Retirees in Nigeria’s six geo-political zones have dragged the Federal Government before the National Industrial Court in Abuja, challenging alleged discrimination in implementing the pension policy in the country.
The retirees are specifically challenging the alleged refusal of the Federal Government to review their pensions upward in line with provisions of Section 173 of the 1999 Constitution.
The suit marked NICN/ABJ/CS/1310/2022 is instituted on their behalf by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, Chief Chiesonu Okpoko; the retirees are asking the court to determine the legality and applicability of Section 173 of the 1999 Constitution, Pension Acts of 2004 and 2014 and circulars issued by the Federal Government agencies relating to pension implementations.
The plaintiffs representing the six geo-political zones are Chike Ogbechie, Hajiya Fatima Ahmad, Olarewaju Ale, Vitas Ajaegbu, Alhaji Abubakar Giza, Samuel Oladosu Ajayi, Dama Peter Douglas and Alhaji Muhammed Maccido.
The six defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Minister of Labour and Employment, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the Director General, National Pension Commission and Chairman, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.
Upon determination of the legality and applicability of Section 173 of the 1999 Constitution, Pension Acts of 2004 and 2014 and circulars issued by the Federal Government agencies relating to pension implementations, the plaintiffs sought ten declaratory reliefs.
They are a declaration that by the provisions of Section 1 of the Pension Reform Act 2004, re-enacted by the provisions of Section 3 of the Pension Reform Act 2014, the Federal Government introduced and established the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) to apply to all employees in the Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and the private sector.
“Declaration that by virtue of section 173 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, the pension shall be reviewed every five years or together with any Federal Civil Service salary reviews whichever is earlier.
“A declaration that by the plain language of section 173 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, the maximum period for review of pensions is five years.”
They also sought a “declaration that the defendants are the relevant agents of the Federal Government that formulate government policies on pensions and supervise the implementation of the policies in the discharge of their respective duties.
“Declaration that it is discriminatory against the provisions of section 173 (3) of the 1999 Constitution for the defendants to have reviewed and increased salaries in the civil service with similar review and increment of the old Pension Scheme three times but excluded the Pensions in the Contributory Pension Scheme to the detriment of the plaintiffs and all retirees under the CPS.
“Declaration that the failure of the defendants to review and increase pensions in the Contributory Pension Scheme in violation of section 173 (3) of the 1999 Constitution is detrimental to the entitlements of the plaintiffs and all the officers that retired from the Civil Service of the Federation under the Contributory Pension Scheme and that the failure constitutes a continuous injury to rights of the plaintiffs.
“Declaration that the rights of the plaintiffs who had served the minimum mandatory period of for gratuity in 1999 when the Constitution came into force with extant pension laws provided for gratuity cannot be extinguished by the 2014 Act.”
They also asked the court to declare that the Pension Reform Act, 2014 Act does not have a retrospective effect of taking away the rights that had accrued before the coming into effect of the 2014 Pension Reform Act.
Plaintiffs further sought a declaration that having put into the service the minimum mandatory period for gratuity before the 2014 Act came into being, they are entitled to their gratuities notwithstanding the coming into effect of the 2014 Pension Act.
They applied for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants and their agents from further denying them and other retired officers of the Contributory Pension Scheme, who had put into service the minimum years for gratuity before the effect of the 2014 Pension Act, their earned entitlements.
The retirees also sought an order of mandamus compelling the defendants to compute, with immediate effect, all their financial entitlements and those of officers on Contributory Pension to Pensions and gratuity to put an end to the continuous injury being inflicted on them by the refusal to review their pension upward.
The suit is supported by 24 paragraph affidavit deposed to by Chike Ogbechie on behalf of the retirees.
The hearing of the suit, filed by retirees in the six geo-political zones of the country against the Federal Government, which was initially scheduled to come up on 21 November 2022 at Court 2 of the National Industrial Court in Abuja, has now been shifted to 30 January 2023, by the National Industrial Court.
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