Denying a man in coma, one suffering from stroke, a permanently disabled person, a one that is terminally or critically ill access money, which he could use to save his life just because the law said so is the height of man’s inhumanity to man. This underscores the urgent need to amend the Pension Reform Act, 2014 to enable operators pay endangered retirees the balance in their Retirement Savings Accounts in full writes Onyekwere Iwuagwu.
Narrating his ordeal, a 63 years old retiree under the Contributory Pension Scheme (name withheld) said “when I retired from one of the Federal Ministries three years ago after 35 years in service, I was advised to approach my Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) (name withheld) for my retirement benefits. My PFA said the balance in my Retirement Savings Account (RSA) as at that time was a little over N8 million and that I can only take about N2.5 million as lump sum. The rest will be paid to me as monthly pension.
“Last year, I developed a life threatening illness, heart problem. My Doctor said I will need about N5 million for surgery abroad to save my life. I returned to my PFA to ask for the balance in my RSA to enable me pay for treatment abroad and I was told that I can’t take my money. They said it is what the National Pension Commission (PenCom) approved for me and there is nothing they can do about it. I went to PenCom but they said their hands are tied, that it is what the law said.”
“I contributed into the RSA so that I can take care of my needs in retirement. Unfortunately, now that it matters most, when my life is hanging on a balance; they are telling me that I cannot take my own money to save my life. They are telling me to leave my money for them and go and die so that they can steal my money like they have been stealing pension fund all along.
“What type of law is this? PenCom and the PFAs are using the so called pension law to defraud workers and retirees. They deceived us into saving for comfort in retirement and now that we have retired they are devising ways to hold onto our money until we die and so they can steal it. They said if I die, my family will collect the balance in my RSA, but who is more important, me that worked and saved the money or my children who are meant to inherit my assets when I die? When we joined the scheme they said it will secure our future but now that I am retired and need my money the story has change. This is pure deceit,” the retiree lamented.
The frustration of this retiree sums up the predicament of many retirees under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS), particularly those that are critically and terminally ill and those living with temporary and permanent disabilities. They are very sick, they need bulk money to remain alive but their retirement savings which is enough to take care of their health needs is locked away by pension fund managers who prefer releasing the money for their funerals instead of allowing them to use it to save their lives.
The Contributory Pension Scheme originally holds out great prospects for Nigerian workers, in it lay their hope for comfort in retirement. But those prospects may have turned to nightmares for some retirees, particularly those suffering from temporary and permanent disabilities as well as those suffering from critical and terminal illnesses.
No pension fund manager or life insurer will deny the fact that retirees suffering any form of permanent disabilities, terminal and critical illnesses need all the money they can lay their hands on to treat themselves and live comfortably till death comes. Unfortunately, this is not the situation with the Contributory Pension Scheme today, particularly for retirees living with critical illnesses.