THE Federal Government yesterday said it had taken steps to slash the expenditure on pensions by N42 billion. It, however, assured pensioners that the plan would not negatively affect them but smoothen the payment process.
Among the steps announced by the government yesterday to make the pensions scheme more effective was the introduction of a smart card to replace the existing “anachronistic system.”
Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, stated this yesterday in Abuja during inauguration the new Pensions Board and launch of the new smart card registration for para-military pensioners.
Moro described the new system as a move to end the rigorous era where pensioners face difficulty in processing their information.
According to him, the old system was a nightmare to the older generations who had served their fatherland, lamenting that some had lost their lives in the process.
Moro said: “The commissioning of the first of its kind in the history of our country is to ameliorate the suffering and hardship most pensioners pass through. This scheme will put smile on their faces as many have been hijacked by the old system.”
Chairman of the House Committee on Interior, Umar Bature, noted that the new system, which was meant to lessen the burden on pensioners, might not be entirely free of hitches.
He informed that avenue had been provided for people who feels further challenged to forward their complaints to the appropriate authority.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Pensions Reform Task Force, Abdulrasheed Maina, has said N42.6 billion would be saved by the government with the introduction of the new smart card.
Maina said the initiative, which had taken off with pensioners in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian immigration Service (NIS) and the Nigerian Prison Service (NPS), would be extended to other pension offices.
“The launch of the electronic smart card is the climax of pensions administration restructuring. The biometrics and other documents relating to pensioners are embedded in the chip. We are currently working on the smart cards for pensioners under the Head of Service and in three months, we will be through”.
“We have the mandate of President Goodluck Jonathan that all pensions offices operate on a common platform and this scheme will be extended to all pensions offices,” he said.
Maina explained that with the smart card, pensioners would no longer go through the stress of traveling for verification exercise every three months. “They will only have to verify that they are still alive through their fingerprints.
“Once this is done, the information hits the data-base that they are still alive and their entitlements are paid into their accounts. And because the smart card takes the place of the physical verification exercise, money is saved for government to the tune of N42.6 billion yearly,” he said.