The President, Pension Operators (PenOp) in Nigeria, Mr Eguarekhide Longe, has allayed fears by pensioners and retirees over the safety of their contributions and entitlements with Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs).
Longe told newsmen yesterday in Lagos that pensions deducted from public workers’ salaries and credited to their Retired Savings Accounts (RSAs) were safe.
He also assured retirees that their contributions under the Contributory Pension Schemes (CPS) would not be embezzled.
Longe explained that the National Pension Commission (PenCom), Pension Fund Custodians (PFCs) and PFAs had not deviated from their mandate of overseeing pensioners’ welfare and payment of pensions.
He said the operations of PFAs and PFCs were well regulated by PenCom and the Pension Bill of 2004 repealed by that of 2014.
“The 2004 bill repealed by that of 2014, Section 14 subsection 100 (1) says any PFA, PFC or other bodies that diverted pension funds, on conviction, is liable to an amount equal to three times of the amount diverted or not less than 10years’ imprisonment.
“Or both penalties, that is, amount equal to three times of the misappropriated fund and 10 years’ imprisonment,’’ he said.
Longe explained that the Accrued Rights (pension liabilities) was specifically for public sector workers had experienced some hitches, while the CPS which is for private sector works seamlessly.
He said the Accrued Rights was funded by the Federal Government by paying five per cent of monthly payroll into Retirement Benefit Bond Redemption Fund (RBBRF), which is domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
According to him, the RBBRF payment has been irregular since December 2014 when the Nigerian economy experienced a downturn.
Longe condemned the agitations by some retirees on the piecemeal payment of pension entitlements.
He said: “Now, if your total pension entitlement is N15 million and your RSA reads N3 million, do you think it would be wise to spread the N3 million as lump sum and pension before the N12 million is paid?
“It distorts the entire pension calculation of the retiree and this is the reason it is not done that way,’’ he said.
Shettima Assures Fraternal Bond Between Executive, Legislature
Vice President Kashim Shettima has assured Nigerians of continued fraternal bond between the executive and the legislative arms of government.
Shettima gave the assurance when he declared open a two-day retreat for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly (NASS) in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom last Friday.
The vice president said that President Bola Tinubu remains committed to safeguarding Nigeria’s democracy.
Shettima also assured the leadership of the National Assembly of Tinubu’s avowed commitment to entrenching democratic ideals and values through collaborative partnership with all arms of government.
He said the unrivalled democratic credentials of Tinubu, which include legislative experience, would continue to rub off on his governance style.
This, he said especially as it borders on respect of the rule of law, adherence to separation of powers as well as deference for constitutional rights.
Shettima described the composition of the Federal Government as well as the leadership of the National Assembly as historical, unique and a major pathway to Nigeria’s unprecedented development.
This, he said, was more so that the expectations of Nigerians would be met regardless of the present challenges.
“For the first time in our history, all the elected heads of our branches of government are produced by the hallowed halls of the National Assembly.
“For the first time in our history, the heart of the executive branch of our government is serviced by the alumni of the National Assembly.
“Both the Chief of Staff and the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President are proud alumni of the National Assembly. The Secretary to the Federal Government is one of us.
“We cannot, therefore, afford to go to war. Not because we are going to overlook each other’s transgressions, but because you are going to engage with those who know the gravity of your work and would never take you for granted.”
He said given the composition of the National Assembly, it has become emphatic that ranks are closed in the bid to give unprecedented service delivery and democratic pact to the Nigerian people.
“There’s no place in this country where you can find a fraternal bond as enduring as the ones that bind the members of the National Assembly.
“From converging on Abuja to water the dreams, debate the needs, and mitigate the fears of this diverse nation, we have forged friendships that defy the stereotypes of our differences.
“Term after term, election after election, old and new members return and exit, but the burden of managing a diverse nation has ensured that we cannot afford to tread the path of divisions.”
He further reiterated the need for national cohesion, saying it has become non-negotiable if the country’s potential must be fully harnessed and tapped for prosperity and generality of all Nigerians.
“You have a President and a Vice President who are one of you and recognise the sacrifices you make.
“President Tinubu has, with utter certainty, reassured us that we are not in government to go to war with the National Assembly. We are here to collaborate and march towards shared values.
“Governance is a collective responsibility, not a personal endeavour. Our most significant achievements were attained through cooperation and harmony.
“This is what we seek from you because we are brothers and sisters in pursuit of a country that serves all of us.
Shettima described the NASS as a complete spectrum of human experience.
“This is where you will witness eloquent testimonies of your colleagues in defence of reason.
“This is where you will witness profound debates that will dismantle your age-long assumptions. But, in the end, you will realise we are all bound by our fidelity to the ideals of democracy.”
Earlier, President of the Senate, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, said that the retreat was the beginning of the rejuvenation and a time of reflection and deliberate planning that would determine the direction of legislative efforts.
