing business because the profit is not there and this has to do with the cost of feeding the fish.”
Omole explained that investors were finding it difficult to break even in the business even in the long run.
The FPAS president added that lack of political will by the Federal Government had stifled the growth and development of fishery in the country.
“Look at the importation of frozen chicken and turkey the Federal Government banned, but you still found them in the marketplace,” he noted.
According to him, importation of foreign fish, lack of capital, strong smuggling network and inadequate feeds had crippled the ambition of local farmers to meet national demand. This is why the country is facing such a huge deficit, he said.
Omole blamed government for allowing influx of fish imports into the country despite its import restriction quotas.
Echoing him, the President of Fishery Association of Nigeria (FAN), Rasaq Adefowoju, decried the high rate of smuggling and importation of fish to the country.
He said that without government assistance to local fish farmers, the current fish deficit would continue to widen.
Adefowoju also stressed the need for government to create an enabling environment for local fish farmers operating in the country.
The president added that only the solution was for government to provide a bailout fund or loan for the farmers from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enable them embark on massive production at single digit or at six months moratorium.
Adefowoju said: “The problem with us in the association is finance. We have enough local fish farmers in the country that can produce fish but there is no financial assistance from the government.”
It would be recalled that since 2014, when the Federal Government introduced the import restriction, exporters from Norway have been finding it difficult to bring fish into the country due to lack of foreign into the country due to lack of foreign exchange to order for supply.
However, finding revealed that some fish are being smuggled through the neighbouring Cotonou Port to the country by fish merchants.
Last year, the Federal Government complained that about $700 million was spent on importation of fish into the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, lamented that it was no longer sustainable for government to continue to spend such huge amount of money on fish importation.
Consequently, he said that funds would be made available for research institutes to scale up research work into the local production of other fish species, aside the regular catfish and Tilapia.
The minister said: “We need to start looking inwards to see how Nigeria can produce some of these fishes both for local consumption and then importation. We will also encourage massive investment in artisanal fish production, to meet the protein needs of Nigerians, because it has been discovered that lack of protein in some women have made them to developed fibroid
Dangote: Businesses, residents lose N86bn daily to Apapa gridlock
Businesses and residents are losing N86 billion to Apapa-Wharf road gridlock daily, Africa’s richest man and President/CEO, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has said.
He stated this in Lagos while condemning the challenges posed by traffic jam and heavy presence of different types of taskforce, including the Customs, on the major route leading to the nation’s largest port.
Dangote, who was on an inspection tour of the on-going reconstruction of N4.3 billion Apapa-Wharf road by AG Dangote recently, stated that businesses and residents are losing 20 times the project’s cost daily.
By calculation, N86 billion is being lost by business owners and residents on daily basis.
He said: “People don’t really understand how much money businesses are losing because of the gridlock here; if you quantify it in billions, it is 20 times the cost of this project every single day.”
Consequently, he urged the Federal Government to move the taskforce, including Customs, away from the route to ease traffic.
The reconstruction of the road that leads to Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports is being undertaken by Dangote Group, Nigerian Flour Mill Limited and the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), which are together committing N4.34 billion to the project.
Justifying the involvement of his company in sponsoring the project, Managing Director, Flour Mills Limited, Paul Gbadedo, lamented that it has been difficult for businesses and residents of Apapa.
Noting that the economy of Apapa is very huge, he said that businesses cannot see the traffic and road deteriorating without doing something.
He stated that 75 to 80 per cent of imports passed through the Apapa ports, noting that the road is strategic.
Dangote stressed that it did not make any commercial sense for Customs to mount check points outside the wharf after they might have checked and certified goods at the ports.
“If there should be any more checkpoints, they should be at the toll gates, not here where they are obstructing traffic flow,” he said.
Africa’s richest man said he was impressed with the progress and quality of work being done by AG Dangote, the contractor handling the reconstruction of the road.
He also lauded the palliative work going on on Apapa Oshodi Expressway and the Trailer Park being constructed by government off the expressway, pointing out that these were efforts being made to ensure that the access roads to the ports are decongested.
“My impression of this road has changed because AG Dangote is doing a great and excellent work here. You can see the quality of work being done. This is quite impressive. Even in Germany, you cannot see this kind of quality of road. This road can last at least two generations in which case you will be talking about over 60 years. It is so solid that it can take any weight and any traffic,” Dangote said.
“I can assure you that we will double our efforts to complete the project on schedule, that is, latest by the end of June,” he said.
Chief Executive, AG Dangote, Ajif Juma, stated that the company is facing a lot of challenges, citing traffic and gas pipeline as major ones.
“But now we are working hard to ensure we finish on schedule with some of our workers on night shift,” he said.
CBN to banks: Settle customers’ complaints within 2 weeks
Deposit Money Banks ( DMBs) and other financial Institutions have been directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to settle customers’ complaints on issues of overcharge, unauthorised deductions and other matters within two weeks.
CBN Head of Complaints management Division, Mr Tajudeen Ahmed, conveyed the Apex Bank’s directive in Abuja. He said the regulator would ensure that bank customers receive redress on issues of excess charges or unauthorised withdrawal.
Ahmed reiterated the CBN’s commitment to eradicating the culture of excess and arbitrary charges. According to him, the CBN has since issued a circular,which could be found on the its website showing all legitimate bank charges. He explained that any charge outside what is contained in the circular was not allowed and should not be charged.
“The Consumer Protection Department issued guidelines to banks dated August 16, 2011, directing all banks and other financial institutions to resolve all customer complaints within two weeks of receipt of that complaint,” he said. “Before the expiration of that complaint, the financial institution is expected to be engaging the customer on a continuous basis to update him or her on the status of the complaint. “If it is not resolved within the deadline given, then such a person is encouraged to draw the attention of Central Bank of Nigeria to find solution to that complaint.”
Ahmed enjoined customers with unresolved complaints to contact the CBN by writing to the Director Consumer Protection Department. He also advised disgruntled bank customers to visit any branch of the CBN closest to them to lay their complaints.
“The CBN continually engages the banks to find out if their conducts and practices are fair to their customers in order to stimulate people’s confidence in the banking system. “Non-adherence to that normally results to regulatory sanctions as the case may be,” he said.
Ahmed faulted banks for setting a limit on ATM withdrawals to get customers to make several withdrawals to cash large sums. “I have also observed and noted this. Don’t forget that at the beginning, it wasn’t like this. Over time, we started having this problem.
“One of the reasons is that the quantum of N500 denomination is much more than that of N1,000 denomination,” he said. “When we approached the banks about these problems, they said that the machines become easily faulty when it is set to dispense up to N30, 000 to N40, 000 units.
“However, CBN has directed that the machines that allow payment of up to N30,000 to N50,000 should be installed. “This is still ongoing. The Banking and Payment Department of the CBN is championing it.” In her remarks, Head, Consumer Protection Department, Mrs Hadija Kasim, admonished bank customers to imbibe cashless policy.
“Let’s not forget that ATM cards can also be used on Point of Sale (POS) terminals. We are encouraging people that unless it is absolutely necessary, they should reduce the carriage of cash. Cashless transactions are more convenient, safer and you will avoid the problem of overcharges,” she said. She advised bank consumers to use bank transfer channels for transactions in cases where sellers do not have POS.
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