By VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
VICE-PRESIDENT of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Issa Aremu, has called on President Goodluck Jonathan, to call the Chairman of the Presidential Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT, Adulrasheed Maina, to order.
Aremu who is also the General Secretary of National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, urged President Jonathan to make the Contributory Pension Scheme, CPS, work in Nigeria and not to allow it to be undermined through illegal raid diversion of its fund to other purposes rather than pension payment as being canvassed by some economic hit men and pension fund scavengers.
In a statement during jogging activities to mark his 52nd birth day, the NLC Vice President, said it was very important for President Goodluck Jonathan to take the responsibility of safeguarding and protecting the 8 year-old pension reform of 2004 which has now yielded not less than N3.6 trillion.
According to him, “ Stakeholders including the organized labour led by NLC watched with utter dismay how Abdulrasheed Maina last year defied public summon by the Senate Joint Committee on Establishment and States and Local Governments during its concluded public hearing on public pension administration.
“Also clearly unacceptable is the way and manner the controversial chairman of what is supposed to be a short term presidential task force carries on as if the task force meant to manage police pension fund mess which clearly lacks any legal backing whatsoever has come to stay permanently.
“Presidential task force cannot and should not be another alternative pension commission in the country. There is only one regulatory pension commission and that is National Pension Commission, PenCom established by an Act of parliament in 2004.”
“Maina has been making an ill-informed, unguarded commentary on the accumulated pensions assets contributed through the hard earned savings of Nigerian workers in both the private and public sectors of the economy in the past eight years the Pension Reform Act of 2004 came into being.
These commentaries if unchecked are capable of undermining the budding national pension fund and even subverting the entire pension market. For instance he was recently quoted as saying that about N3 trillion already built in the pension system commendably managed by National Pension Commission, PenCom, the scores of pension fund administrators, PFAs, as well as pension fund custodians, PFCs, should be made available to the state governments for their so-called infrastructural development in clear violation of pension reform Act of 2004 and investment rules guiding pension fund in the country.”
Aremu declared that “Pension fund totaling almost N4 trillion contributed by 6 million workers is a contributory fund by workers for pension after work. Nigerian workers in between the two extremes, namely official government neglect and public sympathy, none of which is beneficial to them. CPS which is now in trillions is a legitimate right of workers.
It is a deferred payment, which both the workers and employers are compelled to set aside so that workers at old age will not be living on some degrading charity as if they are destitute. The challenge lies in how to make the principle of contributory pension work in Nigeria and not undermine it through illegal raid on the fund and sheer diversion to other purposes rather than pension payment as being canvassed by the likes of Maina.”
He added that “Pension Reform Act of 2004 represents a progressive labour legislation because it attempts to address the naughty issue of compensation after work. The scheme is also strong on corporate governance arrangements that are radically different from the past public sector schemes; National Pension Commission supervises the Pension Fund Administrators and Custodians.”
“President Jonathan must put a time line on the activities of the Task Force. It is not the amount of billions the task force claims to have recovered but how many pensioners on the relevant public sectors have been paid their pensions and gratuities. The president must strengthen the new contributory pension scheme by allowing for more unions participation in its corporate governance.”