“We have a huge responsibility as the National Assembly leaders, as the guardians of democracy, it is our responsibility to set the legislative agenda, make sure that our venerable institution runs smoothly.
“Our neighbours are watching us, and they turn to us for leadership and action. We therefore have a chance to establish a strong future direction during this retreat, which is more than just a gathering of leaders.”
Also, the Director-General of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, thanked Tinubu for his continued support and deepened respect for legislative independence and harmony.
He said the institute remained committed to working with the 10th NASS in improving legislative governance.
Notable guests at the event include Gov. Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom, former Senate Presidents Ayim Pius Ayim, David Mark, Ken Nnamani and Ahmed Lawan.
Others were the Head of Mission, Embassy of the Republic of Germany, Mr Johnnes Lehne and all Principal leaders of the National Assembly.
Consumers Decry Grid Collapse, Allege Sabotage
The Nigerian Power Consumers Forum (NPCF) has condemned the spate of disturbances on the national electricity grid and the recent fire incidents around power transmission infrastructure.
NPCF’s convener, Michael Okoh, raised the concern in a statement issued in Abuja, recently.
This came few days after the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) announced that for over 400 days, the grid had been relatively stable.
“From independent assessment, which started last year and up to this year, the forum was able to confirm the various initiatives TCN deployed to stabilise the grid, including the use of Internet of Things and the deployment of the stop gap system as a placeholder for a smart grid system”, Okoh stated.
He added, “but unfortunately, just after the pronouncement on the efforts of TCN on grid stability, the power sector has recorded at least two system collapses in succession, all caused by a fire incident in the BirninKebbi transmission substation and line snap along the 330kV Jebba – Kainji transmission line.
“These have caused nationwide outages which the NPCF believes is to bring the management of TCN into disrepute”.
He said the forum confirmed that the TCN had been maintaining its grid efficiently for 421 days and the grid was looped in some places.
“This rules out the lack of capacity on the part of the company. We are therefore pointing to cases of sabotage by hoodlums who may not mean well for the country”, Okoh stated.
He said this was not the first time critical national infrastructures had been sabotaged as every day cases abound of oil theft, rupturing of pipelines or hacking of power transmission towers, of which he said more than 20 of such cases were reported by TCN in the last 12 months.
Okoh continued that “the fire incident at the BirninKebbi transmission substation switchyard is more of a sabotage on the national grid systems.
“According to power engineers who have over three decades of experience, they believe that technically, there is no way two power transformers separated by a reasonable distance from each other will be engulfed by fire simultaneously”.
Nipco Gas Commissions CNG Facility In A’Ibom
Nipco Gas Limited has announced its commissioning of a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) facility in Oron, AkwaIbom State.
According to the company, the facility would support auto CNG requirements for Daughter-Booster Stations in the South-South part of Nigeria.
NIPCO Gas also said it was expanding its CNG Stations footprint across Nigeria in partnership with NNPC Limited.
At present, NIPCO Gas Limited adeptly oversees a network of 14 operational Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations strategically located across Nigeria.
It has accomplished the seamless conversion of over 7,000 vehicles to operate on CNG.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) had announced on August 3, 2023, that it had signed a strategic partnership with NIPCO Gas Limited to facilitate the establishment of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations nationwide.
According to NNPCL, the primary objective of the collaboration was to expand the existing CNG infrastructure, ensuring greater accessibility to CNG and accelerating the adoption of this cost-effective and environmentally friendly fuel for buses, cars, and KekeNapeps.
The shift from petrol would bring about a substantial reduction in transportation costs, thereby fostering sustainable growth within the national economy, according to NNPCL.
Shortly after signing a CNG agreement with the NNPCL, Nipco Gas Limited said it would remain fully committed to fulfilling the responsibilities entrusted to the partnership insisting that the fuel subsidy removal and the decision to use CNG as an alternative fuel would strengthen the country’s economy.
The partnership was expected to facilitate the following 35 cutting-edge CNG stations: establishment of three flagship Mother stations, which would have the capacity to cater for the needs of over 200,000 vehicles daily, making a significant dent in automobile fuel expenses and transportation costs for the Nigerian populace.
Note that the initial phase would facilitate 21 CNG stations to support intra-city transportation, to be operational by Q1/2024.
With the second phase to facilitate 35 CNG stations to boost inter-city transportation and to be operational by late 2024, an additional 56 CNG stations would be deployed by NNPC Retail nationwide.
It would be recalled that in August 2023, Tinubu inaugurated the Presidential Compressed Natural Gas Initiative (PCNGI). This visionary initiative sets its sights on a comprehensive transformation of the country’s transportation sector.
Its primary objectives include the introduction of over 11,500 new vehicles equipped to run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and the facilitation of the conversion of a remarkable 55,000 existing petrol-dependent vehicles to CNG.
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