By Victor Ahiuma-Young
THE 12th Quadrennial National Delegates Conference of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC that took place in Abuja, with the theme “Towards a Decade of Activism for the Promotion of Labour Unity, National Re-birth and Development”, will for some time to come continue to dominate the discourse in the Labour circle for several reasons.
Some of these will be discussed in subsequent edition.
Nevertheless, the conference attracted dignitaries from within and outside the country. Government officials and employers including Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA were also at the conference to fraternize with NLC.
Addressing delegates and guests, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, informed them that the theme of the conference summarized the efforts of the NLC in the past ten years to foster solidarity in the labour movement and engage government and employers on values the congress held dearly especially issues of good governance and protection of human, social cum workers’ rights.
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Struggles to free workers from exploitation
According to him: “Our leadership has led from the front in many struggles to free workers from exploitation. We have promoted and defended the economic, political, social rights and wellbeing of Nigerian workers, pensioners and our trade unions. We have fought for decent work. We have resisted casualization of work. We have canvassed for good governance at all levels, championed the fight against corruption, promoted social justice and respect for the rule of law. Overall, we have defended the cause of a Nigerian nation that is just, democratic, transparent, inclusive and prosperous – a society built on social justice and where all citizens can access education, healthcare and can create sustainable wealth.
“In defending and promoting the cause of Nigerian workers, our focus is to build workers’ power. We have worked tirelessly to promote causes that can enhance the quality of life and improve the income cum other working conditions of workers. We have paid close attention to workers’ education through our increasingly improved education programmes especially the Rain and Harmattan Schools.
“Our collective leadership has provided voice to the voiceless. As a matter of top priority, we have confronted the huge inequality gap in our society. Like they say, charity begins at home. We have expanded the platform of participation for our women and youth. For the first time in the history of Congress, we have created a democratic youth structure with visible representation at the highest organs of Congress. We have also strived towards the attainment of gender equality and improvements in the conditions of women in the world of work and society in general. We have encouraged our affiliates to emulate this.”
The NLC president reminded his listeners that the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, report for the third quota of 2018 indicated that the general number of persons unemployed in the country had increased by 3.3 million.
He said : “The report further indicates that the combined rate of unemployment and under-employment rose from 40.0% in the 2017 third quarter to 43.3% in the third quarter of 2018. We should be worried that the increased pool of graduates, skilled and unskilled youth in the unemployment market especially rural unemployment is a time bomb. Any attempt to sack workers under any guise as it happened in Kaduna State will complicate the situation.
In 2016 we witnessed an 80% increase in the pump price of refined petroleum products. Our national currency, the Naira, also suffered massive devaluation of up to one hundred and twenty percent (120%) between 2016 and 2017. The resultant inflation has almost entirely wiped off the purchasing power of workers and citizens. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in Nigeria soared to a record high of 23.01% in the third quarter of 2018.
“The over dependence of our economy on crude oil revenue and the mismanagement of our vast oil wealth through corruption perpetrated by successive governments continue to expose us to severe shocks from price fluctuation in the international crude oil market. This was how we landed in the last recession. While we commend the efforts of the current government on economic diversification particularly through agriculture, we are not unmindful of serious structural issues that undermine the progress being made, deeply limit inclusive growth and impact negatively on sustainable development. We will therefore continue to call on government to pay serious attention to these issues.”