The House of Representatives at the plenary yesterday unanimously passed for a second reading a bill to exempt the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) from the contributory pension scheme like their counterpart in the military and the intelligence agencies.
The proposed legislation titled: ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend the Pension Reform Act, 2014 to Provide for Exemption of the Nigeria Police Force from the Contributory Pension Scheme, and for Related Matters’, was sponsored by Hon. Francis Waive (PDP, Delta).
Leading the debate on its general principles, Waive lamented that retired police personnel are passing through difficult times after serving the country.
He explained that the bill seeks to amend the Section 5, sub-Section 1 paragraph (a) of Pension Reform Act of 2014, to include the Nigerian Police Force as part of the categories of persons exempted from the scheme, “because their pension is meagre compared with other security agencies and the contributory pension is an impediment to their access to benefits.”
The lawmaker opined that members of the police force, being the frontline security agency in the country, are exposed to danger daily than other security agencies, and as such, deserve better treatment during and after service.
He said: “Nigeria Police Pensions Limited emanated from a presidential approval that was aimed at enhancing the welfare of serving and retired police officers. Consequent to the approval, the National Pension Commission (Pencom) was in 2012 directed to guide the police towards the establishment of a Nigeria Police Pension Fund Administrator, in order to remain within the Contributory Pension Scheme and address all other areas of concern on welfare and pension matters.
“For example, the highest retirement benefit of a Deputy Superintendent of Police under this obnoxious pension scheme is N2.5million and that of Assistant Superintendent of Police is N1.5million while their equivalent in the army (captain) and DSS are paid N12.8million and N10.3million respectively. Upon retirement, the take-home pay 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 is N15, 000, a Warrant Officer in the army, an equivalent to a Police Inspector takes home N120,000 upon retirement. The Nigeria Police is the principal law enforcement and the lead security agency in Nigeria. Due to the nature of their job, a policeman would risk his life and that of his dependents to serve the country for 35 years only to retire to a life of penury, being made to face humiliation after retirement on account of ineffective pension and gratuity scheme. The problems with the non-payment of pension benefits under the present scheme are well known.”
Contributing in support of the bill, the Chairman of the House Committee on Air Force, Hon. Shehu Koko (APC, Kebbi), said as a retired police officer who collects N23,000 as a monthly pension, the situation of retired police officers in the country is pathetic.
He said the country needs to appreciate their contributions to the security and wellbeing of Nigeria in terms of security.
Also, the Chairman, House Committee on Defence, Hon. Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos), said the bill is right as police officers deserve better attention.
On his part, the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu), called for the review of the Police Reform Act, to address some of these challenges, adding that police officers can’t continue to make a voluntary sacrifice while the country allows them to remain in jeopardy.
In a similar vein, aggrieved retired policemen from across the country yesterday protested at the National Assembly, calling for their removal from the scheme.
The retired policemen carried placards with inscriptions such as ‘CPS is a death sentence against police retirees’; ‘We say no to CPS’; ‘We are retired, not tired’ among others.
Speaking on behalf of the retirees, the Chairman of the Police Contributory Pension Scheme (CSP) in Cross River State, Christopher Effiong, said since the CPS was introduced in 2004, policemen have been shortchanged.
He said they have only been getting a quarter or less of what they are supposed to get under the scheme and it was affecting their lives and families adversely.
Effiong lamented that they have been used and dumped by the federal government, as they have shown no interest in their welfare, despite putting in 35 years of service.
He warned that if something is not done about it urgently, subversive elements may use them negatively to the detriment of society.
According to him, “Do everything to exit us from the Contributory Pension Scheme. It is a menace. It is an obnoxious policy that has sent a lot of retired police officers, who have served this country meritoriously to their early grave. Most of us joined this force under a defined benefit scheme when there was an agreement that upon retirement, they will pay us pension and gratuity. At the end of the day, we discovered that the federal government introduced a policy and played us into deceit that it would be better for us.
“Today we have discovered that Pencom is a fraud. At the end of the day, instead of paying us our gratuity which is about 300 per cent, what they are giving us is peanuts called lump sum. They are supposed to pay us 80 per cent of our last months’ salary. What they are paying us is something less than 25 per cent. About one-quarter of what we were paid in the service. A lot of ugly things are taking place. Our people are developing sicknesses caused by heart attacks, frustration and others. We have come to tell our children(lawmakers) in the National Assembly, most of them who we laboured to ensure they come here to make policies that would favour us, and we are happy that the existing laws of this country under the constitution gives them enormous powers to receive our petition and listen to us.”