I Didn’t Go Away With Any Pension Money – Comrade Kingsley Ogba

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NATIONAL Record spoke on telephone with Comrade Kingsley Ogba, former National President of NULGE on three occasions basically because of network issues. The first conversation on 24th December was inconclusive as he mobile went off. By 28th December 2021, when the conversation resumed, the interview was again inconclusive due to poor audio quality of the call. The chat was however concluded on 21st January, 2022. In the entire discussion, Comrade Ogba shared his views on what transpired with regard to NULGE’s pension fund that no longer exist. 

NATIONAL Record (NR): We have been on the rail of a story concerning unpaid pensions of your union, NULGE, for over two months now and in the course of conversations with some of the pensioners, your name featured. We therefore felt it is important to get your side of story. We gathered, for instance, that the leadership of your immediate successor said it did not meet any pension fund in any bank account, although a former General Secretary of the union, Comrade Irapakob, did mention that there was a-N40 million your leadership left in the pension account; which is the true story?

Comrade Ogba: Yes, he is correct!

NR: But it is also still being alleged that you went away with the money.

Ogba: No, no, no; I didn’t go away with any money. You know, when I was still in office, the EFCC and ICPC asked me about this money. Do you know what I did? I called our account department and told them to release our bank statements to EFCC and ICPC and whoever wants to look into them. We don’t operate without bank account.

The EFCC collected the certified true copy of our accounts statements. After about two weeks, they EFCC called me and commended me beyond measure. ICPC called me and did the same thing. I didn’t even go to them; my going to them was when they announced my resignation.

Every kobo in NULGE passes through our bank accounts; do you understand what I am saying? If you have the capacity, ask the present leadership to give you access to the account, the pensions account; everything will be glaring there. We left about thirty-something million naira in the account.

I am not moved by sentiment, I am moved by facts. Look, ICPC called me and said; look, if there are three Nigerians like you, this country will be a golden land. Every kobo that went out of NULGE’s purse was in writing and was released through a voucher. You will be shocked that when other unions were doing jaguda, one Kingsley Ogba just made sure that everything went through the right process.

In fact, let me tell you, by the time they went to the NSA (National Security Adviser), the Khaleel group, to go and see if they can use the office; because when they went to ICPC and they failed, I didn’t give anybody one naira; I swear, they went to EFCC, the plot failed; they now went to the National Security Adviser’s office with a petition. The very petition they wrote against me was brought to me by hand; I am telling you, by their oga kpatakpata; he couldn’t believe what he saw.

I am that type of person who, if you accuse me of what I didn’t do, I will just be laughing. If you ask [Comrade Ayuba] Wabba, he will tell you that Kingsley is stainless. If you ask anybody in the labour movement, believe me, [they will say the same thing…]

NR: Comrade, by the time you were President of NULGE, the Contributory Pension Scheme had kicked off with the passage of the Pension Reform Act 2004; if I may ask, why did you not enrol the union employees under the new scheme but held on to the old scheme?

That question is for me and I am going to tell you what happened. You know, this issue of this pension something is purely and strictly voluntary. If you go back to the original intention, it is not compulsory. So when I presented the matter before our staff, they said the do not want a situation where their money would be eaten up by people, and you could see this really happened before. It is true that we were among the people with stake in Trustfund Pensions Ltd; we helped at that time in setting it up but then, there was little or no confidence built as at the time when I came in, so we had to rely on our old system.

Just at the time I wanted us to move, because I had already convinced them at the level of NEC meeting, then the issue of the so-called crisis came up just to push me away because they had seen that NULGE could survive on its own with the headquarters building that my leadership built. They started fighting me and when I saw that since I became National President I had fulfilled all my promises – built the house, set up pension fund, got them to grade level 17 – the first time for local government employees – and so many other achievements, which if you go today, they will start reeling them out to you, but when you were there they will not acknowledge but when you leave they will start saying the truth; I saw that there was no need for me to start fighting and I left.

If the people who succeeded me couldn’t enrol them into the new system, then it is their own fault because we had already concluded arrangements for them to move into the Contributory Pension Scheme.

Do you know what they were doing? Just to convince people; just like what this government did when Jonathan was there; they used propaganda that we were doing this, we were doing that. Now, we have seen what happened.

NR: Did your leadership borrow from the pension fund to augment the NULGE House transaction?

Yes, we got some money from the pension fund but it wasn’t the whole money; the money we borrowed was infinitesimal, it was inconsequential, it just helped us to beef up the money for the house we bought, and we never went to that fund again to collect one naira. We also intended to repay before my tenure ended abruptly.

The people that took over from us, I don’t know what they did with the money and they started lying that we were the people who withdrew the money. The truth is that the money we took is small and it is on record. Well, the current National President was there although he was not the National Treasurer in the first four years after I left. He was the Treasurer in the last six years and by that time they may have finished that money from the account. It is the truth, I can tell you that.

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