The Hon. President of the National Industrial Court, Hon Justice Benedict Kanyip, Ph.D. has declared the failure and refusal of the Sigma Pension Limited and National Pension Commission to yield to the legitimate request of the retiree Mrs. Rakiya Girei withdrawal of 50% lump sum from her Retirement Savings Account (RSA), which stood at Twenty Million, Two Hundred and Thirty-Six Thousand, Three Hundred and Twelve Naira (N20,236,312.00) only, having worked in the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a Civil Servant for 35 years and retired meritoriously at the biological age of 60 years, as a violation and negation of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Kanyip further declared that the action of the Sigma Pension Limited and National Pension Commission on Mrs. Rakiya Girei on gender ground being a female as a discriminatory and gross infringement of the 1999 Constitution.
The Court ordered Sigma Pension Limited and the National Pension Commission to jointly and severally pay to the claimant the lump sum of “Ten Million Two Hundred and Twelve Naira” (N10,000,212.00) from her Retirement Savings Account within 30 days.
From facts, the claimant- Mrs. Rakiya Girei had submitted that following her retirement from the Federal Civil Service in 2019, she officially requested that 50% lump sum from her Retirement Savings Account (RSA) be paid to her and the the Sigma Pension refused to honour her request but rather proposed 31.3% of her RSA based on her gender.
In defense, the Sigma Pension Limited maintained that the parameter of ‘gender’ in the Guideline on Programmed Withdrawal Template cannot be said to be discriminatory as envisaged in the constitution that their actions in the circumstances leading to the suit are legally in compliance with the extant laws and Guidelines of the National Pension Commission, urged the Court to dismiss the case in its entirety.
Furthermore, National Pension Commission also submitted that by virtue of the Constitution and the Pension Reform Act, the expected life span for a woman is longer than that of a male counterpart, and more funds would have to be set aside for programmed fund withdrawals for her to cater for a continuous source of income throughout the remainder of her life.
In opposition, Mrs Girei counsel, Olusola Egbeyinka Esq opined that the Sigma Pension and the Pension Commission cannot place reliance on gender categorization to deprive her client of legitimate pension benefits, that such statutory provisions in the Pension Reform Act cannot get the favour of the court, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought in the interest of justice.
Delivering the judgment after careful evaluation of the submissions of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Benedict Kanyip held that the 25% withdrawal threshold allowed by the PRA relates only to those who voluntarily retire, disengage, or are disengaged from employment that the question of the Sigma Pension fixing Mrs. Girei lump sum withdrawal at 25% of her RSA has no basis whatsoever under the Pension Reform Act.