Tensions flared in Cross River State as labor unions engaged in a dispute with the state government regarding the planned introduction of the Contributory Pension Scheme. The disagreement came to a head when union officials walked out on government representatives during a scheduled sensitization session for workers in Calabar.
The sensitization event, attended by notable figures such as the national President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, and state government representatives led by Secretary to the Government, Anthony Owan-Enoh, was intended to inform workers about the scheme and its potential benefits.
The workers, however, raised concerns about the government’s sincerity in implementing the scheme. A union leader who preferred to remain anonymous spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and explained that they perceived the government’s actions as an attempt to force the scheme upon the workforce.
He stated, “We were never told about the coming of the NLC national president. We were shocked to see him appear with government officials in the hall where the sensitization was to take place. For us, we concluded that his presence was a plan to force workers in the state into the scheme.”
The unions emphasized the need for the government to engage in more dialogue with workers before making any decisions regarding the scheme.
The government’s perspective on the matter, as conveyed by the spokesperson for Governor Bassey Otu, Emmanuel Ogbeche, revolves around the idea that the planned migration to the Contributory Pension Scheme is in the workers’ best interest. Governor Otu’s primary concern is preventing a future where retirees face frustration due to unfulfilled gratuity payments.
Ogbeche highlighted that the state has not disbursed gratuities since 2014, underscoring the urgency of implementing the Contributory Pension Scheme. However, during the sensitization meeting, the workers expressed their reluctance to collaborate with the three banks chosen for the scheme. The government’s stance is that these banks are integral to ensuring the sustainability of the scheme.
Emphasizing that this is an act of parliament, Ogbeche explained that it is the state government that is funding the scheme, and therefore, it’s vital for the scheme’s success that the selected banks are used.
Although the planned sensitization session was disrupted by the labor unions’ actions, the government remains optimistic that workers will eventually recognize the scheme’s benefits and engage in constructive dialogue to address their concerns.