By Kola Aseyemi
Lokoja – The Chairman of the Senate committee on Pension Matters, Sen. Ibrahim Shekarau, has urged the Federal Government to pay the over N400 billion it is owing pensioners under the Contributory Pension Scheme.
Shekarau made the call on Friday in Lokoja while assessing the ongoing data capturing and verification of Federal pensioners in the state by the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PITAD).
He said that the amount represented the difference of 2.5 per cent from 7.5 per cent to 10 per cent in the contribution of the Federal Government which had accumulated over the years.
According to him, it is necessary for government to remit the amount now before it escalates to the level that the government would not be able to pay.
He said that the outstanding amount was one of the reasons delaying the payment of the first trance of money to fresh retirees under the scheme.
” Payment of pension should be in the first line charge . It should be paid before other workers receive their pay.
“We have listened to the pension bodies during budget defence and we have taken note of the huge outstanding pension yet to be remitted by the federal government.
“We have discussed extensively and we intend to take the issue up with the Federal Government so that the backlog is settled without further delay,” he said.
Shekarau, who is also a former Governor of Kano State, also said that the pension of retirees would be reviewed upwardly in line with the new minimum wage, saying that the issue was a settled matter under the Pension Act.
” As soon as the new minimum wage comes on board, we are ready for it and we have instructed all pension paying bodies to start calculating the increase .
” This is why we are gracisoulsy appealing to the government to pay all the backlog of unpaid pensions because as a result of the new minimum wage and new pension coming , the burden will keep growing and will be difficult for government to pay,’” he explained.
Shekarau expressed satisfaction with the verification and data capturing of retirees being carried out by PITAD, urging pensioners under the Direct Benefit Pension Scheme to come out for the exercise.
The PITAD Team Leader for the exercise, Mr Abubakar Aboki, while briefing the Senator said that 3,200 out of 3,500 retirees targeted for the exercise in Kogi State had been captured and verified as at Oct. 31.
Aboki said that the exercise would end on Nov. 2 and urged pensioners who had yet to show up to do so .