Nigerian pensioners have expressed their fear over the proposal by the Federal Government to invest N2trn out of the N10trn pension funds on infrastructural development.
On Thursday, The National Economic Council was reported to have announced the resolve of the Federal Government to borrow the amount from the pension funds to finance the development of infrastructure.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed, clarified on Friday that the agreement was to design a product that pension fund managers would fund.
While commenting on the plan in an exclusive interview with our correspondent, the Head of Information at the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Bunmi Ogunkolade, said government should come up with an idea on how to pay pensioners instead of borrowing the money they contributed for their future after retirement.
He said, “Nigerian pensioners are not against the progress of the nation and government’s plan to provide infrastructure for the people. Our fear is utilisation of the money. The amount is huge and should be well utilised.
“Apart from the provision of the Pension Act of 2014 (which supports it), we do not support government taking money from funds contributed by workers.
“During the last administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, the idea was initiated in 2014 but we kicked against it. Like I said, our fear is about utilisation. Will government be sincere and use the money to provide infrastructure?
“We have workers that retired and have yet to be paid their gratuity. They are not paid because of some factors. If before borrowing their money, they are not paid by government, you can imagine what will happen after their money has been invested or borrowed by government. If actually there is money available, pay the pensioners.
“Our other fear is if this government fails to pay the money back before the expiration of its term, will the next government be keen to pay? Workers contribute this money for their future but these are areas where we have fears.”
In his reaction to the plan, the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners Contributory Pension Scheme Sector, Sylva Nwaiwu, told our correspondent that that it would be most unfortunate if the money was diverted.
He said, “The Pension Act of 2014 allows what the government is planning to do. It allows government to borrow up to 20 per cent of the pension funds for infrastructure.
“We will have nothing against using the funds but the area where we are going to look at closely is the utilisation of the funds. Government is talking of improving on infrastructure and building roads. We all know that the country is burdened with poor infrastructure and bad roads. But it will be most unfortunate if after the money is released we still have to talk of poor infrastructure and bad roads. That money should be channelled for the purpose for which it was borrowed.”