The controversy over the depletion of the superannuation fund of the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) has assumed a new dimension following last week’s threat by the retirees of the organisation to invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the alleged disappearance of huge amount of money form the fund’s purse
Apparently worried that its members’ life pension was being threatened by the depletion, the chairman, Lagos branch of the NPA Pensioners’ Association, Mr Ganiyu Makanjuola challenged the management of NPA to tell Nigerians what had happened to the retirees’ livewire and present status of the superannuation fund. Makanjuola disclosed at a recent meeting with the association’s national body, where issues of payments of arrears on increment and sundry matters were discussed, that the management had at an earlier meeting disclosed that there was no money to offset their pensions. Lending his voice, the Secretary General of the branch, Chief Zephaniah C. Egere, said their representatives were categorically told that the superannuation fund was in deficit of N36 billion. “Unfortunately, our leaders failed to ask them what happened to the Fund that it can no longer fulfil the purpose for which it was established. Since this is the case, we now want to approach the EFCC for it to help us find out what happened to the money”, Egere said. He regretted that the NPA management could treat them with disdain, noting that the implementation of 30 per cent salary increase for workers which took effect since 2000 for serving officers, had lingered for eight years resulting in a cumulative arrears of N7.3 billion, which according to him, the management said it could not pay. Cataloguing other areas of alleged neglect on the part of the management of NPA, he pointed at the 15 per cent salary increase for workers which the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo approves for payment with effect from January 2007. He regretted that while serving workers had been enjoying it, their retiree colleagues were yet to benefit, thereby defeating the government’s policy of extending to pensioners any salary increase that would be enjoyed by serving civil servants. Chief Egere wondered why NPA workers should be subjected to inhuman treatment like this, even when sister parastatals and organizations that never had better fortunes than the maritime blue-chip body, were faring better. “We have looked at other parastatals and how they operate their pension funds. NNPC, for instance, has a pension fund that can take care of pensioners for 80 years even if the organization stops to operate any more. “For NEPA (National Electric Power Authority), its pension fund can last till 100 years even if liquidated now. Even the liquidated Nigerian National Shipping Line paid off its staff. None of these bodies is owing its workers, why must it be NPA?” The Secretary General maintained that the Lagos Branch of the association, constituting 70 per cent of the 8,000 membership of the retirees, had become curious in unravelling why the Superannuation Fund had been depleted to the whopping tune of N36 billion. He said it was for that purpose they would now table the matter to the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC).