Published On: Wed, Aug 26th, 2015



Calls for recovery of looted funds

The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Tuesday threatened a showdown with the Federal Government over non-compliance with the Pension Reform Act 2015.

Ayuba Wabba, NLC president, who issued the threat notice at a three-day national leadership retreat holding in Calabar, Cross River State, also tasked the new NNPC management team on the need to develop mechanism for local refining of petroleum products.

Wabba, who expressed concern over the breaches in the implementation of the contributory pension scheme, decried the non-remittance of over N35 billion to various Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) by previous administrations.

He said: “We were persuaded to move away from the defined benefit scheme, which was operational in the entire public service of the federation, to the new contributory scheme, in which the workers also contribute part of their monthly salary to fund the new scheme, because of the unviable funding of the old scheme.

“Eleven year into the operation of this new scheme, and with last year’s review of the Pension Reform Act, it has only recently come to our attention that even the Federal Government is not keeping to the letters of this contributory pension scheme, as it has so far failed to remit the contributions of both itself as an employer and the deductions from employees salaries – both totalling N35 billion, to the respective Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs).

“We have written to President Buhari to draw his attention to this illegality, and requested him to direct the affected ministries, agencies and parastatals, to immediately remit these funds without further delay to the respective PFAs.”

According to him, the National Executive Council (NEC) of NLC at its last meeting held in Abuja, “received reports about a number of states being in default in the payment and remittances of workers pension deductions, and the mandatory employers’ deductions, which is referred to as matching fund.

“The Congress NEC had already mandated the Congress leadership to mobilise workers to ensure that the arrears of workers’ salaries, allowances and pensions are cleared by the affected state governments. The Federal Government cannot afford to be listed as among the debtor bodies. It has to lead this exercise by sheer force of example.

“Still on pension matter, it needs to be emphasised that the rate of patronage of the Trustfund plc, in which we have 10 percent share in, and which affords Congress the opportunity to nominate a representative on the Board of Directors, is far from encouraging. We will need to review why this is so, and take steps to remedy it,” he said.

While reflecting on the ongoing campaign of President Buhari against corruption, the NLC chief decried the report that the nation’s revenues were indiscriminately transferred to individual accounts at the twilight of the immediate past administration.

“For us in Congress, these funds must be recovered by all means. If we need to employ the services of forensic auditors to uncover the various amounts stashed away in foreign and domestic banks, so be it.

“Investigations into the looting of our national treasury should not be unduly made a controversial matter. Those trying to engage in semantics on who can, and who cannot, order a forensic audit to uncover the actual state of the looting spree of our commonwealth, risk being identified as celebrating corruption, or trying to team up with the corrupt elements to forestall their being brought to book.

“No one should pretend about the fact that corruption is a critical national challenge, which needed to be confronted frontally and subdued for our country to make progress and actualise its potentials.

“This brings us to the Advisory Committee on Corruption recently set up by President Buhari, headed by Professor Itse Sagay (SAN). For us in Congress, this committee is coming at a very good time. Our hope is that it will work and make concrete recommendations to the Federal Government that will give fresh impetus to the war against corruption in the country. Being the first major committee of the Buhari Presidency, our wish is that its members – eminent men and women of proven integrity – will deliver a report as sound and far-reaching as the 22-person Justice Muhammed Uwais Committee on Electoral Reforms did for the country’s electoral system.

It is our hope that the Committee will seek the input and participation of members of the public in its work. The call for special courts to try anti corruption cases, which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been making since the tenure of Nuhu Ribadu in the commission, need to be taken up seriously by the committee and articulate a mechanism for its actualisation. For us, the situation where cases involving multi-billion naira corruption allegations drag on for several years without resolution is clearly unhealthy for the anti-corruption crusade.

“Just like we have election tribunals, we do not see why for instance the Chief Justice of the Federation cannot work out the modalities and establish these special courts and ensure that they are not bugged down with technicalities, which is the case with our regular courts at the moment. The maxim that justice delayed is justice denied is applicable in this dragging out of anti-corruption prosecutions.

“A third issue, we are again for the umpteenth time having to comment on is on the withdrawal of subsidy on petroleum products. This time because the New Man at the helm of our petroleum industry, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu is the one raising the storm. We are surprised that Dr. Kachikwu has failed to read the lips of his principal, President Buhari who had consistently said he is not convinced that the vast majority of poor Nigerians can afford to bear the effect of the removal of the so-called subsidy on petrol.

“For us, the new NNPC boss has his job clearly cut out for him. If he cannot assist Mr. President and the country in ensuring that our four refineries start working at optimum capacity within the shortest possible time; if he cannot come up with a doable plan for the Buhari Presidency to establish new refineries to cater for the shortfall in our domestic petroleum products needs; if he cannot articulate a plan for us to establish refineries within and outside our immediate borders that will be refining our crude oil for export, adding value, creating jobs and making more revenue for the country, then he is the wrong man at this point in time to man the NNPC!

“It is quite clear, and we have said this time without number, that all those campaigning for the withdrawal of fuel subsidy as a precondition for investment in the downstream sector of the oil industry are not friends of our country, and indeed the masses of our people. They must be kept at arm’s length! For us as organised labour, because we know that removing the so-called subsidy on fuel is tantamount to increasing the suffering of the average wage earner and majority of Nigerians that do not earn any wages at all, we will continue to resolutely oppose any such plan, and we will mobilise Nigerians in their millions to join us in this struggle.”


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