Abuja — The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has threatened to mobilise Nigerian workers in protest against the move by the state governors to borrow N17 trillion from the pension funds purportedly for infrastructural development. The union asked the state chief executives to steer clear of the pension funds, warning them against tampering with the money.
Speaking at the 47th National Executive Council meeting of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, in Abuja yesterday the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, insisted that the governors have no authority over the funds.
The Nigerian Governors Forum had last week endorsed the proposal of the Chairman of the National Economic Council Ad hoc Committee, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, to borrow N17trn from the pension funds for infrastructural development.
But reacting to the proposal, Ayuba said, “The pension is not for borrowing, pension money is the retirement savings of workers, it cannot be borrowed. It’s like money in your savings account that nobody can borrow.
“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 (workers), 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 the federal government workers and private-sector workers; so how do you want to borrow from where you have not sown?”
The NLC leader lamented that over 18 state governments were delaying the implementation of the new national minimum wage, noting that it was unheard of that the same governments would want to borrow the workers’ pension.
“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 capital belong to us,” he said.
Commenting on the fuel pump price, Wabba argued that it should not be determined by the market forces “whose sole aim was targeted at making profits even at the detriment of the masses.”
He noted, “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.”
The National President, Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, Biobelemoye Josiah, condemned the Federal Government’s alleged involvement in scuttling strike actions through the use of some non-governmental organisations, stressing that workers have the rights to embark on industrial actions to drive home their demands.
He said, “In a plethora of cases, the courts have affirmed the right of the workers to embark on strike. Strike is a legitimate weapon available to the trade unions to ventilate their grievances, especially when the provision in section 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 third party interloper represented by the NGOs.”