All is now set for the launching of Micro Pension Scheme by the National Pension Commission (PenCom) this month, an initiative expected to attract over 20 million workers and N3 trillion into the pension assets.
With total pension assets as at October 2018, at N8.45 trillion, the country’s pension assets are expected to rise astronomically by the time the initiative kicks off.
Investigations revealed that the pension industry regulator, PenCom, has put all mercenaries in place to ensure smooth launch of the plan and to ensure seamless operations, the regulator, together with pension fund operators, has built robust Information Technology (IT) infrastructure that will support the plan.
The commission has also had engagements with informal sector groups, like the Nigerian Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigerian (NUTGTWN), a body consisting Self Employed Tailors and Garment Workers; partner trade associations, Non Governmental Organisation (NGOs) and religious bodies, in a bid to persuade them to subscribe to the micro pension plan.
The Acting Director-General, PenCom, Mrs. Aisha Dahir-Umar, the implementation of the Micro Pension Plan will improve the standard of living of the informal sector participants at retirement and reduce dependence on extended family for support at retirement.
The plan, when operational, she said, would capture self-employed people, especially, those with irregular income, usually in the informal sector and are largely financially uninformed with limited or no access to financial services, especially, pension plan.
Section 2(3) of the Pension Reform Act, 2014 legal framework extends the coverage of the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) to self-employed persons through micro pension scheme.
The Head, Research and Corporate Strategy, PenCom, Dr. Farouk Aminu, had, at a forum in Lagos, said the commission is working on ensuring that the plan commenced as planned, noting that, this is a development that could enhance the growth of pension assets in the country.
He stressed that the plan has the potential to generate about N3 trillion to the pension assets, while it intends to mobilise about 12 million contributors within five years.
On benefits to be derived, Dr. Aminu, noted that self-employed people and workers in the informal sector could reap by participating in the plan, saying, the scheme, in addition to providing income for people at old age and inculcating a savings culture through highly protected and regulated investment, the plan would afford them the opportunity to connect to other programmes of government while helping to finance infrastructure across the country.
Subscribers could, as well, use the balance in their Retirement Savings Accounts (RSAs) as equity contribution for residential mortgages and support their businesses, he said.
He stated that additional benefits to self-employed persons and informal sector workers include the cover provided under the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), explaining that under this arrangement, Government would bridge shortfalls or financial losses from investment of their accumulated retirement savings and guarantee them minimum pension in retirement, irrespective of how much they are able to save before retiring.
He posited that the plan would be funded by an annual subvention of one per cent of monthly wage of Federal Government employees, annual levy on PenCom and pension operators as well as pension fund investment income.
However, the Head, Corporate Communications, PenCom, Peter Aghahowa, said the micro pension scheme is made flexible for people to easily join, while the method of contribution is decided by the contributors, who are to choose whether to contribute daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly.
The Deputy Zonal Head, South-West Zone, PenCom, Sola Adeseun, said the micro pension plan has similar built-in safety measures like the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).
According to him, the separation of duties in the management of pension assets, where the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) administer the fund and the Pension Fund Custodians (PFCs) keep custody of the fund remains one of the best safety valves in securing the funds.
The President, Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp), Mrs. Aderonke Adedeji, on her part, said the operators are anxious, to get the workers into the scheme, stressing that Micro-pension remains one of the key focal points for development over the next 10 years.