Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, accused former governors of contributing to the economic woes afflicting the nation by opposing his government’s efforts to save for the rainy day when the price of oil was higher.
Obasanjo, who spoke at the 2016 World Pension Summit in Abuja, lamented that many of the former state executives frustrated his genuine attempt to save a substantial portion of the country’s resources when there was excess oil revenue.
Obasanjo said at the event attended by global pension players and top government officials: “I remember when I was in government and I told, particularly, the governors, ‘please let us save for the rainy days.’ They said no!.
“There was no rain at that time, now that the rain has come; there is nothing we can fall back on to cushion us.” Obasanjo, however, commended the secured nature of the pension scheme, stating that despite the many years of sleaze in the Nigerian polity, the pension funds were not touched.
“One of the things that make me very happy in the pension scheme is that in the last five years, when almost everything goes, concerning public funds, pension funds remain sacrosanct. I believe that the pension funds are something we must preserve, no matter what we do,” he said. Obasanjo, however, called for caution in introducing innovations into the pension scheme to ensure that the ability of people to access their pension funds when they retire is not jeopardized. Obasanjo said: “We must also find a way of using the pension fund in our development, particularly in infrastructural development. They are examples we can look at all over the world.
The Singapore example
‘’For instance, in housing, Singapore is a good example where they have used their pension fund to make sure that there are no Singaporean who do not own a house. There is no reason why we cannot tow that line.” He maintained that Nigeria had strong laws and regulations for the pension scheme, warning that while efforts were ongoing to introduce innovations in the scheme, the law should not be diluted, while the innovations must also be done cautiously.
“I like the theme of the programme, ‘Pension, Innovation and Sustainability.’ But I will add two things: your innovation must be with caution. ‘’Now, when people have to work all the days of their lives that they are strong and they make contributions for their future, we cannot afford to be too adventurous when making innovations. Because when they need the money, it must be there,” he advised. Obasanjo, however, noted that the innovation should focus on how to capture more people into the pension scheme, especially individuals in the formal and informal sectors.
Speaking in the same vein, President Muhammadu Buhari disclosed that the Federal Government had commenced moves to defray inherited pension liabilities. Buhari, who was represented by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, also stated that the Federal Government had mandated the National Pension Commission, PENCOM, to extend the pension scheme to the informal sector. According to Buhari, part of the commitment of his administration is to ensure that within the scarce resources available to it, the inherited pension liabilities of the Federal Government is addressed.
He further disclosed that PENCOM had been asked to step up its enforcement drive to ensure full compliance with the pension scheme by public and private sector institutions in line with the enabling law. He declared that the Federal Government was working to ensure that the required channels and support are put in place to ensure that pension funds and other investors make meaningful contributions in bridging Nigeria’s infrastructural financing gaps. He said, “Nigeria and indeed most African countries are facing many challenges in the areas of the economy and security.
These challenges heightened the demands on our meagre resources and constrain our pursuit of infrastructure, which is traditionally seen as the sole responsibility of government. “The Federal Government on its part will work to ensure that the required channels and support are put in place for pension funds and other institutional investors to provide the required financial inter-mediation to address the Nigerian infrastructural gaps. I hope other African countries and governments would follow suit.”