By Dan-Maryam Zayanu
The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, has warned State Governors against borrowing from the N17 trillion Pension Fund for infrastructural development.
He, therefore, vowed that the NLC would mobilise Nigerian workers to protest against any move by the governors to tamper with the pension fund, insisting that the fund is meant for the workers ahead of their retirement.
Speaking at the 47th National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) on Thursday in Abuja, Wabba, insisted that no group of persons or governments have power to temper with the pension fund, which he said was largely made up of contribution from federal and private sector 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.
“You must go through the bank and in this case, you must go through the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) and their guidelines; even the guidelines they want to play down but to the glory of God, the board of PenCom 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.”
Commenting on the increase in the price of petroleum, Wabba 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.
“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,” he said.
Speaking, National President, Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Comrade Biobelemoye Josiah, condemned what he described as the use of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as third party by the government to scuttle strike actions.
He stressed that embarking on industrial action to drive home their demands is the legal right of workers.
“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 3rd party interloper represented by the NGOs.”