BY VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
NIGERIA Labour Congress, NLC, yesterday asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, to investigate President Goodluck Jonathan’s alleged criminal wastage of public funds to hold fake meetings in a desperate bid to get endorsement for anti-people removal of oil subsidy.
The call for probe maybe unconnected to the controversy trailing a purported meeting the Federal Government held with some unnamed labour leaders on Wednesday to woo them to back the planned removal of subsidy from fuel, after the leadership of NLC and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, directed their affiliates not to attend the controversial meeting.
On Thursday most media reports said labour labour boycotted the controversial meeting called by the Labour Minister on Thursday, but few reported that the meeting held with ferw unnamed labour leaders in attendance..
However, NLC in a statement yesterday, said the level of desperation to get Nigerians to support the anti-people removal of oil subsidy was “apparent in the expenditure of our collective wealth to sponsor faceless groups like the Campaign Against Waste Management whose full page adverts pollute the environment.”
The statement by NLC Acting General Secretary, Comrade Owei Lakemfa, said “Just on Thursday October 20, 2011 following the boycott of a so called town hall between the Labour Minister and trade unions, the Ministry resorted to holding an imaginary meeting with “Labour Leaders” rather than call off the meeting in the face of Labour’s total boycott of the meeting, Ministry officials assembled staff from ministries and presented them as the country’s Labour Leaders.
To complete this farcical drama, the Minister of Labour in between wiping off fountains of dripping sweat from his brows in a rather comical manner, proceeded to read a long address preaching the benefits of fuel subsidy removal. This melodrama ended with the fake Labour Leaders praising government’s steps to remove fuel subsidy and further impoverish the populace. Labour Unions are well known in the country and their Leaders identifiable, it is therefore a puzzle that the Labour Ministry would spend public funds paying imaginary Labour Leaders.”
“The holding of a fake meeting by a whole Ministry is a reminiscence of the General Sani Abacha regime which continuously faked meetings and communiqué and ended up using huge sums of money from the public treasury to pay fictitious participants. The NLC had on September 15, 2011 cautioned the Labour Minister when in the name of an “interactive session” with Labour on “issues of mutual interest” he had tried to railroad the leadership of the NLC and Trade Union Congress to a meeting with the Petroleum Minister in a vain attempt to get labour to endorse the fuel subsidy gambit.
For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state that Labour is not aversed to any meeting with the Federal Government, its ministers or agents, what we object to is the use of deceit. If we have a proper invitation with a clear agenda even if it be to discuss or debate the anti-people programme of subsidy removal, the Labour movement will attend. But we will not attend meetings called in the name of resolving industrial relations disputes or trying to balkanize the Labour Movement.”
The statement added “The NLC commends the Labour Leaders and their members for boycotting the parley just as the NLC and TUC had in September 2011 boycotted the parley with the Petroleum Minister. The unions boycott shows that the Labour Movement in the country is led by principled and disciplined people who cannot be enticed to betray the populace. We demand that the President Goodluck Jonathan administration puts a stop to this criminal waste of public funds and ask anti-corruption agencies like the EFCC and ICPC to investigate this criminal wastage of public funds.”