The House of Representatives Thursday passed for second reading, a bill for an Act to repeal the Pension Reform Act of 2004, and enact the Pension Reform Act of 2013.
Deputy Leader of the House, Hon. Leo Ogor, who moved the motion for the second reading of the bill said huge funds belonging to pensioners had been carted away through fraudulent means due to lapses in the existing law.
The new enactment, Ogor said, would give more powers to the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) to set new guidelines and bring pension management in conformity with present day realities in Nigeria.
In the course of debates on the general principles of the bill, the lawmakers agreed that the existing Act had lots of loopholes that gave room for fraud in the pension management system.
They also argued that the Pensions Department in the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation was running a parallel system to the National Pension Commission and that the new enactment would harmonise the management of pension and reduce corruption in the system.
The bill provides among other things, an enhanced coverage and informal sector participation in the Contributory Pensions Scheme.
It provides that the mandatory coverage of the CPS in the private sector should be lowered from the current mark of organisations with five employees to organisations with three employees and above. The minimum number of employees has been reduced in order to capture a wider number of employees in the informal sector and leverage on Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.
This would also include partnerships and micro enterprises that normally have less than five employees.
The new amendment also provides for the utilisation of pension funds for national development. The law envisages that the Pension Reform Act should facilitate the optimal utilisation of the pool of funds generated by the CPS towards national development. Accordingly, provisions have been inserted in the proposed bill such that the sphere of permissible investment would be expanded to accommodate initiatives for national development, such as investment in the real sector, including infrastructure and housing development while at the same time ensuring the safety of pension fund assets.
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Pension Matters for further legislative work.
Meanwhile, the House has resolved to push for an upward review in the monetary jurisdiction of magistrate courts in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to a minimum of N10 million from its current level of N 250,000.00.
The resolution followed a motion sponsored on the matter by Hon. Toby Okechukwu(PDP/Enugu) on the matter.
Okechukwu had in the said motion, urged the Chief Justice of the FCT to recommend to the Minister of the FCT an increase in the jurisdiction specifically in line with section 17 of the District Court Laws of Northern Nigeria.
Okechukwu said the action if taken, would enhance the dispensation of justice, as the current monetary jurisdiction of N250,000 introduced since 2007 was no longer realistic.
According to the lawmaker, such increment would attract the patronage of senior lawyers who hitherto avoided the district courts.
“This would enhance the quality of deliberations and judgements obtained at the magistrate courts,” he stated.
Chairman, House Committee on Justice, Hon. Ali Ahmad, explained that the move was not intended to expand the legal jurisdiction of the courts, but to rather enhance case management in the courts, as well as decongest the High Courts.
The House has therefore mandated its Committee on Legislative Compliance to ensure full compliance with the resolution.