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FG not planning to illegally access pension funds – Wale Edun

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Wale Edun submits new minimum associated costs to Tinubu

Mr. Wale Edun, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, has noted that the Federal Government is not planning to illegally access pension funds, contrary to insinuations.

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar had on Wednesday, in a statement slammed the government over an announcement by Edun that that it hopes to rev up economic growth by unlocking N20 trillion from the nation’s pension funds and other funds to finance critical infrastructure projects across the country.

“My attention is drawn to a disturbing disclosure by the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, as he addressed State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday, 14 May,” Atiku had said.

“There is, according to the Minister, a move by the Federal Government to rev up economic growth by unlocking N20 trillion from the nation’s pension funds and other funds to finance critical infrastructure projects across the country. The Minister has indicated that although “the initiative is expected to attract foreign investment interest over time”, domestic savings are his ‘immediate focus’ for now.

“He provided no useful details, such as the percentage of the funds to be mopped up from the Pension Funds, for example. Even at that, this move must be halted immediately! It is a misguided initiative that could lead to disastrous consequences on the lives of Nigeria’s hardworking men and women who toiled and saved and who now survive on their pensions having retired from service.

“It is another attempt to perpetrate illegality by the Federal Government. The government must be cautioned to act strictly within the provisions of the Pension Reform Act of 2014 (PRA 2014), along with the revised Regulation on Investment of Pension Assets issued by the National Pension Commission (PenCom). In particular, the Federal Government must not act contrary to the provisions of the extant Regulation on investment limits to wit: Pension Funds can invest no more than 5% of total pension funds’ assets in infrastructure investments. I note that as of December 2023, total pension funds assets were approximately N18 Trillion, of which 75% of these are investments in FGN Securities.

“There is NO free Pension Funds thst is more than 5% of the total value of the nation’s pension fund for Mr. Edun to fiddle with.

“There are no easy ways for Mr. Edun to address the challenges of funding infrastructure development in Nigeria. He can’t cut corners. He must introduce the necessary reforms to restore investor confidence in the Nigerian economy and to leverage private resources, skills, and technology. –

The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, also petitioned the Federal Government over its plans to borrow from pension fund, threatening to cripple the nation, if the fund was tampered with.

But Edun on Wednesday, clarified that there’s no such plan.

”It has come to my notice that there are stories making the rounds that the Federal Government plans to illegally access the hard-earned savings and pension contributions of workers. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

”The pension industry, like most of the financial industry, is highly regulated. There are rules and well laid out limitations about what pension fund assets can be invested in, and what it cannot be invested in.

”The Federal Government has no intention whatsoever to go beyond those prescribed limits, or outside those bounds, which are to safeguard the pension of workers.

”What was announced at the Federal Executive Council, FEC, was merely for information purposes only.

“No approval was sought for any action whatsoever. The information was that there was an ongoing initiative drawing in all the major stakeholders in the long term savings industry, those that handle funds that are available over a long period to see how, within the rules and regulations set by the law, that could be used maximally, most effectively, to drive investment in key growth areas, including infrastructure, housing and, of course, to find a way to provide Nigerians with affordable mortgages.

”Within this context, there is no attempt, nor is it being considered to offer unsafe investments for pension funds or even insurance funds or any investment funds.

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”It is important to remember that the federal government possesses the ability to provide guarantees where stocks are needed in order to unlock funding that will lead to growth, creation of jobs and alleviation of poverty.”

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, have petitioned the Federal Government over its plans to borrow from pension fund, threatening to cripple the nation if the fund was tampered with.

In a joint letter to the Minister of Finance, NLC and TUC, while contended that the Pension Reform Act, PRA, 2014 (As amended), did not make any provision for such borrowing, said organised labour would resist any action that sought to undermine the retirement savings of Nigerian workers.

The letter, signed by the President of NLC and the Deputy President of TUC, Joe Ajaero and Dr Tommy Okon, was also copied the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Minister of Labour and Employment, the Head of Service, HoS, the Director of State Security, the Accountant General of the Federation, the National Security Adviser, NSA, the National Assembly Committees on Labour, and the National Assembly Committees on Establishment.

It read: “We write this letter with grave concern and unwavering determination on behalf of the NLC and the TUC.

”The recent announcement by you (Minister of Finance), regarding the government’s intention to utilize the substantial pension funds of N19.66 trillion for infrastructural development has ignited deep apprehension and unrest among Nigerian workers, who are the primary contributors and eventual beneficiaries of these funds.

“Allow us to underscore the severity of the matter at hand. The revelation that the government has already accessed nearly 70 per cent of the entire pension fund value is not merely alarming; it is utterly unacceptable.

‘‘Nigerian workers have entrusted their hard-earned savings for retirement security, not as a means for government projects. It is imperative to halt any further plans to tap into these funds, especially given the lack of transparency and accountability in past government borrowing practices.

“Your proposal to further leverage these funds for the purported betterment of housing and infrastructural sectors raises serious questions about fiscal prudence and responsible governance. Where does the government intend to source the additional N20 trillion it seeks to acquire, especially considering the ambiguity surrounding previous borrowing practices?

”The lack of clarity on this matter only fuels skepticism regarding the feasibility and sustainability of your initiative.

“Nigerian workers rightfully demand assurances that their retirement funds will not fall victim to further federal government borrowing especially when the National Pension Commission, PenCom Board has not been constituted as envisaged by the statutes.”

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