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NLC to govs: Steer clear of workers’ pension fund

Labour vows to mobilise forces against move

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has vowed to mobilise workers against the move by governors of the 36 states of the federation to borrow from the Contributory Pension Fund (CPF), purportedly for infrastructural development in their respective states. President of NLC, Com-rade Ayuba Wabba, gave the warning yesterday at the 47th National Executive Council (NEC) meet ing of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) held in Abuja.

Wabba said the move by state governments to borrow from the pension fund was wrong as they had no authority over the money. The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), recently disclosed its intention to borrow about N17 trillion and deploy the fund to infrastructural developments. The governors said they would borrow N2 trillion at nine per cent interest from the growing funds under the Contributory Pension Scheme, as well as access N15 trillion for national infrastructure funding through InfraCredit at a lower interest rate of five per cent.

Chairman of NGF and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who confirmed the move in an interview on national television, said the forum had the backing of the National Economic Council (NEC) as the fund would be deployed to revenue yielding projects rather than consumption.

However, Wabba has dismissed the justifications for the loan, arguing that most of the state governors had no moral rights to borrow from the fund as the bulk of the money in the pension fund were essentially monthly contributions from federal civil servants and workers in the private sector. He lamented that with over 18 state governments still delaying the implementation of the new national minimum wage for workers, it was ridiculous that the same governments would want to borrow from the workers’ pension fund.

In addition, Wabba said many of the state governors seeking to borrow the money have failed to enrol their workers in the CPS. He warned governors not to tamper with the savings made by workers ahead of their retirement from active service. “Pension money is not for borrowing, pension money is in the retirement savings of workers. It cannot be borrowed. It’s like money in your savings account 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 Pen- Com has been constituted “I stand here to represent all of you, we are not going to agree; less than five per cent of the states are keying into the contributory pension scheme, 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? “It’s 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 interest belongs to us.

“Let me assure all of you workers from across the length and breadth of this country, our money will be safe. 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,” he said. Wabba, who also spoke on the last increase in the price of petrol, lamented that the Nigerian system has created a situation where capital seeks to dominate labour despite the latter being the creator of the wealth. He said labour rejected the increase in the pump price of petrol because it should not be left to market forces. According to him, leaving petrol price to market forces would mean placing emphasis on profits, even at the detriment of the welfare of the masses.

National President of MHWUN, Comrade Biobelemoye Josiah, accused the Federal Government of 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.

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