Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, has declared that it will take Nigeria 20 years to offset pension liabilities incurred by defunct public institutions like Nigeria Airways, Nigeria Telecommunication (NITEL), among others.
El-Rufai made this observation on Wednesday in Kaduna, the state capital.
He spoke at a stakeholders’ sensitisation conference for North-West on pension reform Act 2014 organised by the National Pension Commission.
El-Rufai, who was the pioneer Director General, Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), recalled that Nigeria Airways had a huge pension arrears, adding that the only way to pay such arrears was to privatise and sell the national carrier.
The former BPE boss recalled that by 2001, the BPE had made effort to sell off NITEL valued at $500 million but said the pension liability of the behemoth was humongous.
“NITEL’s pension liability was N43 billion, it was a lot of money then in 2001 while total pension liability of the Nigeria Airways was N700 billion. So there was a big problem, but there is no problem in this world that is new, somebody must have faced it before you.”
Expatiating, he said: “We suggested that the Federal Government should pay one percent of the pension liabilities from the federation account, but the then Attorney General of the Federation, late Chief Bola Ige kicked against it, saying that it was totally unconstitutional.
“Our plan was that in about 20 years, Nigeria would have been done with pension liabilities. We briefed the then President of the country, Olusegun Obasanjo and he said it was a national problem which needed to be solved. BPE was only trying to find the solution to the pension arrears, so we pleaded for time to study the pension problem.
“So we set up a committee headed by Kola Abiola, the committee worked for many months, and it was an excellent report, a three-volume report. We submitted the report, and the federal government was happy with the report. OBJ said there was no need for another committee, and that government just have to adopt the template. So OBJ accepted the report.”
Speaking earlier, the Director-General, National Pension Commission, Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, in her welcome address, noted that effective and sustainable pension systems remained a challenge in the country as well as in most African countries.
“However, the Federal Government of Nigeria took a remarkable step in changing the pension landscape through the enactment of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) in 2014. The Act provided novel solutions to what appeared then, as intractable challenges of the old defined benefit scheme,” she said.
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