ABUJA, APRIL 7, 2017 – The House of Representatives yesterday grilled the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun and her Budget and National Planning counterpart, Udoma Udo Udoma, over the N302.4 billion pension arrears.
The lawmakers demanded to know what the executive was doing to offset the outstanding pension liabilities both under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) and the Contributory Pensions Scheme (CPS).
While summoning the ministers last week, House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara said the ministers and heads of relevant agencies must appear before the Green Chamber to find a realistic solution to the intractable problem of outstanding pension payments.
But both Adeosun and Udoma while making presentation pleaded for more time to pay the outstanding saying the Federal Government only on Wednesday paid N54 billion out of the outstanding pension arrears.
The challenge, according to the ministers was due to the inability to reconcile the figures between the relevant pension administration agencies.
According to Mrs Adeosun, the situation had been on before the current administration and the high pension debt had been “consistent under appropriation for years that lead to the current problem”.
She told the lawmakers that just a day before her appearance, the Federal Government had released funds for the payment of pension arrears.
On his part, Udoma said the president has set up a committee headed by the Ministry of Finance to resolve the intractable pension problem which he said was inherited.
He said the Federal Government was up to date in terms of pensions payments, adding that an efficient and prompt payment of pension and gratuity would soon come into force as soon as the inter-ministerial committee comes up with harmonised data base.
“Pension is something that the president is really concerned about. He thanks the House for highlighting the issue. He has directed that this is an issue that must be resolved.
“The numbers will be reconciled and if there is any impact on the 2017 budget, we will approach the National Assembly,” he said.
The minister also hinged some of the challenges on limited resources, saying government views salaries and pensions payment with great importance which is the reason for the items being number one priority. “Half of the total of projected revenue in the 2017 budget is to be used to pay wages and pension,” he said.
But members were not happy with the explanations of the minister. Members such as Betty Apiafi, Zakari Mohammed , Barde Yakubu, Obinna Chidoka, Aliyu Madaki and a host of others, expressed displeasure over this.
Minority Leader, Leo Ogor said government was a continuum and no excuse would suffice. He said since the ministers have said the president has set up a committee to liaise with relevant pension agencies, “ we should be looking at the time frame with which they will submit their report.”