This Day (Lagos)

10 May 2011

Nigeria: Labour Demands Scrapping of National Housing Fund

Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has made an urgent call on the Federal Government to scrap the National Housing Fund (NHF) and transfer workers contributions to the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board.

President General of the Congress, Comrade Peter Esele, who made the union's position known said the scheme has not been able to achieve the objectives for which it was set up.

Esele noted that no single contributor has benefited from the scheme almost 20 years after it was set up and called for Presidential intervention to ensure that all contributions so far made by the Federal Civil Servants into the NHF are retrieved from the FMBN and payment of 2.5 percent made voluntary.

He advised government not to wait until the Trade Unions in the Public Sector resort to disruptive Trade Union actions to stop the operations of the Fund, noting that it will spur industrial crisis in the nation's economy.

"It is pertinent to recall that since 1992 when Nigerian workers were compelled through Decree No. 3 of 1992 now Act to start paying 2.5% of their basic salary into the National Housing Fund (NHF) to enable them buy or build their own houses, no single contributor has benefited from the scheme almost 20 years after it began. Although the scheme was initially intended for all Nigerian workers, the private sector never embraced it while two or three State Governments are trying of recent to key into the programme.

"The major contributors to the NHF have been Federal Civil Servants. Sadly, sometime ago, the Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC) on Alienation of Federal Government Property decided to sell Federal Government quarters in Abuja and in parts of the States of the Federation.

"Thousands of Civil Servants eventually applied to the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), statutorily empowered to administer the Fund, for loans to enable them pay the mandatory 10 per cent initial deposit of the total value of the houses as demanded by the Committee. Regrettably, no credit facility was granted to any of them. This compelled the civil servants to go to other banks to obtain loans at very high interest rates. The TUC, therefore, wishes to request for Presidential intervention to ensure that all contributions so far made by the Federal Civil Servants into the NHF are retrieved from the FMBN and payment of 2.5 percent made voluntary.

"It is for this reason that we demand that the Fund should be scrapped or the contributions so far made, which runs into billions of naira, transferred to the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board. The Government should not wait until the Trade Unions in the Public Sector resort to disruptive Trade Union actions to stop the operations of the Fund. If it happens, we shall support them.," Esele stated.

In the alternative, the TUC President said an agreement should be reached with the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board and the laws amended accordingly.

This, according to him, is because the Loans Board has demonstrated its capability to effectively and efficiently manage similar fund.

"For instance, from 1974 to 2008, the Board granted loans to about 10,094 Public Officers to purchase or build their own property in different parts of the country," he added.

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