Pension Funds for Infrastructure: Not in Workers’ Interest

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Wale Edun, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy

According to Wale Edun, the Minister of Finance, the government intends to utilise pension funds for infrastructure development. This was disclosed after a 2-day meeting of the Federal Executive Council chaired by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the second week of May. This shows that the Tinubu regime wants to make things even harder for working people unless the masses take action to stop him.

Pension funds are monies deducted from workers’s wages so that when they retire, the money saved during their active working years will help them meet their material needs. It is worth noting that despite the purpose of pension funds and the continuous deduction of the monies from workers’ wages of working-class people in the formal sector, the federal and state governments have always subjected pensioners to hardships by refusing to pay them their pensions, as and when due, sometimes for years. This condemnable reality will be even more disastrous if the Tinubu regime diverts pension funds for infrastructural development. 

According to Wale Edun, “There is upwards of N20 trillion available, and much of it is in short-term funding that doesn’t need to be. Pension money is long-term. People save over their lifetime for their pension.” Wale Edun’s statement shows that the ruling class prioritises their interests over those of the working class, focusing solely on accumulating capital. 

Wale Edun also stated that “after consultation, collaboration and cooperation with the private sector, we are now able to announce and with the full knowledge and support of all parties, that there will be an initiative to fund growth through investment in infrastructure, including housing, provision of mortgages, long-term mortgages (and) 25-year mortgages at relatively low interest rates.” Without prejudice to the government’s goal of infrastructural development, it must be said that the working people whose retirement savings will be used for this have not been involved in any consultation whatsoever. And there is no guarantee that the government will provide mortgages at a low-interest rate, despite using their pensions as resources for this purpose. 

What Wale Edun further had to say is that “Initially, of course, the government will stand back and provide some support, particularly in this era of high interest rates but eventually, as interest rates come down, there should be less role for the government through providing, for example, guarantees and so forth.” In addition, according to him, “so, we can look forward to these huge funds being leveraged with the expertise, the ability, the capacity of the private sector, partnering with the government to drive economic growth.” In simple terms, he is saying that the pension funds of workers will be used by the ruling class to make more money for private investors in the name of leverage.

There are outstanding taxes owed to the federal government by oil companies that sum up to an estimated $2.6b – $6b. The money the government spends frivolously to purchase bulletproof cars is also there as well as monies for security votes, entertainment and travelling expenses, not to talk of tax breaks for the likes of Dangote and several other big capitalists close to the seat of power. We have not even talked of looted funds amounting to trillions of naira. These are more than enough to fund infrastructural development. However, historically it is the nature of capitalism for the ruling class to accumulate capital through the violent exploitation of the working people of any society, with the state serving them well in dong so.

Furthermore, this anti-workers move by the Tinubu administration also validates the position of the African Action Congress (AAC)’s presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore that the current ruling class lack the idea and vision to steer Nigeria towards the part of progress and industrialisation. It is worth remembering that he claimed the removal of the petrol subsidy would free up funding for Nigeria’s infrastructural development and the provision of social amenities development. 

However, since the removal of the petrol subsidy, we have not seen a single project done to improve the life of the working class, based on such enhanced resources to the government. 

Tinubu has continued to launch anti-people policies like the devaluation of the naira, removal of electricity subsidies and the defunding of education, cybersecurity tax on bank transactions etc that have worsened our material conditions. In one year, the Tinubu-led administration has made education, healthcare and energy to be priced out of reach for the working people. 

The move to take possession of the people’s pension fund is not isolated; it is a continuation of his life-threatening attacks on the working and poor people which he started on the day of his swearing-in. If the working people do not organise and resist all the attacks without exception radically, our terrible economic situation will get even far worse. This is thus the time for us to organise, unite and fight to stop these economic attacks that are killing us. 

by Osatohamhen EBHOHON

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