By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja fixed May 19 for judgment in a suit instituted by aggrieved retirees from the six geo-political zones of the country against the Federal Government over alleged discrimination in the implementation of the pension policy in the country.
The trial Judge, Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae, fixed the date after counsel to various parties adopted their processes and arguments in the matter.
Earlier in the proceedings, the court granted a motion by the counsel to the retirees, Emmanuel Omonuwa seeking leave of court to file additional facts on oath by the claimants.
Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae dismissed the objection to the admissibility of the additional facts by the defendants and held that the additional facts filed by the claimants were to bring to the notice of the court that there were in the service of the defendants before they retired.
She held that granting the motion of the claimants for additional facts will not over-reach any of the defendants as claimed in the objection.
The retirees are challenging the alleged refusal of the Federal Government to review their pensions upward in line with the provisions of Section 173 of the 1999 Constitution.
In the suit marked NICN/ABJ/CS/1310/2022, instituted on their behalf by Chief Chiezonu Okpoko (SAN); 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 claimants who are from 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 the 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 seeking 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 (CPS) 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 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 are also asking 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.
The retirees 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 and 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 and their gratuity to put an end to the continuous injury being inflicted on them by the refusal to review their pension upward.
At the end of the Tuesday’s proceedings, Justice Obaseki-Osaghae announced that she would deliver the Court’s decision on May 19.