Perhaps, the late Engr Abdulkadir Kure, former governor of Niger State, encountered pension scam in the most dramatic manner. In 2001, he went to the state pension office and demanded for the payroll. Personally, he scanned through the list and within a few seconds, a familiar name caught his attention. The find, to put it mildly, jolted the August visitor and momentarily, his jaw fell on the floor in utter surprise. Instantly, the governor lost his cool, hit the roof and demanded for a full scale inquiry.
Indeed, Abdullahi Kure Muhammadu, his uncle and family patriarch, was the Secretary to the Military Government of North Western State, comprising Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara, including Niger States of today. However, in 1976, the Murtala administration created new states and the old man retired to Minna after meritorious service. Kure, the elder statesman, became a pensioner and monthly, he collected his entitlements until his death. However, several years later, his name was still on the payroll and some officials were pocketing his pension. Kure, his nephew and governor, discovered this illegality during his visit to the pension office.
Similarly, the Kure-Niger State example above, a few years back, had played out across the various pension offices in the country. In summary, officials lived above their means at that time, the payroll was always ballooning as new pensioners kept joining the queue. However, no one was dying, pension funds kept dwindling and payment became erratic. Besides, pensioners lived in penury and at intervals, they were subjected to endless verification exercises.
However, in 2003, President Olusegun Obasanjo set up a Pension Reforms Committee, headed by Mr Fola Adeola, founder of Guaranty Trust Bank. The committee, after one year, hammered out the Contributary Pension Scheme to replace the old Defined Benefit Scheme. Indeed, the Pension Reform Act 2004, the enabling law, has sanitised pension payments and the sector, bar a few glitches, is running seamlessly in some states. In fact, Kaduna State presents a flawless system, a success story and a template for optimum pension performance.
In 2015, the El Rufai administration inherited over N15 billion, from the PDP government, as pension liabilities. However, between 2017 and 2023, Kaduna State Pension Bureau has paid N22.165 billion as benefits. Specifically, this payment represents pension, gratuities and Death Benefits under the old Defined Benefit Scheme. Simultaneously, payment in Contributory Pension Scheme stood at N16.575 billion as at last May. In summary, from 2017 to May 2023, over N39 billion has been paid as entitlements in the two schemes.
Last year, PENCOM ranked Kaduna State, in its various assessments, amongst the top five performing sub nationals in Nigeria, in terms of regular remittances, up to date payments and overall pension administration. Indeed, its Payment Structure has won plaudits nationally and some states, including Katsina and Bauchi states, are having conversations with Kaduna State Pension Bureau.
Last month, Senator Uba Sani, the Kaduna State governor, released N3.1 billion for the payment of 1,051 beneficiaries, comprising pensioners in both the Defined Benefit and Contributory Pension Schemes. The news, in the last two weeks, has been trending and the senior citizens have been praising the governor, describing him as a welfare friendly politician. In fact, Malam Alhassan Balarabe, the state secretary of National Union of Pensioners, said that Senator Uba Sani’s gesture is not surprising, given his antecedents as a human rights activist, Political Adviser and a politician with ‘’a human face’’. The governor, according to him, is the first Chief Executive of a state to pay pensioners in the first six months in this dispensation.
Indeed, Senator Uba Sani is poised to take Kaduna State a notch higher, from the top five states in pension payments and remittances, to the reference point on pension matters.
Malam Musa writes from Kaduna