By Linda Eroke
Workers in the civil engineering and construction industry have commended the decision of the Federal Government to revoke the concession agreement granted Bi-Courtney Highway Services for the expansion, repair and maintenance of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
President Goodluck Jonathan had last week re-awarded the contract for the repair and maintenance of the Expressway to Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and RCC.
Responding to the cancellation, the workers, under the auspices of the National Union of Civil Engineering, Construction, Furniture and Wood Workers (NUCECFWW), said the revocation has been long overdue; given that the concession agreement was granted four years ago without any visible work being done by Bi-Courtney on the Expressway.
The union’s General Secretary, Mr. Babatunde Liadi, explained that the company refused to commence any repair or maintenance on the road, while the road continues to be a death trap, killing and maiming many Nigerians and giving room to hoodlums and armed robbers to use the bad portions of the expressway to perpetrate their heinous acts.
The union spokesman however, condemned the deplorable state of roads across the country, calling on governments at all levels to embark on repairs and maintenance of roads and other infrastructural facilities without further delay.
On the Subsidy Re-Investment Programme (SURE-P), wherefrom state governments receive allocations for infrastructures and other developmental projects announced by the federal government in the wake of the fuel hike/fuel subsidy crises in January 2012, Liadi expressed regret that this allocation has not positively impacted on the infrastructure in many states.
The union scribe therefore demanded that all state governments’ must publish in Nigeria media projects executed with these allocations specifically.
Liadi further lamented the refusal of governments, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to pay for construction jobs that have been completed, noting that this singular action has stifled development in the civil engineering and construction sector and the nation’s economy as a whole.
“Governments, especially states and local governments as well as MDAs are withholding payment for contracts that have been certified completed, and this has really affected our employers and in turn affected our members who are being sacked everyday due to redundancy as there was no money to pay for their salaries and emoluments.
“This has also led to high rate of abandoned projects in the country as the construction companies can no longer muzzle the financial wherewithal for the payment for raw materials, labour and maintenance of machinery for the completion of the jobs,” he said.
The union leader, who frowned at the continuous casualisation of workers in the industry, said that non-payment for certified completed projects also contributed to increasing the rate of casualisation and unemployment in the country.
He called on employers involved in the casualisation and contract practices to respect the country’s labour laws, the international labour standards and conventions guiding casualisation and contract employment, as well as collective bargaining agreement.
He warned that as from January 2013, the union would tackle the casualisation and other anti-labour practices by any employer in the industry.
Liadi also noted that the tax burden on Nigerian workers is still unacceptable, calling on the government to further increase the tax relief to the workers, as the present tax relief is not commensurate to the tax paid by the workers.
On insecurity, he frowned at the general state of insecurity in the country, especially influx of fire arms and bombs, killings and community strives, among others, which made Nigeria to have gradually descended to break down of law and order wherein Nigerians are losing faith and trust in the government.
He therefore, recommended total overhaul of the Nigeria Police Force through decent and professional recruitment, training, empowerment, saying that emphasis should be placed on intelligence, surveillance and adequate policing (not excluding community policing), adequate funding of police force and employment creation to reduce or eliminate crimes.