The Nigeria Union of Pensioners has kicked against the plan to borrow from the pension fund, noting that the government has no authority over the money and should, therefore, not tamper with it.

 

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum had on Friday endorsed two proposals to borrow a total of N17tn from two sources for infrastructural development.

The governors took the decision after being briefed by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who is the Chairman of the National Economic Council Ad Hoc Committee on Leveraging Portion of Accumulated Pension Funds for Investment in the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).

El-Rufai briefed the forum on a proposed National Infrastructure Investment Fund, saying a total sum of N2tn at nine per cent interest could be accessed through the NSIA.

This was contained in a communiqué of the 22nd teleconference meeting of the NGF, signed by its Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi.

However, the Nigeria Union of Pensioners has kicked against the plan to borrow from the pension fund, noting that the government has no authority over the money and should, therefore, not tamper with it.

The NUP Head of Information, Mr. Bunmi Ogunkolade, frowned on the purported endorsement of plans to borrow from the pension fund by the NGF, noting that many of the governors did not remit their workers’ pensions to the fund.

He stated, “The governors have no authority over the money, it doesn’t belong to them; so, how can they approve a proposal to borrow part of the workers’ pensions, which many of them (governors) are not contributing to?

“Do you know that many of the states are not paying the contributory pension? It shows that they don’t believe in it, so why should they borrow from it? It is not in their power to determine what would happen to that money. No! Their forum is not even recognised by law.”

Ogunkolade said the NUP had previously cautioned the Federal Government against tinkering with the fund, adding that there would be no one to be held responsible if they failed to repay the loan.


“We earlier issued a statement warning the Federal Government not to tamper with the pension fund when they mooted that idea. It is the workers’ money; people that would become pensioners tomorrow.

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“Nobody should tamper with that money; they should look elsewhere for loans to build infrastructure. By the time the people in service would retire in four, five years, the current government would not be there and you won’t know who to hold responsible.

“They would be blaming the past government and this would not resolve the issue. The government should not touch that money and the governors have no right to give the approval to borrow from the fund,” the union insisted.

Also, the immediate past Chairman of the Trade Union Congress in Oyo State, Andrew Emelieze, described the plan by the Federal Government to borrow N2tn from pension contributions as criminal.

Emelieze, who is the current National Coordinator, All Workers Convergence, said workers would resist the attempt if the Federal Government refused to stop, saying the pension fund should be left with the pension fund administrators to manage it.

He said, “Borrowing from the pension fund by the government is not in the interest of workers. Why should they borrow from that money? The workers that contributed to the fund were not allowed to borrow from it.

“It is not meant for the government to dip their hands into. They are trying to take advantage of the workers because we have a very weak labour movement.

“However, we say no to it and the government must stop it. If they refuse to stop and go ahead with it, then we will resist it. It will force us to confront them with an unprecedented protest. It is criminal and we say it must stop now.

“We are calling on the NLC [Nigeria Labour Congress] and the TUC to take decisive action against the government. They should look elsewhere to borrow money and leave our money for us.”

The PUNCH