By Chiamaka Ajeamo                                   [email protected]   08060655687

Over the years, Nigeria’s pension industry has evolved with the emergence of various reforms and initiatives to the end that pensioners get quality service delivery while receiving their benefits and entitlements and the objectives of the National Pension Commission is realised.

In 2004, due to several challenges such as terrible service delivery by administrators of the scheme in the form of delayed or non-payment of pension benefits to retirees, the old pension scheme; the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) , the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) was birthed to fill the gap.

The concept of the CPS was to decentralize the pension administration and set up an institutional structure for the management, safety and custody of pension assets for all workers in the country. The scheme brought about the existence of Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) accredited under the Pension Reform Act (PRA) with the duty to offer customer service support to employees under the scheme, invest pension assets and give a return on investments as well as ensure prompt payment of retirement benefits to pensioners as stipulated by the Pension Act.

Although the CPS also introduced the idea of portability to employees; a process whereby they have the choice to switch to any PFA of their choices, especially, when their current PFA was underperforming in terms of return on investment and this was due to operational issues from the PFAs.

It was against this backdrop that PenCom on November 16, 2020, launched the pension transfer window. The transfer window, under the Pension Reform Act of 2014, is an opportunity for Retirement Savings Account (RSA) holders to switch from one PFA to another.

The transfer window validates Section 13 of the PRA  2014 which empowers an RSA holder to transfer his RSA to any PFA of his choice, not more than once a year. This means that as an employee, you need not provide any reason for such transfer.

Delivering a presentation on ‘Understanding the RSA Transfer Process’ at a seminar organised by PenCom for journalists in Lagos, the Assistant General Manager, National Databank Management Deparment, Hajiya Maryam Bello, explained that PenCom stipulated regulations for the transfer process and these regulations have four major objectives which are to ensure a seamless transfer of RSAs from one PFA to another; facilitate full and equitable pension assets portability within the pension industry;  enhance ethical competition among the PFAs, and improve service delivery to RSA holders.

Bello stated that for an RSA transfer to be effective, it requires an accurate and reliable database, as it is important to ensure that the pension assets transferred belong to the bonafide RSA holders initiating the transfers.

She disclosed that the opening of the transfer window was delayed to ensure that robust Information Technology (IT) infrastructure that would drive the process was put in place; hence why the process was finalised in June 2019 with the deployment of an Enhanced Contributor Registration System (ECRS).

According to her, the ECRS incorporates extensive validations, controls and data requirements that would deliver high data integrity standards for the industry. She added that RSA need to upgrade their details to meet the ECRS standard because it is a prerequisite for RSA transfers.

Bello disclosed that those who registered with various PFAs from the inception of the CPS to June 2019 are required to get recaptured.

“To ensure that all RSA holders who need to be recaptured are speedily recaptured, the Commission has approved the appointment of two agents to carry out a nationwide recapture exercise, beginning from August 2021.

“The agents are to recapture all staff of various employers, both in the public and private sectors, irrespective of their PFAs and the exercise will be structured and carried out in accordance with the timetable approved by PenCom.”

Eligibility

Speaking on the eligibility for the transfer process, she said: “Only recaptured RSA holders and those who registered after June 2019 can transfer their RSAs. Active contributors and retirees on Programmed Withdrawal are eligible to transfer their RSAs. Retirees on annuity who are making voluntary contributions can also transfer their RSAs. And RSA holders can only make subsequent RSA transfers after 365 days from the effective date of the last transfer of their RSAs.

Initiation of transfer process

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Explaining the transfer process, she said the RSA holders are the ones to initiate RSA transfer requests with their new PFAs (Receiving PFAs) and information required for initiation include; name, pin, email, among other necessary information.

The next step is that RSA transfer requests are submitted to PenCom by RPFAs. RPFAs obtain RSA holders’ authorisation to submit RSA transfer requests and RSA holders to sign confirmation slip.

Confirmation slips serve dual purpose: RSA holders’ authorisation and transaction receipts; she noted.

Processing and approval

On the processing and approving of transfers, she said all requests are processed by PenCom and RSA holders must be authenticated by PenCom on ECRS and on National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Database, to ensure that RSA transfer requests are initiated by bonafide RSA holders.

Transfer process

Commenting on the actual transferring process, she said: “Transferring of RSAs involve re-assignment of PINs on the ECRS to the new PFAs, as well as the transfer of pension assets and the records of the affected RSAs from the old PFAs to the new PFAs.

“All RSAs transferred are re-assigned by PenCom on its database, on the fourth working day after Effective Transfer Date (ETD).

“TPFAs transfer RSA balances to RPFAs on the fourth and fifth working days after ETD. TPFAs move files of the RSA holders containing all records relating to the RSAs to the new PFAs within a maximum of seven working days for retirees and one month for active RSA holders.

Notification of status

“On Notifying RSA holders, “RSA holders are emailed when their RSAs are transferred. It is, therefore, important for them to provide valid emails at the time of initiating their RSA transfers. Immediately an RSA holder receives the notification, he must inform his employer of his new PFA and provide the details.

Post-transfer process

“For post-transfer monitoring, PenCom monitors various aspects of PFAs operations after each transfer quarter, to ensure that information provided by them for previous transfer quarters are accurate, she explained.

She, thereafter, advised that it is imperative for RSA holders to make informed decisions when transferring their RSAs, hence they should regularly visit the Commission’s website for more information to make this decision.

Commenting on the importance of the transfer window, the Head, Corporate Communications, PenCom, Peter Aghahowa, said: “Overall, the opening of the RSA transfer window is revolutionary. Going forward, high standards of service delivery will be a focal point in the industry.”

Aghahowa added that “By this development, RSA holders have been empowered to move their RSAs from their current Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) to other PFAs of their choice, whenever they desire to do so.”

He noted the Commission has ensured that the requirements for initiating RSA transfers are minimal and has also made available on its website, necessary information to guide RSA holders through the process.