Fashola Commissions PenCom's South-West Zonal Office In Lagos, Urges NASS To Deal Expeditiously With Returned Bill
• Canvasses maturity, civilized approach to conflict resolution between Government and Labour
Sep 20, 2013 - Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Friday commissioned the South-West Zonal Office of the decentralized National Pension Commission in Lagos, urging the National Assembly to deal expeditiously with the Pension Reforms Act which has been returned to Parliament for re-examination.
The Governor, who spoke at the Oduduwa Crescent office of the Commission, said there was need to put in place a sustainable legislation that would take adequate care of the human resources whose best capacity has been given in the service of the nation.
He told the audience, comprising his brother Governors from the other South-West States, Senator Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and a representative of the Governor of Ondo State, Labour leaders, Traditional Rulers, members of the National Assembly and officials of PenCom, among other dignitaries and stake holders to develop the human capital that is abundant in the region saying, "All of the dreams and the programmes we have in our respective States mean nothing if the human capital that is going to drive and deliver it is not well looked after".
"For me, the welfare of the human capital does not start and end with very fat salaries. It is, perhaps better defined by the security that lies when the best of the capacity of that human resource has been taken, when that human resource becomes weak and dependent", the Governor said.
Urging the National Assembly to treat the returned bill with dispatch, Fashola declared, "We continuously have to reflect and rethink and that is why the bill is back in Parliament" expressing joy that members of the National Assembly at the occasion had spoken "in very encouraging terms about the kind of support that they are willing to give to the legislation as it continues under their consideration".
He, however, advised that while considering the bill, the National Assembly they should be mindful of the need to consider the possibility of indexing benefits against consumer prices, adding, "I hope that they will be mindful of opening up some more about the diversification of the kind of investible portfolios with appropriate safeguard mechanisms".
He commended officials of the Commission, especially the Pioneer Director General Dr. Mohammed Ahmad, and the incumbent Acting Director General, Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, noting that it took the pioneer DG's drive and capacity to rebuild the Commission and public confidence and the resourcefulness of the Acting Director General to continue on the same path.
"Let us all reflect and go back to 2004. All of what we gather here to commemorate and to celebrate started with a few words, words written on paper; that was it. It took men and women to give life to those words, to give life to that legislation. And we have seen here the idea of continuity, an acting Director General who has been part of the team taking over from the pioneer Director General", he said.
He specially commended Dr. Ahmad and his team for continuing to give serve after he has quit the scene saying, "He, himself has not distanced himself from the baby, he is here to continue to lend support and this is the way for me that it should be".
The Governor also advocated the decentralization of Minimum Wage arguing that if Pension management has been decentralized and is working across the nation, it would only mean that a decentralized Minimum Wage management would also work. According to him, "If we are decentralizing management of Pensions and it is making sense why don't we decentralize payment of wages. This is a federation".
He called on the nation's Labour Unions to approach labour disagreements and conflicts with maturity and in more civilized manner saying they could engage Government in open, robust and honest debates over such issues which would ultimately lead to the negotiating table without shutting down the government.
According to the Governor, "The Labour Union has a position; perhaps they will listen to another position which takes us ultimately to the negotiating table. For us, it is not who makes the law that matters, it is whether or not Nigerian workers get a fair pay for a hard work; that must be the issue".
"These are things we will have a very healthy, open and robust debate about. But it is no reason to shutdown the government. This is where we must show the maturity in our democracy that we will have protests, we will have disagreements but we will find an answer in a very civilized and enlightened manner", the Governor said adding, "While we disagree, we will find a way to agree and government will continue to work".
Expressing joy in the way the other South-West Governors have responded to the pension issue by personally being present at the commissioning. Governor Fashola thanked them (Governor Fayemi, Governor Amosun and representative of the Governor of Ondo State), "for coming to lend visible support to something you clearly and demonstrably believe in".
He added, "The head-start that we have had, perhaps, best indicates only the fact that I was pronounced elected Governor while Governor Fayemi spent almost three years in court trying to get his mandate. It sets apart the differentials and those differentials are not in any way indicative of the commitment that he has. His commitment is indicated by his presence here today and so are the others".
In his goodwill message, Ogun State Governor, Senator Adekunle Amosun said the responsibility of every government was to encourage its workers to realize the dignity in labour adding that his administration has demonstrated in many ways that the Government is concerned about the welfair of its workforce.
He commended Governor Fashola for leading from the front in the implementation of the Pension Reform Law pointing out that his administration met a N13 billion pension arrears but has reduced it to below N6 billion and hopes to clear it in the next two years.
In his own remarks, Governor Fayemi of Ekiti State said his administration was committed to the welfare of its workforce adding that his government was willing to adhere to the enabling rules and regulations set out by the Pension Reform Act. He, however urged Labour to approach labour issues in a more civilized manner.
A representative of the Ondo Ftate Governor and Head of Service of Ondo State, Mr. Tonyi Akikuotu, said although the State Government was ready to continue contributing to the Pension Scheme the problem facing it was the workers who, according to him, have lost confidence in the scheme.
Chairman Senate Committee on Establishment and Pension, Senator Aloysius Etuk, in his remarks described pension as the last bus stop of workers which no government should treat it with levity suggesting, " We should put in place a situation where pensioners should be paid before the regular workers".
In his remarks, the Pioneer Director General, Dr. Mohammed Ahmad commended Governor Fashola for the high success he has recorded in the implementation iof the Pension Act adding, "We have to be here in Lagos because Lagos is where the action is. The Governor in the South-West should emulate Governor Fashola".
We Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Isa Aremu, in his comments, commended PenCom for the work it is doing the Commission for the welfare of workers but urged it to do more because, according to him, "The Commission with its N3.6 trillion has only captured 5.4 million out of 80 million workers".
Earlier in her welcome address, the Acting Director General, Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, said the Commission has, among other achievements, licensed 26 Pension Fund Administrators, gain public confidence and gained a total value of pension industry assets to the tune of N3.6 trillion.
Also present at the occasion were Head of Service, Prince Adesegun Ogunlewe, Commissioner for Establishment and Training, Mrs. Florence Oguntuase, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, President of Trade Union Congress, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama Former Chairman Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Hon. Ibrahim Kamba, Alhaji Bukka Goni-Achi members of the National Assembly and members of the Lagos State Executive Council as well as Traditional rulers and other top government functionaries.