The Police Pension Board Bill And The Task Before IGP Egbetokun
By Adewole Kehinde
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill
In 2017, a private member’s bill was presented to the 8th National Assembly seeking to exempt the Nigeria Police and other paramilitary agencies from the Contributory Pension Scheme.
During the public hearing on the bill held on September 28, 2017, the Nigeria Police High Command, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), PenCom, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC, the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), and other stakeholders in the pension industry overwhelmingly rejected the proposal because of the preponderance of its disadvantages.
The 8th National Assembly, therefore, declined the proposal for exemption and resolved that the welfare of Nigeria Police personnel should be enhanced within the framework of the Contributory Pension Scheme.
The 9th Senate, however, passed the bill to exempt the Nigeria Police from the Contributory Pension Scheme.
It is so sad that the highest retirement benefit of a Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP, under this obnoxious pension scheme is N2.5m and that of an Assistant Superintendent of Police is N1.5m, while their equivalents in the Army (captain) and DSS are paid N12.8m and N10.3m, respectively.
Upon retirement, the monthly take-home of a retired police DSP is just N31,600, while that of a captain, an equivalent in the army, is N180,000. While for a police inspector, it is N15,000, a warrant officer, the Army equivalent of a police inspector, takes home N120,000.
With the above analysis, no right-thinking human being will kick against the Police Pension Board Act. I was among the strong supporters who joined police officers in engineering their exit from the Contributory Pension Scheme because it is not favourable at retirement.
The lump sum payable to them by their pension fund managers is nothing to write home about when compared with the gratuity payable to them by the government under the defined benefit pension scheme.
A defined benefit pension scheme is one where the amount you are paid is based on how many years you have been a member of the employer’s scheme and the salary you have earned when you leave or retire.
They pay out a secure income for life, which increases each year in line with inflation.
Since my last article on the Pension Board, in which a veteran journalist and Arise TV presenter and host, Oseni Ruffai, kicked against the Police Pension Board, I have received calls from all over the country from retired policemen and some serving officers, and from the tone of their conversation with me, anybody saying anything against the signing of the bill is not talking in their best interest and should not speak further.
The police agitation for exit from the Contributory Pension Scheme did not start today. It started way back in 2011 when a bill to exit six paramilitary agencies of government was presented to the Sixth National Assembly. The bill, which was similar in context to that of the armed forces and intelligence agencies, had been put up in 2011 but was not passed by the Sixth National Assembly. It passed its second reading before the then-National Assembly turned it into its own.
Again in 2016, a similar bill sponsored by Hon. Oluwole Oke on the exemption of police and other paramilitary agencies of the government was put up.
Hon. Oke had, in May 2011, sponsored a bill seeking the exemption of the following six paramilitary agencies of the government: members of the Nigerian police, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Nigerian Customs Service, the Nigerian Prisons Service, the Nigerian Immigration Service, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from the Contributory Pension Scheme.
He pointed out that the identities, data, addresses, and family ties of security personnel were best handled internally by the relevant services and not kept in civilian custody, which might be easily compromised.
He also argued that the nature of the services provided by the paramilitary was unique and hazardous, and the burden of paying their pensions should therefore be borne by the government, which is also the reason for the delay in the payment of their entitlements, among others.
Despite many police reforms put in place in the past, an average police officer’s take-home package is so small that he cannot achieve anything with it while in service; therefore, they needs bulk money from their pension to put up a roof over their heads before collecting the remaining as a programme withdrawal or as an annuity.
We all know that the sacrosanct nature of the PRA 2014 cannot allow them to do this, even as the mortgage financing that the Pension Commission has been announcing is not easily available.
Since the assumption of office by the indefatigable Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, the welfare of the entire police force has been his priority.
IGP Kayode Egbetokun understands the importance of welfare to bolster the efficiency of police officers. So, therefore, I strongly believe he will not allow the Police Pension Board Bill before President Bola Ahmed Tinubu fades away.
The good news is that, as the initiator of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund in 2007, it is my sincere hope that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will sign the Police Pension Board Bill urgently, as this will ensure that every police personnel in Nigeria receives his or her retirement benefits when due. It will also protect the payment of lump sums and pensions to dependents in the event of a police officer’s death.
Adewole Kehinde is the publisher of Swift Reporters and can be reached via 08166240846, firstname.lastname@example.org