…President already acknowledged it—Presidency
By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
LAGOS—ORGANISED Labour, yesterday, declared 2017 as the most difficult year for Nigerians especially workers in recent history, saying Nigerians faced series of daunting socio-economic and security challenges, despite hope that the year would offer succor for them.
Speaking through the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, the Organised Labour in separate New Year messages vowed to make government accountable in 2018, demanding that the National Minimum Wage Committee set up by the Federal Government should conclude everything concerning the new wage on or before the end of the second quarter of 2018.
Meanwhile, a presidency source contacted on the development, yesterday, said that there was nothing to add to the hardship experienced in 2017 because the President had himself said the same thing when he received the FCT Community during the Christmas Holiday.
“It is not anything new. The president himself said it when he received the Christian Community during the recent Christmas Holiday, so there is nothing new to it,” the source said.
NLC in its message through its President, Ayuba Wabba, entitled “We Shall Hold Government Accountable in The New Year,” congratulated Nigerian workers and pensioners for their resilience in surviving and pulling through the year 2017, which proved to be one of the most difficult for most Nigerians in recent history.
Wabba noted that the previous year saw the working people, pensioners and other Nigerians faced series of daunting socio-economic and security challenges, “even though we had hoped that the year would offer succour for the masses of the people.”
He said: “The deplorable economic situation in the outgone year is aptly captured by the statistics recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, which indicated that over four million Nigerians lost their jobs in 2017. Against the background of the campaign promise of the ruling APC government to create three million jobs annually, this statistics from the NBS underscores the grave and depressing situation of the Nigerian economic landscape in 2017.
“Despite the huge revenue that the states have received through the Federal Government intervention funds to clear arrears of unpaid salaries and pensions in many states of the federation, coupled with additional payment of three tranches of windfall, (Paris Club debt refunds), states such as Kogi, Osun, Benue, Ekiti, Bayelsa and several others entered 2018 with huge arrears spanning up to 10 or more months of wages and pensions. Under these conditions, Nigerian workers, pensioners and their families remained the most despondent group in an economy that even the well-to-do are groaning and struggling to survive.
“No wonder, our country is one of the worst, known for having many hungry people in the world according to the World Hunger Index report 2017.”
Similarly, TUC through its President Bobboi Kaigama, said: “Truly the pain we bear is a needless one and we all shall work to correct the anomalies in 2018. While we also laud governments at all level for a number of successes recorded, it is instructive that the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria states here unequivocally that Nigerian workers have not only lost their jobs in millions but many even committed suicide when they could no longer fend for their families.
It is no news that pensioners (our senior servants) who served this country meritoriously die on a daily basis, even at verification locations throughout the country. Though their pension is not paid yet , they are burdened to feed their graduate children who are yet to get jobs five years after graduation…
“We are worried by the astronomic rate factories close shop in Nigeria and the billions spent on medical tourism. There was a report recently decrying the spate at which our medical experts flee the country. Nigerians are brought back from Libya lame, blind, abused. As an organization we do not blame Libyans. We blame our leaders who have failed to provide the basic things of life. What about our young graduates who have now become prostitutes, political thugs, ritual killings and other criminal activities?”
On expectations for the New Year, Wabba, urged the Federal Government to address energy challenges, insecurity, and hoped that the new minimum wage will be handled urgently.
“Following the recent inauguration of the tripartite National Minimum Wage Negotiating Committee by President Buhari, it is the expectation of Nigerian workers that the committee under the chairmanship of Ms Ama Pepple, former Head of Service of the Federation, will expeditiously conclude its assignment.
This is because a new national minimum wage has been due for over a year now. It is also our expectation that upon completion of negotiations, the National Assembly will give the executive bill that will emerge, an accelerated passage for the new national minimum wage to become a reality before the end of the 3rdquarter of 2018.”
For TUC, it demanded that “The National Minimum Wage Committee set up by the Federal Government should conclude everything concerning the new wage on or before the end of the second quarter of 2018. All state governments should pay all outstanding salaries and allowances to workers before the end of the first quarter in 2018.
All corrupt political officials should face the music, irrespective of their political affiliations. No more soft landings for any body found to have looted the country. Congress can no longer accommodate this perennial fuel scarcity, especially during the yuletide or any other time. If it happens we will direct and mobilise our members all over the country to abandon their cars on major roads.”