Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar
By Linda Eroke
The Nigeria Labour Congress NLC has called on the Federal Government to overhaul the entire budget process and criminalise willful budget offences through the amendment of the Appropriation Act.
NLC President, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, who made this call weekend described the current face-off between the National Assembly and the executive on the implementation of the budget as healthy for democracy, saying that it would bring about checks and balances in the system.
Omar, who affirmed that a performing budget was necessary for the growth of the economy charged the National Assembly to continue to perform its lawmaking and oversight functions as prescribed by the constitution.
He however, advised that this should not be tainted by partisan politics especially when national interest is at stake.
The congress president further urged the state houses of assembly to “redeem their honour by resisting the lure to be governors’ rubber stamps, as a compromised state house of assembly defeats not only the principle of separation of powers but betrays the electorate”.
Omar also urged its affiliates and civil society allies to devise and put in place, budget-tracking mechanisms to monitor budgets.
Speaking further, Omar condemned the rising incidence of corruption in government and government’s ambivalence towards it warning that this is capable of destroying the nation.
He urged government to demonstrate the necessary will and skill to combat corruption in all its ramifications, especially the cases of Halliburton, Siemens, pension fund, and oil subsidy fraud among others.
He said the congress was worried over the inability of the judiciary to speedily dispense justice in high profile corruption cases, citing the cases of former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori and Ex-Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank plc, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, who were convicted in the United Kingdom (UK) with the same set of evidence that Nigerian courts could not secure conviction.
He advised the judiciary not to sacrifice justice on the altar of technicalities.
On the crude oil theft in the Niger Delta, Omar called on government take necessary action to stop the heinous crime warning that should government fail to act within a reasonable time, it will mobilise its members to stop oil production.
”The congress acknowledges that illicit activities in the form of occasional illegal bunkering and pipeline vandalism have been familiar features of oil production in the Niger-Delta but wishes to reiterate that the same cannot be said to be the situation at the moment as nearly 50 per cent of Nigeria’s crude is stolen by the high and the mighty.
“The congress is outraged by this heinous crime and calls on President Goodluck Jonathan to speedily take the necessary action(s) to stop this show of-shame. The congress warns that in the event the President fails to act within a reasonable time, it will take all the steps necessary, including mobilising its members to stop oil production,” Omar said.
Speaking further, Omar expressed concern over “the gale of de-membership of Congress from institutions and organisations in which it hitherto was a member”, citing the case of the National Industrial Court (NIC) and the proposed de-listing of NLC/Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) from the board of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
He said the National Executive Council (NEC) has given its approval to the Congress to mobilise all necessary resources to reclaim its member of the NIC.