Mr Ayuba Wabba, President of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has called for the reconstitution of the National Pension Commission Board.
Wabba made the call on Thursday in Abuja during the investigative hearing into the activities of PENCOM from April 2017 to date and alleged violation of PENCOM reform Act.
He explained that the law did not envisage at any point that a board would not be in place.
“That is why if you look at the Act when referring to the commission it says the commission shall be made up by a chairman, the director general, four commissioners and the management staff.
“All of them together make up the board of management.
“Nowhere in the Act is it envisaged that the board will remain dissolved for a long time and it will not be constituted.
“Apart from the chairman and the director general, the other four members are supposed to represent institutions including the pensioners themselves and the trade unions,” he said.
According to him, what is happening now is that “our heads were shaved in our absence and it is not supposed to be so.
“We demand that in respecting the Act the board should be put in place because every board member has a role to play.
“The board has been given clear responsibilities.
“If the board was in place all these questions would not have arisen because every interest including the interest of the contributor which was strategic would be protected.
“It is fundamental that we demand that this board be constituted because it is not like any other board. Our demand is that this Act be respected.
“It is a board that is saddled with the responsibility of protecting the billions and trillions of Naira that belongs to the pensioners,’’ he said.
The NLC president also called for stringent measures against non-remittance of pension contributions by employers.
“It is a clear violation of the provision of pension Act for any employer to deduct employer-employee contribution and fails to remit.
“On the issue of violation, let me say emphatically that there are employers that deduct and don’t remit. I can give you a lot of instances.
“In Ogun today, we have a case of about 106 months, deduction have been made, remittance has not been made.
“Therefore, we want a very stringent measure to be taken including payment of interest where such a situation is identified.
“We must ensure that the funds are safe and are remitted as at when due,” he said.
Wabba said: “as you are aware everything we are talking about including the funds belongs to the workers who are potential pensioners.
“Therefore everything about the money belongs to the workers.
“When people hear of trillions of Naira in pension funds, they think the money does not belong to anybody. The money belongs to somebody who is a worker today.
“His expectation is that the money should be invested in a very secured business that will be yielding interest that he will benefit from.
“Pencom is a regulator that is supposed to regulate these funds and ensure that all regulations first safeguard the funds and secondly yield maximum return to the end beneficiary who is the pensioner.’’
Wabba drew attention to the issue of gratuity, which he said was very critical.
“I am not sure that there is anywhere in the law that gratuity was abolished because if we pay severance it also means that the worker is entitled to gratuity.’’
According to him, gratuity is like appreciating the work that the worker had done either at 60 years of age or 35 years in service.
“This issue of gratuity must continue to be paid to workers on retirement because in most cases worker don’t save.
“It is usually the gratuity they will use which is the first means of settling down and having a new life all together,” he said.