The Ondo State House of Assembly has finally passed the bill on the controversial Contributory Pension Scheme into law despite protests from the workers, thus throwing spanners in the wheel of existing cordiality between the government and the state’s work force.
The bill which was sent to the House by Governor Olusegun Mimiko had generated heat, as the workers staged a peaceful protest last week Monday, paralysing government business. Organised labour unions led their workers to the Assembly Complex, venue of the public hearing on the bill where they got assurances from lawmakers that their interests will be adequately taken care of when the bill is finally passed.
At the plenary of the House later last week, the legislators finally passed the bill into law after it passed through the first, second and third readings.
The Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) became law after the House Committee on Human Capital Development, chaired by Hon.Dairo Olatunji Oluwole, presented his report and was unanimously adopted by the House.
Olatunji who also double as the Chief Whip, disclosed that over twenty (20) memoranda concerning the bill were received by the committee. According to him, the memoranda were received from different stakeholders, professional bodies as well as concerned individuals and that 12-point recommendation was given in the end.
He said the committee also amended some part in the scheme, which include clauses that suggest that an employee is entitled to pre-existing pension scheme in force before the enactment of the new law.
It, however, exempted all public officers appointed by the governor who might have served for less than than five years in service at the commencement of this law.
After the presentation of the report, the Majority Leader, Hon. Ifedayo Akinsoyinu moved the motion for the adoption of the bill and the remaining 24 lawmakers present, representing each constituency in the state unanimously agreed to the adoption.
Debunking the suggestion the the law was anti-labour, Deputy Speaker, Hon Dare Emiola, who presided over the sitting disclosed that the primary aim of being in the Assembly is to protect the interest of the people they represent.
Prior to the passage of the bill into law, workers locked all government complexes and offices as early as 7:30am that day, and they thereafter occupied the State House of Assembly complex on Igbatoro road, Akure, in protest against the bill on the pension scheme as forwarded by the governor.
The workers in the civil service of the state had threatened a fortnight ago to block every road leading to the Assembly and ensure that there was no access to the venue of the Public hearing on the bill which was slated for last week Monday.
They stated in a letter written by the Joint Negotiation Committee (JNC), a copy of which was made available to Leadership that the scheme was a fraudulent means of enslaving the entire workforce in the state.
Entilted ‘Are we save in Our Own State?’ they accused the office of the head of service of the state of colluding with the state government to enslave the entire workers. The workers noted that the circular issued by the state government on March 4, 2014, had showed the pretension of the current government, which is not genuinely disposed to workers welfare.
The workers, who were skeptical about the motive of the state government, called on the government to show proof of evidence that the employer (government) was fully prepared to pay its own monthly share of the contribution as well as the actual valuation before implementation could commence in the state.
Addressing the workers at the Assembly premises, the Ondo State Head of Service, Barrister Toyin Akinkuotu, said the contributory pension scheme is a matter of law which was enacted in 2004 with the aim to assist the entire workers in the country to save towards their retirement day.
“We are proposing that Ondo State will now constitute their own Pension Commission which will coordinate every other existing pension board in the various state agencies and organisations,” they said.
Akinkuotu pleaded with the labour union that the proposal of government on the scheme would take off as soon as the economy of the state improves, promising that the government will be faithful on its part.
Reacting to the passage of the bill despite their failed efforts to block it, chairman of Joint Nagotiating Council (JNC), Comrade Sunday Oluwole Adeleye, said Workers have not been properly sensitised enough to know the pros and cons of the scheme, stating that aggressive sensitisation about the scheme was what workers needed.
“Our position before the lawmakers was not that we were not ready to key into the scheme, but what we are saying is that the law has to be domesticated to suit the peculiarity of Ondo State because laws allows for domestication and we have presented our position where we want inputs to be considered.
“Secondly, people that should be exempted from benefiting from the scheme should be 17 years, not that someone who has three years left should be part of those people who will contribute; we don’t want that.
“We also want to be sure that government will give us a written document that they will be paying their own percentage in contribution to the scheme,” Adeleye said.
He said the workers are fighting and charting a new course not only for themselves but for the benefit of the generations yet to come, who would eventually join the service of the state.