N302.4b Pension Debts: What Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun told Reps

Members of the House of Representatives, yesterday, grilled the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and her counterpart in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, on the modalities by which the Federal Government will offset its N302.4 billion pensions liability.

Both ministers made presentations in the Green Chambers during plenary, separately, pleading that more time be given the inter-ministerial committee set up by federal government to, among other interventions, reconcile the discrepancies in the number of pensioners and the amount needed to fully settle them as stated by agencies involved in pension administration.

Meanwhile, before her appearance in the House, Adeosun, on Wednesday, announced that the federal government has cleared the inherited arrears of pension benefits for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, by releasing N41.5 billion to the National Pension Commission (PenCom) for onward payment to retirees.

She further said, in a statement, that N12.5 billion being outstanding for January, February and March 2017, has also been settled based on 2016 appropriation, bringing the total amount to about N54 billion. But the National Union of Pensioners (NUP), in a statement made available to Daily Sun, yesterday, described the amount released as too meagre to have cleared all the monies owed retirees and said the indebtedness to the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) alone is well over N280 billion.

“Therefore, the release of N54 billion cannot be said to have cleared FG’s backlog of pension liability,” NUP’s statement read.

Regardless, Udoma, who was the first to speak to the lawmakers, insisted that the federal government was up to date with most categories of pension payments.

The minister assured that the inter-ministerial committee headed by Adeosun would soon deliver on a harmonised data that will see to the efficient and prompt payment of pension and gratuity.

Probably unsatisfied with the minister’s assurances, House Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila wanted to know how the federal government would resolve the challenges surrounding pension payment.

The minister said although government was encumbered by limited resources, the payment of salaries was number one priority, adding that the half of the total of projected revenue in the 2017 budget is to be used to pay wages and pension. He assured that the committee will come up with creative means to clear all of the pension debt.

On her part, Adeosun described the current challenges as inherited, blaming the huge pension debt on “consistent under appropriation for years.”

The minister insisted that federal government release of funds a day before her appearance wasn’t preemptive of lawmakers actions. She told the House in response to questions, that the N54 billion released had cash backing. The minister’s insistence that the pension debt was inherited by the Buhari administration nearly led to a rowdy session as members, mostly those from the main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) raised their voices in disagreement.

Lawmakers also shouted down any of their colleagues who tried to commend the ministers and President Buhari on actions taken to resolve the matter.

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