By Okechukwu Nnodim
The Nigeria Labour Congress, on Thursday, declared that the pension system in the country had failed to address the fears of Nigerian workers.
In buttressing its claim, the NLC revealed that the inefficiencies in the system recently made the police to lobby the labour congress to speak for the exit of policemen from the country’s pension scheme.
The NLC President, Joe Ajaero, disclosed this in Abuja at the pension industry roundtable, which had the theme, ‘Strategic Dialogue to Enhance Private Sector Participation in Pension Scheme.’
The roundtable was organised by the National Policy Advocacy Centre of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, in collaboration with the National Pension Commission.
“We must create a pension system that has integrity, that will attract more people. The police have lobbied us to speak on their behalf so that they will exit the pension arrangement that we have. Why are they doing that?
“The average policeman, when we go out on the field, some of them write to us and ask us to speak on their behalf. They are workers like us and they know how it pinches. I want to be able to use the money I’ve saved. If I cannot use the money now, will it be when I die?” Ajaero, who was represented by the Assistant General Secretary, NLC, Onyeka Chris, stated.
He pointed out that pensions were about the welfare of workers when they are no longer needed in their places of work.
“If you look at the pension system in Nigeria, what we can say is that as it is today, the pension system does not address to a large extent the fears of Nigerian workers. That is the reality and that is why some of us have concluded that the pension system in Nigeria is parasitic. It leeches on the workers.
“A worker who had saved about N8m in the last 10 years in his Retirement Savings Account, suddenly with all the economic challenges, the value has crashed. Perhaps if he had used the N8m at that time, he would have been a rich rice merchant.
“But suddenly the worker cannot purchase the bags of rice that he would have wanted to buy. That N8m in the last 10 years has crashed to probably N1m today. That is what we suffer. So, the pension system has not protected the workers,” the NLC president stated.
Ajaero said these issues should be looked into, adding that ‘issues about how we can make the pension system work for workers while they are alive should be looked into.’
“We must also make the pension system attractive to people in the informal sector by protecting the pension funds itself. The government is saying that it wants to borrow from pensions.
“Yes, in other climes, governments borrow funds from the pension system and they pay back. But we are afraid that when our money goes into the pocket of the government, we don’t know what will happen to it. That is our problem.
“Workers are bearing the brunt of the negative impact of our pension system, let us make the system more inclusive and more worker-friendly so that some of us will get involved,” he added.
In his opening remarks, the President, ACCI, Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, said the roundtable was organised to review the progress and challenges of the pension scheme in Nigeria.