Organised Labour has threatened to shut down Nigeria without notice should the government spend pension funds to finance infrastructure or any other project without consultation with stakeholders.
The warning came against the backdrop of increasing insinuations that government had plans to spend part of the nearly N10 trillion accumulation pension assets to fund some projects in the 2020 budget, especially infrastructure.
President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, who dropped hints of Labour’s threat, said though Labour was aware that some governors muted the idea of using part of the CPS funds to finance infrastructure during one of the meetings of the National Economic Council, NEC, government’s planned action would cause unprecedented industrial unrest in the country.
Wabba said leaders of Organised Labour would soon meet to examine the issue and decide the appropriate response, contending that it would be unthinkable for the government to dip its hands into pension funds to finance any of its projects, since the pension fund was 100 per cent owned by workers.
However, Wabba said: “The safety of the fund, first and foremost, is paramount to us. If you say you want to borrow the money to build infrastructure if the infrastructure fails, who pays?
”All of these details need to be looked at. We want to put everybody on notice that any day the pension money is accessed without the input of the workers and other stakeholders, certainly, we are also going to respond in a broader way.
”I can tell you that we are aware of this subject matter. We are discussing it at organised labour level We learned it was a recommendation that came up from National Economic Council, NEC, meeting. We gathered that the governors suggested the possibility of accessing the pension fund to build infrastructure. Up till now, nobody has consulted us.
“I want to use this medium to say that one of the reasons we insisted that the board should be a pension commission is that we never envisaged and even the law never envisaged that the board would be dissolved for five years and not constituted.
”It is not proper and we want to use this medium to make it clear that it is a major Labour market institution and there is no country in the world that has a situation where the major stakeholders that own the money are not in the board because the board has been dissolved in the last five years and it has not functioned.
”For whatever reason, it is not justifiable. It is a major issue. We are up and doing. The issue of pension to a worker is like life and death. We will not give a reason or notice where we feel the pension fund is not safe. I repeat, we will not give any reason or any notice for an action to be taken because it is a matter of life and death.
“It is a subject matter that is already on our agenda. We are going to meet at the level of organized labour to look at what decision was taken by NEC and how to prepare our position for any eventuality. I can assure you that labour is always ready to ensure that the pension money is safe because it is not government money.
”The money belongs to the workers who will one day be pensioners as well as pensioners who had contributed before they retired. Therefore, the workers should have the last say, not any other person.
“In many other jurisdictions, unions manage this money. I can give you examples of Canada. Canada today has the largest trade union savings in terms of funds. One is the teachers’ savings; it is in trillions of dollars and the same also with the local government funds.
”They have used the workers’ pension fund of Canada to acquire the entire power plant of Sweden that was privatized. That is to tell you how the money is being managed. It is our money, our eye and everything about us will be used to follow up on the money.
”We will not allow anybody to deep his hands into the money. It will be a recipe for chaos, a recipe for confusion and recipe for a process that would have a disastrous end.”