INDICATIONS have emerged that the new members of the National Administrative Council, NAC of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, put in place on March 3rd at the just concluded 10th National Delegates Conference, appeared to be in n a hurry to put behind the past memories of the past four years of general consensus that NLC did live up to expectations and return congress to a pro-people movement.
Labour Vanguard that at the maiden meeting of the newly elected NAC, one of the decisions reached was to hold a leadership retreat in the shortest possible time, to appraise the last four years of congress, identify areas of failures, weaknesses, what was responsible for those failures and weaknesses, as well a putting in place a mechanism to address challenges that may arise as a result of government and employers’ policies.
The bashing of congress
In the last four years, many observers, analysts, critics and even allies of NLC were unanimous that NLC appeared to have become so docile that it could be argued that congress abandoned the pouplist and pro-people stance it was identified with and which endeared congress to Nigerians. A very vocal voice at the just concluded conference about Nigerians’ disappointment to the increasing care free attitude of organised labour represented by NLC, to anti-people’s policies of governments and employers, was that of the immediate past President of NLC and governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Addressing delegates and other guests at the conference, Comrade Oshiomhole said “Comrade President, your voice has not been loud enough and the voice of organized labour has been too silent. When FG decided to import vehicles that are 15 years old at a time when the world reward businessmen and organizations that are ready to recycle old products, where was the NLC? We are opening our ports for Nigeria to become a dumping ground for vehicles that are 15 years old. That policy is not patriotic, it is anti-Nigeria, anti-production and it is poverty induced policy and NLC must stand to reject that policy. If you do the workers in Peugeot automobile will smile. We refuse to accept that all we want to do is to be importing and have to be importing products Europe has difficulties as to what to do with their used vehicles. Nigeria cannot be a dumping ground for used vehicles. NLC voice must be loud in condemning the policies the that 12 years of democracy Nigeria is celebrating importation of petroleum products, exporting skills to Europe and importing poverty into the land. Labour must rise to say enough is enough. Comrades, we must tell them, we must speak beyond rhetoric. Labour must rise to say no. You must reinforce the prohibition.”
Few weeks earlier, former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Dr.Timiebi Koripamo-Agary at the 70th birth celebration of the pioneer president of NLC, Alhaji Hassan Sunmonu, lamented that NLC was fast losing its populist appeal.
According to her,“I refuse to accept that the expected voice died with the exit of its erstwhile leadership. Not even in the matter of fuel subsidy have I read about a consistent position and voice of the leadership of Nigerian Workers. Where was the NLC at the trying moments of the country, when it took the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) to bring pressure to bear on those institutions that we all helped to create and establish to come up with ‘the doctrine of necessity’, that finally saved this nation from falling over the precipice? Why was NLC not visible, leading the struggle or in partnership with SNG to save Nigeria? Why was NLC so quiet at a time it mattered most that they mobilized and spoke for us the people? Whose interest was the leadership protecting by this unfortunate silence?”
Dr. Agary, called on congress to “buckle up and get back the momentum to redeem the high image of labour and meet the expectation of the people. We expect our leaders to rise up to the occasion and defend our interest. This requires leadership that is in touch, active and alive to their responsibilities to workers of Nigeria irrespective of where they are whether in the public or private sector and beyond the collection of check off dues.”
NLC plans leadership retreat
Obviously uncomfortable with the toga of non-performance, the new leaders of NLC, Labour Vanguard gathered, have resolved to return the congress back to a populist movement that addresses the needs and aspirations of Nigerians and workers in particular.
At its inaugural NAC meeting, the new leaders of to hold a leadership retreat to prepare working document to guide its operations and activities for the next four years, bearing in mind unforseen and unpredictable government and employers policies.
Labour Vanguard gathered that the retreat is being sponsored by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, FES.
Some of the issues that should be of interest to the leaders of congress in this retreat are the alarming rate of casualisation of workers by employers. Employers penchant for non-pensionable employees with all the hazards attached, industrial dictatorship where workers are denied the right to form and join union should be a major focus of the retreat because of its implication union membership and solidarity.
Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, the re-elected President of NLC, may have this in mind during his address at conference, when he said: “While the Labour Movement has been alive to its responsibilities and lived up to expectations, the fact is that it needs transformation into an efficient fighting force that will hold employers and government accountable under the constitution, our laws and international conventions. We need to build a new Labour that will be proactive rather than tail events, and that can serve as a catalyst in national transformation. Towards this end, Congress will in the next four years -concentrate on organising and mobilizing, collective bargaining, assisting unions to build capacity and tackling the challenges of casualisation and violation of workers’ rights. We shall also set up a Solidarity Fund for strikes, local and international solidarity while also ensuring that the integrity and independence of Congress is protected. Comrades, the basis of trade unionism is unity and solidarity and these twin pillars of our Movement must be strengthened. We are also known for internal democracy which includes holding our organ meetings regularly, being transparent and accountable, abiding by decisions reached collectively and conducting elections as and when due.