By Our Reporters
ABUJA— ORGANISED Labour, yesterday in Abuja, warned that unemployment, corruption and insecurity were undermining Nigeria’s stability and continued existence as a nation and demanded decisive and immediate action towards addressing these challenges.
President Goodluck Jonathan on his part admitted that his administration has not done enough on job creation and corruption, among other challenges facing the nation.
Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterpart, also expressed their support for government amnesty programme for the Boko Haram sect and called on the sect to embrace peace and dialogue.
At the national May Day celebration at the Eagle Square, Abuja, Jonathan, however, noted that in spite of the challenges facing the country, the country is making steady progress in some sectors of the economy to address unemployment.
We are making progress — Jonathan
His words: “The Nigerian workers are an important part of our history, that is why we are leaving no stone unturned to ensure practical improvement of welfare of all workers both in the private and the public sectors.
“Since the advent of this administration, our actions and policies have been geared towards placing the country on the path of sustainable progress, where everyone can better achieve his or her dream. That is the thrust of our transformation agenda.
“The transformation agenda is about taking and implementing measures today in order to give our people a brighter tomorrow. It is about creating jobs, creating wealth and ensuring better deal for Nigerians. This is an onerous task and requires the support of all citizens of this great country. Central to this transformation, is the creation of a political and stable environment which economic development activities will flourish. To this end, we are strengthening our democratic institutions and confronting the challenges facing our country with great determination and firmness.
“Labour has been in the forefront for the demand of good governance and increased action against corruption and these issues are being vigorously tackled from various fronts. Prosecutions are being pursued in matters arising from petroleum subsidy fraud. Embezzlement of pension fund and other serious long-standing malpractices have been demystified by this administration.
“Given that some of these perpetrators are senior and junior members of labour unions, greater attention to peer review action on the part of labour will be much more appreciated.
“As a result of our economic policies, there has been significant improvement in our economic fundamentals. Our economy grew by about 6.6% last year and it is set to grow at a similar pace this year. Considering the global economic recession, the projected growth of 6.6 is quite significant. We have further reduced our fiscal deficit in the 2012 budget to 1.8% of GDP and cut domestic borrowing. We have rebalanced our spending in favour of capital expenditure, the rate of inflation also dropped to a single digit territory at the beginning of this year at a time many advanced and emerging markets are being downgraded. Our sovereign credit rating has been upgraded.
“We are, however, not unmindful of the fact that the ultimate benefit of this current result must reflect in the lives of the citizens. I agree totally that until we create jobs, until Nigerians can wake up and find food to eat, until Nigerians who are sick can walk to the hospitals and get treatment, the economic indices may not mean much to us.
The challenges facing Nigeria — NLC
Addressing workers, employers and government officials, NLC president Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, lamented that there were myriads of issues affecting national development, especially unemployment, insecurity and corruption.
Omar said: “Today, the country is faced by a monumental unemployment problem. Official statistics put the national unemployment rate at approximately 24 per cent. As high as this rate is, it nevertheless camouflages the enormity of the unemployment crisis in the country. If unemployment and disguised unemployment were to be added to the figure, the monumental crisis will become more glaring.
“With an estimated 80 million youths in the total population, 30 to 40 million unemployed youths constitute a veritable army of the hungry and the disillusioned that can undermine the stability, security and peace of any nation if left unattended.
“There is an urgent need for decisive intervention to tackle the unemployment problem. The signal of strife and insecurity today are warning banners we cannot afford to ignore. To overcome the problem of unemployment, Nigeria must promote strong industrial policies that recognize manufacturing as a key engine of growth and decent mass employment for the national economy.
“The federal government must urgently initiate a range of measures to revive and project labour-intensive industries like textiles, food and beverages, construction, iron and steel sectors, and others.”
He also decried the level of insecurity plaguing national development and asked the government to step-up strategies to drastically reduce the appalling situation.
According to him: “Today, Nigeria faces severe, comprehensive and total security challenges that threaten its survival. In other word, we have on our hands a clear and present danger that needs an urgent and well thought-out solution if we must continue to remain as a nation. From the North to the South and from the East to the West, the nation is gripped in throes of unprecedented violence.
“Daily, innocent and ordinary people are slaughtered in numbers either in incidents of armed robbery, assassinations, kidnappings, arson, communal clashes or bombings, sectarian skirmishes and related acts of violence with a telling effect in every facet of our life as a nation.
”The bonds that hold us together are being weakened. Our productive capacity is similarly diminishing. There is a feeling of loss of identity. We are scared and disfigured. As the nation lies prostrate, we are all shocked. But much more worrying is the inexorable loss of humanity, both murderers and their victims.
“As we have stated earlier, the effects of insecurity on us as a people and as a nation is multi-dimensional and grave. Slowly but surely the nation is being shut down, infrastructure destroyed and lives wasted. There is resurgence of ethnic and regional fervor, displacement, capital fight, increase in expenditure on security and at the expense of other more pressing needs.
Backs amnesty for Boko Haram
“However, we at the congress have an unshakeable faith in the indivisibility and sovereignty of Nigeria. We believe it has enough space and resources for the expression of our individual and collective dreams and endeavours.
“In the light of the foregoing, we call on the government to muster the necessary will and wisdom to tackle these security challenges. In furtherance of these, we throw our weight behind the on-going efforts to workout an amnesty programme with the Boko Haram sect. For such a programme to be successful, however members of the sect must first and foremost embrace dialogue and negotiations.
“We therefore call on the members of Boko Haram to lay down their arms and step out for reconciliation talks. Nigeria is their country and its dismemberment or destruction, in our view, offers no way forward for any of us,” Omar stated.
President-General of the Trade Union Congress, Peter Esele, called on the Federal Government to overhaul its security network.
“We condemn all the bombings and the other acts of violence in the land. The security crisis has lasted for too long, be it in the Niger Delta, the West, the East, the North or the Middle Belt. It is simply not good for this country.”
The Boko Haram insurgency and the renewed violence by some militants in the Niger Delta appear to have overwhelmed the government’s security apparatus. Nevertheless, while one should ordinarily not subscribe to negotiating with any group involved in acts of crime, we should always be careful not to be too judgmental.
“The amnesty option offered the Boko Haram sect should therefore be seen from a very positive angle of returning our country to the path of peace and progress.
“Indeed justice is perhaps the only thing that can guarantee lasting security. And this goes beyond the justice of the courts. It includes the justice of taking care of the families of security personnel who lost their lives in the bid to maintain peace and security in the country. It includes providing some measure of welfare package for the destitute and needy on a regular periodic basis. It includes creating an atmosphere of equal opportunity for all to succeed and excel in life.
“We are losing the battle against corruption. The scourge has become so endemic that it has constituted the single most important factor in our failure to develop appreciably. It has killed many of our industries. It has destroyed various aspects of our national life. And it is now threatening to kill our government. The anti-corruption agencies appear to be getting overwhelmed and some may even be backsliding from their avowed cause.
“It is true that the government has a primary responsibility of arresting corruption and expelling it from our midst, but each and every one of us also has a role to play in achieving this desirable feat.”