FCT Minister approves another tranche of N792m for retirees

… Joy among Area Council, LEA beneficiaries as board pays out N2.7bn total

By Felix Durumbah

There is palpable joy in the homes of 233 retired and deceased officers spread across the six Area Councils and Local Education Authorities (LEAs) of Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The outpouring of emotion followed payment to them, or their next of kin, of the princely sum of N792, 831, 933. 54 as accrued rights on the directive of FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello.

The Minister’s milk of human kindness in approving the money has effectively taken care of officers that were owed the benefit up to June, 2018.

Speaking exclusively to Abuja Digest Weekly last Thursday in his office, Director, FCT Area Council Staff Pension Board (ACSPB), Mr. Nanzing Nden, lauded the Minister for the action, noting that the implication is that all officers that had been owed liabilities of accrued rights up to June last year ”have now been paid completely.”

Accrued rights are largely entitlement of workers before the advent of the private sector-driven Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS). It is used to describe what the government owes its workers who have been in service before the commencement of the Pension Reform Act, 2004 (Reviewed in 2014).

Apparently not resting on its oars, Mr. Nden said, government is set to bring more smiles to the faces of the retired and next of kin of deceased staff as the wheels of progress are revving for the paying of accrued rights for the period of June to December, 2018—a development which would mean FCT Administration (FCTA) has cleared all of that particular liability for last year.

Mr. Nden said: ” Very soon, we hope to get payments of benefits of officers from June-December, 2018, to the Honourable Minister for approval, and then we’ll be through with payments for liabilities up to 2018.

”You will recall that early last year when you interviewed me, for last year and 2017 we had a total liability of over N3 billion but due to the magnanimity of the Honourable Minister, who approved a new funding regime, the board (ACSPB) has been able to pay over N2 billion accrued rights as at last year and with this payment of N792 million, the total payment of liabilities only for last year is about N2.7 billion. So, the board was able to pay N2.7 billion to a total of 660 retirees for the period January last year to date.”

Peering into the immediate future, the Director offered a preview of several plans to ensure more efficient and effective pension administration for FCT Area Councils and LEAs.

According to him, the board intends to hold its annual pensioners’ verification under the Defined Benefits Scheme (DBS) sometime in March this year as well as undertake its Pension Desk Officers (PDOs) stakeholders’ retreat in April.

Experts define a DBS as a type of pension plan in which an employer/sponsor promises a specified pension payment, lump-sum (or combination thereof) on retirement that is predetermined by a formula based on the employee’s earnings history, tenure of service and age, rather than depending directly on individual investment returns.

The stakeholders’ retreat, the Director added, will ”review processes such as the Group Life process, actuarial valuation process, funding issues, and really to look at the strategic plan for the board, reviewing what we have done so far and what we can do better.”

These aside, Mr. Nden revealed further, the board is in the process of procurement, with relevant advertisements already made, for requisite, hi-tech Information Technology (IT) packages to make for ultra-modern pension processing, management and solutions provision.

The Director listed some of these to include an e-document management system, e-archival system, ICT infrastructural upgrade, pension mgt system and a new actuarial valuation.

Reeling out the vital importance of such infrastructure advancement, Mr. Nden noted: ”The essence is to improve our IT system and infrastructure in line with PENCOM (National Pension Commission) regulations.

”The e-document system will convert all our records for e-documents, making our work largely paperless. The archival system will store our information online and offline. We upgrade so that all our offices are linked and in the new regime we’re procuring, we’re also linking Area Councils’ and LEAs’ infrastructure to our facility.

”So, by any means, we’re providing the facilities for our PDOs who are our outposts for the purpose of effective management of pensions.

”The procurement will link our system to PENCOM for real-time online submission of monthly compliance reports. These are regulatory issues that we have been dealing with and the Honourable Minister has graciously approved the procurement of these facilities.”

Equally heart-lifting, the Director stated, is the recent completion of the board’s office extension, which is awaiting commissioning and occupation.

He expressed gratitude to the Permanent Secretary, FCT, Sir Chinyeaka Ohaa, and the Minister to approving funds for the office upgrade.

Abuja Digest Weekly learnt that the one-storey office structure has, among others, a full IT section, and an air conditioned conference hall that can seat 50 persons.

 ”We intend to utilize it (conference hall) for our conferences, trainings, and it will be available for outsiders those who want to use the facility; they will pay. We will also be generating revenue for FCTA,” the Director remarked.