By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has threatened to occupy streets in mass protests if state governors tamper with workers’ pension fund.
NLC said any move by the 36 state governors to borrow/withdraw N17 trillion from the pension funds purportedly for infrastructural development will meet stuff resistance from the workers union.
NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said that the union will not fold its arms and watch the governors toy with workers.
He said Chairman of the National Economic Council Adhoc Committee, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, must know that the pension fund which was the savings of workers ahead of their retirement from active service, must not be tampered with.
Wabba, who spoke on Thursday in Abuja, at the 47th National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), said the state governments have no authority over the money.
“It is unfortunate 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 from the pension fund, a contributory fund of 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 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 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.”
Also speaking, 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.”