The new pension scheme is contributory, fully funded, privately third party custody of the funds and assets based on individual accounts. It ensures that everyone who has worked receives his or her retirement benefits as and when due. It covers all employees in the Public Service of the Federation, the Federal Capital Territory and the Private Sector of the economy. The existing pensioners, employees who have three years or less to retire and the categories of persons covered by the provisions of section 291 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are exempted from the new pension scheme. Any employee with more than three years to retire comes under the new pension scheme.
The new pension scheme is mandatory for all categories of employers and employees covered under the Pension Reform Act. There is no merger of private sector pension with that of the Public Sector pension since the sources of funding are not the same. However, both are now being regulated under same rules and regulations. The main objectives of the Pension Reform Act 2004 are as follows:
· To ensure that every person who worked in either the Public Service of the Federation, Federal Capital Territory or Private Sector receives his or her retirement benefits as and when due.
· To assist improvident individuals by ensuring that they save in order to cater for their livelihood during old age and
· To establish a uniform set of rules, regulations and standards for the administration and payments of retirement benefits for the Public Service of the Federation, Federal Capital Territory and Private Sector.
This is different from the old pension scheme because most of the old pension schemes are not fully funded. Therefore, upon retirement, there were no ready funds to pay the pensioners. The new pension scheme is fully funded. Money is contributed into individual employee’s Retirement Savings Account [RSA] and when he or she retires, there will be money in his or her RSA to pay his or her pension. Private sector pension schemes will be allowed to continue provided if there is evidence to show that the pension scheme is fully funded at all times, any shortfall made up within 90 days, pension fund assets are segregated from the assets of the employer/company, the pension fund assets are held by a licensed Custodian and the scheme is specifically approved by the National Pension Commission [PenCom].
An employee shall make monthly contributions of a minimum of 7.5% of the total of his or monthly emoluments [that is, monthly basic salary, transport allowance and housing allowance] into the RSA. The employer also shall contribute a minimum of 7.5% of the employee’s monthly emoluments towards the retirement benefits of the employee. However, an employer can make all the contributions on behalf of the employee without making any deduction from the employee’s salary except that such contribution by the employer shall not be less than 15% of the monthly emoluments of the employee. Your contributions are just savings out of your emoluments towards your old age and the employer’s contribution will only increase such savings. Pension contributions are paid directly to the PFC to be held on the order of the PFA. A fully funded pension scheme exists where pension funds and assets match pension liabilities at any given time.
The Retirement Savings Account [RSA] is similar to a bank account except that no contributor can withdraw money from the RSA before his or her retirement. The PFA is required to invest the money and issue statements of account at least once every quarter to the contributor. Movement from one employment to another does not affect pension under the new scheme. The Reform has removed the bottleneck associated with transfer of service from one organization or sector to another, especially with regard to qualification for pension and the sharing formula for payment of pension as between employers. When you change jobs, the RSA remains with the PFA of your choice for as long as you want. You simply notify new employer of the details of the PFA that manages your account and thereafter, your contributions will be sent to the Custodian of the PFA.
Employee’s right to accrued retirement benefits for the previous years he or she has been in employment is guaranteed by the Pension Reform Act 2004. In the case of the Public Service of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, where pension scheme was unfunded, the right would be acknowledged through the issuance of a “Federal Government Retirement Bond” to such employee. The bond will be redeemable upon retirement of the employee. The Federal Government has established a Retirement Benefits Bond Redemption Fund Account in the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Federal Government is already making a monthly payment into the Fund of an amount equal to 5% of the total monthly wage bill payable to all employees of the Federal Government and the Federal Capital Territory. Any company operating a Defined Benefit Scheme must, in addition to satisfying other conditions specified in the Act, open RSAs so that the pension funds can be held by a Custodian.
In the case of funded pension schemes in the public service of the Federation and the private sector, employers shall undertake actuarial valuation of the employee’s accrued benefits and credit the Retirement Savings Accounts [RSAs] of the employees with such funds and in the event of any deficiency, the shortfall shall become a debt and shall be treated with same priority as salaries owed. The employer shall also issue a written acknowledgement of the debt and take steps to meet the shortfall.
When a PFA [Pension Fund Administrator] fails or is liquidated, the pension funds and assets in the Retirement Savings Account [RSA] are kept by the PFC [Pension Fund Custodian] and as such the liquidation of the PFA will not affect the funds and assets. Besides, every PFA is expected under the Pension Reform Act 2004 to maintain a statutory reserve fund as contingency fund as may be determined by National Pension Commission. The Pension Reform Act 2004 allows any employee to complain about any PFA to the National Pension Commission [PenCom].
The Government cannot tamper with the pension funds in your RSA because the Government cannot have access to the account. Besides, the Government is primarily concerned with ensuring the safety of the money in your RSA through the enforcement of strict rules and regulations. The new pension scheme entrenches the principles of transparency and accountability as reflected in the reporting requirement of the PFAs and PFCs to the Contributor and the National Pension Commission. An employee has the right to choose who manages his RSA and the right to receive statements of his account on quarterly basis with details of contributions made and returns on investment.
Upon retirement, an employee can withdraw a lump sum from the balance standing to the credit of his or her RSA provided the balance after the withdrawal could provide an annuity or fund monthly payments that would not be less than 50% of his monthly pay as at the date of his or her retirement. However, an employer may choose to pay any other severance benefits over and above the retirement benefits payable to the employee subject to the terms and conditions of his or her employment. A programmed withdrawal is a method by which the employee collects his or her retirement benefits in periodic sums spread throughout the length of an estimated life span. While an annuity is an income purchase from an approved life insurance company which provides monthly or quarterly income to the retiree during his or her life time.
Where an employee who has been contributing under the new pension scheme dies before his or her retirement, the retirement benefits shall be paid to his or her beneficiary under a Will or the Spouse and children of the deceased or in the absence of a wife and child, to the recorded next-of-kin or any person designated by him or her during his or her life time or in the absence of such designation, to any person appointed by the Probate Registry as the Administrator of the Estate of the deceased.