A former Ambassador to India, Sam Pee Yalley, on Monday backed former president John Mahama’s request to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) to pay some cash to its contributors who have been badly affected by the economic impacts Covid-19 in the country.
“The SSNIT can rescue its contributors who have lost their sources of livelihoods due to the outbreak of the COVID-19. It is very possible to do that,” Pee Yalley told Dwaboase host Kwame Minkah on Power 97.9 FM.
SSNIT over the weekend responded to the National Democratic Congress’ 2020 flagbearer, saying his suggestion would amount to a violation of the law.
“…The benefits His Excellency [John Mahama] is suggesting that we pay do not exist in law. To do so will constitute an illegality and a contravention of the provisions of the National Pensions Act, 2008, Act 766,” the statement noted.
SSNIT also stated that “the Trust is a creature of law emanating from the National Pensions Act, 2008, Act 766 which governs the administration of SSNIT and all other pension schemes in the country”.
SSNIT further explained the circumstance under which it can make payments as Old Age Pension, Invalidity Pension when a worker becomes permanently incapacitated, Old Age Lump Sum Benefit which is a refund of contributions with interest and the Survivors’ Lump Sum Benefit which is made to nominated dependants of a deceased contributor.
But Ambassador Yalley, a lawyer and former Operations Manager for SSNIT, disagreed with the position of the state institution and description its response as “unfortunate.”
He argued that “we are not in normal times, and so far as some members have been hit by the pandemic, something must be done to cushion their lives.”
“I am a lawyer so I know issues of this nature is possible to achieve. When we were in the Law School, we learnt something we called the motion of matter. What that meant was that if you find something difficult to do using a particular way, you can go for an alternative way to make it happen. Paying contributors something small is possible because the law is not static,” he stated.
To him, SSNIT can make a move to amend it’s laws and pave way for some “advance payments” to be made for some of it’s contributors struggling to make ends meet.
“When that happens SSNIT will be seen as a firm that thinks of it’s contributors…If they really care about their contributors, they can amend the laws to make that happen,” he added.
Mr Yalley further urged the Trust to also freeze the monthly deductions from workers’ salaries to give them some relief, as the country’s economy keeps declining in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What Did Mahama Say?
The former president, who is looking forward to be voted into power again in the upcoming December polls, said on a Facebook live interaction that SSNIT contributions did not exist for only pensioners but also works as a form of insurance to cushion members from difficult times.
A lockdown was imposed on Accra, Tema, Kasoa (Greater Accra) and Greater Kumasi in bid to contain the virus that had began infecting citizens.
Some workers as a result lost their sources of income as employers had to force some staff to go for leave without pay while others were dismissed.
To this end, Mr Mahama suggested that SSNIT support persons who had been badly affected by the economic implication of the pandemic.
“Social security contributions are essentially an insurance scheme made not just for pensions in old age before we die. They are also made to help contributors in times of adversities such as this,” he said.
He continued, ” Not all will come out and queue for food, but as has been done in other countries like St. Lucia, I think a token payment to all contributors of a certain token sum over three months would have afforded many the assurance of feeding their families during this abnormal times.”
My investment in health is helping govt fight the coronavirus pandemic – Mahama