PENCOM takes contributory scheme to S/East
The National Pension Commission, PenCom has officially opened the South-East Zonal Office in Awka, Anambra State.
The office, which is located opposite Government House, Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, was declared open by the Executive Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi.
It is the fourth to be formally opened among the Commission's sonal offices in the six geo-political zones of the country. Three zonal offices had earlier been commissioned at Calabar for the South-South states, Ilorin for the North-Central states and Lagos for the South-West states.
The National Pension Commission embarked on the establishment of zonal offices in the six geo-political zones of the country so as to decentralise its activities and bring it closer to the contributors and retirees. With the Commission's presence in the South-East Zone, stakeholders in the pension industry can now avail themselves of the services of the Commission by visiting the zonal office to make enquiries, lodge complaints, and seek education to the Contributory Pension Scheme and request for sensitisation and awareness on pension and pension related matters.
Due to the Commission's renewed focus on efficient service, it seeks to reduce the need for contributors and retirees to travel from various parts of the country to Abuja for the singular reason of accessing the Commission's services.
In addition, the presence of the Commission will facilitate closer interaction with the states' pension offices by assisting them to comply with the Contributory Pension Scheme. The South-East Zonal office in Awka has the mandate to effectively extend the Commission's services to all the five states in the zone namely; Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Abia.
The Acting Director General of the National Pension Commission, Mrs Chinelo Anohu-Amazu noted that the Commission had remained steadfast in the implementation of the Contributory Pension Scheme such that within its few years of existence, some modest achievements have been realised.
She outlined such achievements as the consistent payment of the retirement benefits to all employees, who retired under the scheme since 2007 without the characteristic bottlenecks experienced in the past, the generation of investible funds of more than 3.72 trillion naira invested in various financial instruments and the registration of about 5.82 million contributors into the Contribution Pension Scheme.
She also added that the Commission had made an input in the process of a major amendment to the Pension Reform Act 2004 currently at the final stages of consideration by the National Assembly. The Commission, she enthused, has also established a Call Centre in order to enhance its service delivery through an efficient complaints resolution process.
She, nonetheless, regretted that the South-East Zone known to be highly industrious and possessing enterprising intellectuals, was yet to take its rightful place in the adoption and implementation of the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) .
The acting director-general disclosed that three states namely: Abia , Ebonyi and Enugu were yet to enact the law on the CPS. Imo State, Mrs Anohu – Amazu explained, enacted its law on CPS in 2008 and appointed Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) to register its employees but information available to the Commission showed that Imo State has suspended the implementation of the scheme.
Anambra State, she stated, only recently enacted its law on the scheme and is still expected to carry out the next necessary steps like setting up administration structure, appointment of PFAs, registration of employees by the PFAs, remittance of pension contributions and determination of accrued pension liabilities of workers among others.
She, therefore, appealed to the states in the South - East Zone not to be left out of a national success story, which is what the Contributory Pension Scheme has become. The acting director general also explained that the Commission was currently exploring the possibility of allowing contributors to utilise part of their Retirement Savings Account balance to part-finance the acquisition of homes, pointing out that these facilities would be availed to states that have fully embraced the scheme.
Governor Peter Obi thanked the Commission for establishing the South-East Zonal Office in Awka and assured the Commission that the State would follow -up on embracing the scheme soon.
There were goodwill messages from stakeholders in the pension industry. Senate Committee Chairman on Establishment and Public Service Matters, Dr. Alloysius Etok, restated the National Assembly's commitment to the reform in the Pension industry. He also stated that the report on the proposed amendment of the Pension Reform Act 2004 has been submitted to the National Assembly for further consideration.
The Nigeria Labour Congress' Vice President, Mr. Issa Aremu represented by the Congress' Deputy Secretary, Chimezie Sylvester commended the Commission for establishing zonal offices that will bring it closer to contributors and retirees. Dr. Abel Afolayan, national president of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, who noted that the Commission has been discharging its duties efficiently, commended the establishment of Pension Transitional Administration Department, PTAD, insisting that with it, the problems of the old pension scheme would be solved.
Other Zonal offices waiting official commissioning are located at Kano for North-West and Gombe for North- East Geo-Political Zones