Don’t tamper with workers’ pension fund, NLC warns govs
• Vows to mobilise workers to the streets
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), on Thursday, vowed to mobilise Nigerian workers nationwide, to protest any attempt by the 36 governors to borrow or withdraw the purported sum of N17 trillion from the pension funds.
NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, sounded the note of warning while speaking at the 47th National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) in Abuja,
In his opposition to the alleged proposal by the governors led by Chairman of the National Economic Council Adhoc Committee, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the labour leader warned that the pension fund which was the savings of workers ahead of their retirement from active service, must not be tampered with under any guise of infrastructure development.
He stated categorically that state governments have no authority over the money, which he said was largely made up of contributory funds from federal and private-sector workers.
Ayuba Wabba lamented that with over 18 state governments still delaying implementation of the new national minimum wage for workers, it was unheard of that same governments would want to borrow the pension money, a contributory fund of workers.
He said: “Pension money is not for borrowing, pension money is in the retirement savings of workers it cannot be borrowed. Its like money in your savings accounts that nobody can borrow the money.
“You must go through the bank and in this case, you must go through the PFAs and their guidelines; even the guidelines they want to play down but to the glory of God, the board of Pencom commission has been constituted.
“I stand here to represent all of you, we are not going to agree; less than 5 per cent of the states are keying into the contributory pension yet they want to borrow the money. The bulk of the money is from Federal Government workers and private sector workers so how do you want to borrow from where you have not sown?” he queried.
According to the NLC President, the pension fund is not free money and “let me sound a bit of warning, any day that we hear the pension fund, our money has been borrowed, I will declare a protest and everybody is going to be on the street to protect our hard-earned money.
“The money belongs to workers, we contribute that money so that when we retire we can have something for retirement so they have no say whatsoever, both the principal and the capital belongs to us.”
“I assure all of you workers from across the length and breadth of this country, to say that our money will be save. We will do everything possible to ensure that nobody comes to dip his hands into the money. We are not going to allow our standards to be lowered than what obtains in other climes.”
On the increased price of Petroleum, Wabba who said workers were in a system where the capital seeks to dominate labour despite being the creators of the wealth, said labour rejected the increase because petroleum pump price should not be left to be determined by the market forces whose sole aim was targeted at making profits even at the detriment of the masses.
“Anything you leave to market forces citizens will suffer because the primary focus of governance is actually to defend the interest and welfare of our workers and even the citizens and therefore when you leave it to market forces it is then about profit and the condition of citizens, workers and ordinary people have continued to be impoverished.”
Wabba further pledged the labour’s commitment towards working in unity and solidarity to always defend workers rights and to ensure workers were not surcharged.
On his part, National President, Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Comrade Biobelemoye Josiah, condemned Federal Government’s involvement in scuttling strike actions through the use of some Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), stressing that workers have legal rights to embark on industrial actions to drive home their demands.
“In a plethora of cases, the courts have affirmed the right of the workers to embark on strike. That strike is a legitimate weapon available to the Trade Union to ventilate their grievances especially when the provision is S.41 of the Trade Dispute Act bordering on the number of days has been compiled with.
“I would therefore appeal to the Federal Government to enrich our industrial relations practice through the interplay of the relationship between the management (Government) and the workers (Trade Unions) rather than scuttling the relationship through a 3rf party interloper represented by the NGOs.”