Tougher times await pension thieves as the Federal Government has proposed stiffer penalties for persons or organisations involved in the mismanagement and embezzlement of pension funds.
The proposal was contained in a bill forwarded by President Goodluck Jonathan to the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Part of the bill read, “Any Pension Fund Administrator or Pension Fund Custodian or person or body, who misappropriates or diverts pension funds, commits an offence under this Act.
“The individual or group will also be liable on conviction to a fine of an amount equal to three times the amount misappropriated or diverted, or to a term of not less than 10 years or both the fine and imprisonment.”
“The bill also instructs the Accountant-General of the Federation to make payment of retirement benefits directly into individual bank accounts of retired persons covered under Section 5 of the Act. Details of such payment should be submitted to the Commission and the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate of the Federation and Federal Capital Territory established under Section 42 and 44 of this Act respectively.”
The President’s letter read on the floor of the Senate, added, “I hereby introduce for formal consideration and enactment into law by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Pension Reform Bill.
“While I hope that the bill receives the usual expeditious attention of the members of the Senate, please accept; distinguished Senate my highest regards.”
Meanwhile, Anambra State chapter of Nigerian Union of Pensioners has renewed its call on the Federal Government to pay its members all outstanding entitlements and save them from further hardship.
Secretary of the chapter, Mr. Richards Ndubude, told the reporters in Awka on Wednesday that pensioners were glad that President Goodluck Jonathan had promised to look into their demands, but said it would amount to nothing if their entitlements were not paid.
Ndubude added, “Mr. President approved all our demands and directed the Head of Service of the Federation to take necessary action to meet all the stated demands of the union.
“He further directed that the court case against the leadership of the union be withdrawn forthwith.
“We called off our planned national protest of April 10, because the President agreed to our demands as contained in the letter Labour submitted to him.
“We are still awaiting the arrears of 12.5 per cent and 15 per cent that had not been paid.”