By Funmi Komolafe, Victor Ahiuma- Young & Dan Emeribe
May 1; workers day was an opportunity for union leaders to state the views of workers on a number of issues.Â The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress did not fall short of this expectation.
Labour Vanguard shares with readers, some the view expressed by the NLC president, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar and TUC president, Comrade Peter Esele. It is the first part of an edited series.
The president of the NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar addressed these issues during the annual May Day rally .
The performance ofÂ the labourÂ movement – â€œIf there is anything to be proud of at all, it has to be the history of our movement; the heroism of men and women in our movement who in collaboration with various patriotic allies have ensured that the excesses of members of the ruling class have, to some degree, been checked.
Our movement has been in the forefront of defending democracy in our country. We are proud ofÂ our struggle for democracy in our country.
Electoral Reform: One of the reasons for the failure of political leadership in our country is the way in which political leaders emerge. Our history shows that the majority of those in political leadership arrived there through a heavily flawed electoral process.
This is why the country as a whole has been clamoring for electoral reform. In more specific terms, we demand the implementation of these fundamental recommendations, among others, as suggested by the Uwais Committee.Â . The NLC in partnership with its civil society coalition partners demands that the Uwais recommendations on this matter MUST be faithfully implemented.
We want to urge all Nigerians to stand with the NLC in demanding and ensuring that these and other reforms are carried out by government before the next general elections. The NLC will mobilise the entire country to ensure that no stone is left unturned in securing the needed reforms.
In this regard, the NLC wishes to congratulate the government and people of Edo State under the leadership of Cde Adams Oshiomhole for kick-starting the process of mobilisation for One Man/Woman, One Vote on 29th April, 2010 in Benin City.
Corruption: WeÂ use this opportunity to urge government under Mr. Ag. President to re-invent the process of combating corruption in Nigeria. We urge Mr. Ag. President to remove whatever is responsible for the perceived lethargy in the EFCC in pursuing a genuine and credible anti-corruption agenda. We urge stricter and a more vigorous prosecution of those accused of corruption by the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria.
In this regard, we urge Mr. Ag. President to get to the bottom of the corruption involved in the contract for the construction of the second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. Runways are no more than fortified roads used by vehicles.
It is mind boggling to understand how the sum of N65 billion could have been approved for building a runway which, from our investigations, should have cost much less than N6 billion. Those involved in this monumental fraud must be brought to book.
In this regard, we want to reiterate that nobody, even if he/she were a former president of the republic can be above the law. The mobilisation of private armies by individuals accused of corruption to defend themselves against arrest, investigation and prosecution must therefore never be countenanced by government.
Government must educate local communities that a public office holder who steals public funds is as much their enemy as he/she is of the entire people of Nigeria. No public office holder steals public funds on behalf of, or, in the name of hisÂ ethnic group. The resort to the mobilisation of ethnic sentiments in defence of the crime of corruption must be treated as an addition to the original crime for which the individual stands accused.
Halting the slide into anarchy – We are aware and have spoken repeatedly about the need for the political leadership to rethink citizenship and citizen rights in the country. All Nigerians must be able to assume and exercise full citizenship rights in any part of the country provided they have lived there for a prescribed, certainly not more than 5 years, period of time. The idea of settler versus indigene and the different rights that are provided to each category in our constitution cannot help the process of building a strong, united Nigeria.
In addition, the response of government to the crisis has usually fallen short of expectations and thus led to accusations of bias. The political leadership must wake up to the task of nation building by responding impartially, quickly and justly in these situations. We urge government and its security agencies to rise to the occasion.
We do not accept a situation where ordinary citizens who are already overburdened with providing their own electricity, education, hea
lth, roads and water to take on the additional responsibility of providing their own security
POWER-Â We believe that a more viable path is to have a substantive Minister for the Ministry who will then also be given specific and clear goals about what needs to be achieved within a specified time frame. Such a Minister can be fired if he / she fails to meet set goalsâ€.
Majority of Nigerians still poor – TUC
Speaking for the Trade Union Congress; the second labour centre, its president, Comrade Peter Esele also spoke on these issues among others.
INSECURITY: â€˜â€™Perhaps Rimi would have survived the attack; the fact that he had to wait outside the Teaching hospital, for 15 minutes for a stretcher to convey a former governor even on self recognition to the ward did a great damage to his condition before help could get to him. This then leaves little to our imagination the treatment that ordinary Nigerians receive daily from our so-called hospitals majority of which are in very deplorable state.Â It is our prayer that he finds the political will power to pursue this decision to a logical conclusion.
POWER SECTOR REFORM:
Anything less than putting an end to this era of an economy driven largely by generator will amount to squandering the international goodwill and attention the power sector reforms have attracted.
2010 BUDGET:Â The budget was signed amidst wide speculation that the Federal Government has taken a loan of $915 million from the Word Bank, out of which $179 million would be drawn in the 2010 fiscal year ostensibly to finance the budget deficit of N1.52 trillion. The question is why borrow more money and increase the countyâ€™s indebtedness, when already a total of N463.1 billion in the budget will be used for debt servicing, while 33.9 billion is for servicing foreign debt.
STANDARD OF LIVING: The standard of living of the majority has been a case of â€˜hand to mouth.â€™ Poverty and crime are rampant on the back of unemployment in excess of 50 percent. Despite promises by successive governments, the country remains in darkness due to lack of power, stifling the growth and investment that are so badly needed to create jobs and lift people out of poverty. We started our journey of independence about the same time as countries like Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, to name a few. All these countries have long overtaken us despite our oil wealth.
EDUCATION : The education sector has not fared any better. Although the mass entry of the private sector into this industry has mopped up excess demand, however, investment in public schools continues to fall short of required standards.
Once upon a time, Nigeria had just six or so universities that were centers of excellence. Now we have over 100 higher institutions, the majority of them empty shells, with no facilities or libraries worthy of the status of a university or a research centre and all of this compounded by incessant teachersâ€™ strikes. Is it any surprise that a good number of our educational institutions are churning out half- baked graduates in their thousands, with little or no prospect of gainful employment?
This administration must go beyond words in his fight against corruption by ensuring that all those whose fingers are in the till are brought to justice. There is no other way to prove this, except by prosecuting those involve in the N27Billion Halliburton contract scandal.
OIL AND GAS SECTOR : We are of the opinion that the N340 billion paid as subsidy that 20 per cent of this amount is laced with fraud and inefficiency. This amount can be recovered if a comprehensive audit of the Template used by Petroleum Product Pricing RegulatoryÂ Agency(PPPRA) to effect payment to the importers of Petroleum Product is carriedÂ out.
LIVING AND MOTIVATING WAGES : . In the last 5months negotiations between the tripartite actors (Labour, Government Employers), on the need for a new minimum wage was held, and after all the various presentations it was finally agreed that the new minimum wage will be N18, 000.00.
We are however surprised to learn of government offer of 10 per cent increase for civil servants while the police and other servicesÂ got between 60 to 100 per cent.
NIGER DELTA AMNESTY PROGRAMME:Â We commend the on-going amnesty programme in Niger Delta and the efforts so far to rehabilitate all the ex-militants of the Niger-Delta through creation of employment opportunities for all the unemployed youths, who would not become restive if they are gainfully engaged. It is noteworthy that the federal Government has realized that using military option as solution for the crisis in the region is unsustainable and unviable.â€