By Dupe Isename
The non-refund of National Housing Fund, NHF contributions to some retired federal civil servants in Ondo State has been generating ripples resulting in affected retirees petitioning the offices of the Accountant -General of the Federation and the Managing Director, Federal Mortgage Bank Of Nigeria, FMBN.
Dupe Isename investigated the delay in the payment as it affected some retired staff of the Federal Medical Centre, Owo in Ondo State.
The National Housing Fund policy managed by the Federal Mortgage Bank Of Nigeria, FMBN was established by the NHF Act of 1992 to mobilize funds that will facilitate the provision of affordable housing for Nigerians.
Under the extant NHF law, contributors are required to contribute 2.5% of their monthly basic salary to the NHF .
On refunding of these contributions , the NHF Act states that contributions can only be refunded to a contributor that has attained 60 years of age or has put in 35 years in service.
Also clearly stated by the NHF Act 3, section 18 , 1992 is that ” Any contributor who has not obtained a housing loan from the bank and has—
a) attained the age of 60 years; or
b) retired from his employment and becomes incapable of continuing the contribution to the
Fund as specified in this Act ,
shall be eligible to a refund of his contribution within three months of the application at the
rate of interest prescribed by the Minister. ”
Despite this well clear stipulation of the act , some retired staff of the Federal Medical Centre Owo in Ondo State have for more than a year after retirement pursued full payment of their NHF entitlements all to no avail.
In a press release made available to newsmen in Akure , the affected retirees lamented ” Since our retirement in 2022 and having perfected all documentations and verifications, all efforts to retrieve our years of contributions to the NHF of the FMBN have been futile.
Upon several visits to the FMBN Akure office , we were duly informed that certain monthly deductions made by the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS office meant for the NHF were yet to be remitted into our NHF accounts.
The FMBN officials then advised that we settle for the money available for now in our accounts and forgo permanently the yet to be remitted ones.
This is clearly insensitive and an injustice, how do we forgo our years of sweats and savings duly taken into government’s coffers on trust guaranteed by law ? ”
The release further clarifies the response of their employer, FMC Owo to their agitation , ” We thereafter approached the FMC, Owo IPPIS desk office to get the IPPIS in Abuja remit our contributions completely to the NHF and that has not yielded any positive signal as all moves by the FMC , Owo have met a brick wall with IPPIS in Abuja ”
On a visit to the Akure branch of the federal mortgage bank of Nigeria, the branch manager and the NHF schedule officer, Mrs Juliet Lawal gave the position of the FMBN .
They explained that FMBN never advised the retirees to forgo their contributions but were told to wait for the unremitted deductions made by the IPPIS and that IPPIS should be held responsible for the delay .
According to the schedule officer , ” NHF accounts are programmed for one time disbursement, we process applications for disbursement once , thereafter the account shutdown finally, so the decision to collect the amount available in an account or wait in case there are any yet to be remitted deductions for it to be remitted lies solely with the contributors , we don’t force them to collect or do otherwise ”
The FMBN officials said they could only advise the authorities at FMC Owo to put pressure on the IPPIS to release the withheld remittances.
When contacted over the issue, the public relations officer, FMC Owo, Mr Olufunso Ijanusi insisted FMC had nothing to do with the delay.
With this , the helpless retirees appear stuck in between forces of agencies of government they might not have the capacity to contend with.
A member of the affected retirees, Mr Akinsola Akinbolawa who retired as a chief technical officer said the situation was horrible waiting for almost two years for a refund which ought to be disbursed latest three months as indicated in the law but left unattended to because IPPIS just decided not to release monies deducted from salaries the retirees worked for over the years.
Corroborating this , another member of the group, Mrs Charity Udeagbala , a retired chief nursing officer pleaded with the appropriate authorities to come to the aid of the retirees whose conditions were not too good going by the present economic situation in the country and desperately needed the money to continue keeping body and soul together.
” Despite all documentations perfected after we retired , we were told to be expecting our money, full payment, we have since waited going to two years now , ippis which is at the centre of the picture has remained elusive, like a spirit you can’t hold or see ” said Udeagbala .
The group regretted that IPPIS refusal to release the remittances exposed another shameful way the country treats and abandon its retired population after their exit from active service.
The retirees are now sending an SOS , save our souls to the Accountant -General of the Federation, Mrs Oluwatoyin Madein and the Managing Director, FMBN , Mr Madu Hamman , passionately pleading with them to investigate with a view to prevailing on the IPPIS to remit the withheld deductions so that they can get their full NHF refund without further stress.#