By Appolos Christian
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has condemned the move by the 36 State governors to borrow/withdraw N17 trillion from the pension funds purportedly for infrastructural development, saying that the Congress will mobilize workers across the country and shot down the economy should the plan proceeds.
NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, made this known at the 47th National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) on Thursday in Abuja, in his address.
Wabba also hinted that it was the Chairman of the National Economic Council Adhoc Committee, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, that proposed for the withdrawal of the said pension fund.
Expressing disappointment, the NLC president warned that the pension fund is the savings of workers ahead of their retirement from active service, therefore must not be tampered with. He also said the state governments have no authority over the money, which he said was largely made up of contributory funds from federal and private sector workers.
Furthermore, he noted that over 18 state governments are still delaying implementation of the new national minimum wage for workers, and said it is sad that same governments would want to borrow money contributed by workers.
“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 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 Pencom commission has been constituted
“I stand here to represent all of you, we are not going to agree; less than 5% of the states are keying into the contributory pension yet they want to borrow the money. 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?
“Its 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.
“Let me sound warning to 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 went on to say that 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.”
The NLC president further pledged the labour’s commitment towards working in unity and solidarity to always defend workers rights and to ensure workers were not surcharged.
Earlier in his address, the 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 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.”