By Chiamaka Ajeamo,[email protected]  

The Micro Pension Plan (MPP) has recorded 72,846 Nigerians in the informal sector into the pension net as at the end of November 2021, after three years of inception, the National Pension Commission (PenCom) has disclosed.

Though the MPP has experienced slow uptake since its launch, pension operators are optimistic that the scheme will witness huge growth in 2022 with the introduction of robust incentives that will promote more participation in the plan.

According to the operators, these incentives among other benefits include; health insurance, term of life and insurance to cater for job loss for contributors were planned to attract numerous Nigerians to adopt the scheme.

The MPP is an initiative of the National Pension Commission, specifically planned to broaden pension coverage and eliminate old age poverty through the provision of financial services to the informal sector workers which include self-employed persons and employees of organizations with less than three staff members who are not mandatorily covered under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS). It was officially launched by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on March 29, 2019.

The benefits of the MPP are numerous, aside from seeking to guarantee financial security for informal sector players, it aims to boost the country’s pension assets to over N20 trillion by 2020 and also benefit the government with its potential to generate a pool of investible long-term funds that can drive economic development.

Despite the advantages this scheme offers to its target audience, it is saddening to know that it is faced with several challenges which have led to its low uptake when compared to the CPS which had within 17 years of its regime registered over 10 million contributors and built up N13 trillion assets.

Speaking at the annual media parley with the theme, ‘Micro Pension – Challenges and Opportunities’ organised by the umbrella body of pension fund administrators, the Pension Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp), in Lagos, the Head, Micro Pension Department, PenCom, Mr Dowda Ahmed, said the present number of contributors in the micro pension scheme which was approximately 73,000 contributors fell short of the commission’s target.

According to Dowda, the Commission had expected more than what it has recorded, adding that the commission had engaged some stakeholders to ensure that the MPP had an enabling environment to grow.

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He explained MPP as a long-term voluntary financial plan designed for the informal sector or organisations that cannot participate in the CPS because they do not have a minimum of three employees as specified by the Pension Reform Act 2014.the provision of pension coverage

According to him, the commission had expected more than what it has recorded.

“Yes we are not making so much as expected, a lot of work has been going on to that effect. Our targeted media campaign is coming up, our major challenge is lack of awareness about the products itself and there is a need for operators and the Commission to do more to create awareness. Stakeholders have been engaged to make sure we have an enabling environment for success, next year, there will be a lot of activities to ensure we drive the Micro Pension plan,” Ahmed assured.

Meanwhile, micro pension participants will from 2022 start enjoying robust incentives for signing to the MPP.

The Managing Director/CEO Access Pension Fund Custodian, Mrs Idu Okwuosa said the industry is working with insurance operators to come up with incentives for the scheme.

She said, “PenOp and PenCom desire a better lifestyle for micro pension contributors and are working to see that aside from the benefits of retirement and contingency savings, contributors maximise other robust incentives.”

Okwuosa, who is also the Head, Media Committee of PenOp, said some pension operators have visited markets such as the Alaba International market to enlighten them on the need to save and plan for retirement through the MPP.

She assured they have commenced discussion and hopefully next year when the incentives are concluded they will be registered fully.

On recapitalisation exercise, the Head Surveillance, PenCom, Mr Ehimeme Ohioma disclosed that about 10 Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) have met the recapitalisation requirement of increasing their minimum capital base to N5 billion in April 2021 as required by the Commission.