Pensioners under the umbrella of the Association of Retired Senior Public Officers of Nigeria (ARFESPON) have appealed to the Federal Government to pay them all outstanding pension benefits.
They are also asking the government to stop the disparity in payment of pension benefits between its members and their serving counterparts.
ARFESPON is made up of retired management level officers from salary grade level 14 to Permanent Secretaries, Comptrollers-General of Customs, Immigration and Prisons and career Ambassadors.
The President of the Lagos State chapter of the association, Olufemi Odewabi, while speaking with reporters in Lagos said government currently owes its members 30-month pension benefits.
According to him, the government is yet to implement the 53.4 per cent pension increase following salary increase it effected for federal public workers in 2010, which by stipulations of the law of the federation should supply to retirement benefits of pensioners.
He said: “The Federal Government is yet to listen to yearnings of retired senior public officers. We have been pleading with government to totally effect the 2010 increase in our pension benefits and to end the era of disparity in the payment of retirement benefits to pensioners.
“The government had during the regime of Goodluck Jonathan effected 53.4 per cent increase in the salaries of public office workers and failed to do same for pensioners. Section 173, sub-section 3 of the Constitution of Nigeria states that pension shall be reviewed every five years or together with any federal civil service salary review, whichever is earlier.”
“When we reacted to government’s non-compliance with the above section of the law regarding the increase it made in the salaries of its workers in 2010, the government set up a committee to review our case. But the committee went contrary to the position of the Constitution on the issue and recommended 33 per cent increase for the pensioners against 53.4 per cent effected on federal workers’ salaries.”
This, according to Odewabi, left the pensioners with a short change of 20.4 percent. He lamented that rather than pay the 33 per cent increase recommended by the committee in full, government has been paying in installments. He appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to clear the 30 months arrears and pay up the sum total of the 20.4 per cent deducted by the committee.
He noted that his members were right in their demand for payment of the 20.4 percent deductions because all the reasons given by the committee for the deductions were wrong, adding that the tax percentage deducted by the committee was against Section 173, sub-section 4 of the Constitution of Nigeria, which states that pensioners in respect of service in the public service of the federation shall not be taxed.
He said the per cent deducted for contributory pension scheme was wrong because all his members are under the Defined Benefit old scheme and have nothing to do with Contributory Scheme.
“The Federal Housing Scheme, for which the committee deducted 2.5 per cent should not be because his members are no longer under the housing scheme. The deductions are illegal and I urge President Buhari to listen to our cries and pay both the outstanding 30 months and the 20.4 per cent deductions. We also want the President to intervene in the harmonisation of disparity existing in payments between serving and retired public officers.”
Nigeria Eyes BRICS Membership within Two Years as Foreign Minister Emphasizes Strategic Alignment
In a strategic move towards global economic collaboration, Nigeria is aspiring to join the BRICS group of nations within the next two years.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, affirmed that Nigeria is open to aligning itself with groups that demonstrate good intentions, well-meaning goals, and clearly defined objectives.
Tuggar stated, “Nigeria has come of age to decide for itself who her partners should be and where they should be; being multiple aligned is in our best interest.”
He emphasized the need for Nigeria to be part of influential groups like BRICS and the G-20, citing criteria such as population and economy size that position Nigeria as a natural candidate.
BRICS, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, stands as a formidable bloc of emerging market powers.
In a recent move to expand its influence, BRICS invited six additional nations, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Argentina, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates, to join the group.
Nigeria, as Africa’s largest economy, has been absent from the BRICS alliance, prompting discussions on the potential economic and political advantages the bloc could offer the country.
Analysts have noted that BRICS membership could provide Nigeria with significant leverage on the global stage.
Vice President Kashim Shettima clarified that Nigeria did not apply for BRICS membership after the bloc’s announcement of new members in August.
Shettima emphasized the principled approach of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, highlighting a commitment to consensus building in decisions related to international partnerships.
As Nigeria eyes BRICS membership, the move is seen as a strategic step towards enhancing its global economic and diplomatic influence.
Nigeria Spends N231.27 Billion on Arms Procurement in Four Years Amidst Rising Security Challenges
The Federal Government of Nigeria has disbursed a total of N231.27 billion for arms and ammunition procurement over the past four years.
Despite this significant investment, security agencies argue that the allocated funds are insufficient to effectively tackle the myriad security challenges afflicting the nation.
Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, defended the substantial budget for arms purchases during a session with the House of Representatives.
He emphasized that Nigeria’s dependence on foreign countries for military hardware, which are priced in dollars, diminishes the impact of the substantial budget when converted to the local currency.
General Musa explained, “We don’t produce what we need in Nigeria, and if you do not produce what you need, that means you are at the beck and call of the people that produce these items. All the items we procured were bought with hard currency, none in naira.”
He further illustrated the challenges faced, citing that a precision missile for drones costs $5,000, underscoring the magnitude of the expenses associated with arms procurement.
An analysis of the annual budgets for the Ministry of Defence and eight other armed forces from 2020 to 2022 reveals allocations of N11.72 billion, N10.78 billion, and N9.64 billion, respectively.
In 2023, N47.02 billion was disbursed for arms procurement, supplemented by a recently passed budget of N184.25 billion, resulting in a total of N231.27 billion.
Security expert Chidi Omeje raised concerns about the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), which is tasked with manufacturing arms locally. Omeje criticized DICON’s underperformance, urging the government to revamp the agency to reduce reliance on foreign nations for arms and ammunition.
Omeje stressed, “The new government must make sure that DICON lives up to its responsibilities,” highlighting the urgency of fostering self-sufficiency in arms production to address the country’s security challenges effectively.
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