President Goodluck Jonathan
•Rallies held amidst tight security
•NLC backs amnesty for Boko Haram
Organised labour in the country has been charged to put its house in order by ridding its ranks of members who are involved in deals adjudged to be corrupt and erodes the federal government’s effort to checkmate graft.
President Goodluck Jonathan made the appeal yesterday at the centenary Workers’ Day celebrations at the Eagle Square, Abuja, in reaction to charges of corruption levelled against the government by leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Abdul-Waheed Omar and Peter Esele respectively.
This is just as Workers’ Day rallies were held in several states of the federation amid tight security, with calls by the labour unions that the federal government should not relent in its efforts to improve the security situation in northern Nigeria by forging ahead in its bid to offer amnesty to members of Boko Haram.
At the Workers’ Day rally in Abuja, the president reiterated that the government’s transformation agenda was on course and working as a fundamental goal “geared towards placing the country on the path of sustainable progress where everyone can better achieve his or her dream.”
He reminded the unions that some of those alleged to have embezzled pension funds, engaged in the petroleum subsidy scamand other underhand deals, and have been arraigned in courts, are members of organised labour, which constantly prevail on government to tackle the problem.
“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,” Jonathan remarked.
He noted that: “Labour has been in the forefront of the demand for 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 the petroleum subsidy fraud, embezzlement of pension funds and other serious long-standing malpractices demystified by this administration.”
According to the president, who outlined the efforts his administration was making to address various problems in the country, “the transformation agenda is on course with a clear vision to tailor budgetary expenditure in favour of capital spending thus resulting in a drop in the rate of inflation.
“As a result of our economic policies, there has been a significant improvement in our economic fundamentals. Our economy grew by about 6.6 per cent last year and it is set to grow at a similar pace this year,” adding that the projected growth was quite significant and would lead up to a reduction of the fiscal deficit in the 2013 budget to 1.8 per cent of GDP.
He said the administration was working towards providing food, health and jobs for Nigerians through various intervention schemes intended to benefit them while at the same time upgrading power supply, roads rehabilitation, agricultural productivity and others.
“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 sick Nigerians can walk to the hospitals and get treatment, the economic indices may not mean much to us,” he said.
“We are also focused on economic inclusion with an articulated strategy targeting the disadvantaged and unemployed in our society with economic opportunities in agriculture, entrepreneurial support, graduate employment and unskilled job programmes.
“We are also building robust safety net programmes targeting pregnant mothers and children in the health sector and creating jobs through the You-Win programme,” he added.
On its part, the NLC threw its weight behind the amnesty efforts of the government for members of the Boko Haram sect to stem the tide of insecurity in the country.
Speaking at the rally, Omar in Abuja lamented that Nigeria faces severe security challenges that threaten its survival.
He urged the sect to lay down its arms and accept reconciliation talks as “Nigeria is also their country and its dismemberment or destruction offers no way forward for anyone.
“Our productive capacity is similarly diminishing. There is a feeling of loss of identity. We are scared and disfigured, as the nation lies prostate and we are shell shocked.
“But more worrying than all of this is our inexorable loss of humanity, both by the murderers and their victims.”
Omar urged the government to take the fight against corruption seriously, but described as “unfortunate” the recent pardon granted former Bayelsa State Governor, Deprieye Alamieyeseigha.
Esele, in his address, also appealed to Boko Haram to accept the effort at granting amnesty by the federal government.
He however noted that the government must find a middle ground between amnesty and justice.
“There can be no security no matter the amnesty or negotiations. What will you tell the policemen who were murdered in Bayelsa? What will you tell Christians who were blown up while worshipping in their churches? What will you tell the people of Baga?” he queried.
He also advocated an overhaul of the nation's security system, especially in terms of intelligence gathering and building a computerised database of criminals no matter how small the crime.
Esele, who made his last appearance as president of the TUC, accused the nation's judiciary of aiding corruption by granting frivolous injunctions and controversial judgments.
Commenting on the economic indices churned out by the president, Esele said the indices make no sense if they do not translate to better living standards for Nigerian workers.
There were goodwill messages by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Emeka Wogu; Minister of State for FCT, Chief Jumoke Akinjide and other allies of the labour movement.
During the march past, the unions bore banners with various messages reading “INEC, Obey Court Order, Allow your Staff to Unionise”, “Recapitalise Bank of Industry, Ministry of Finance”, “Re-open Closed Factories, Create Millions of Jobs”, “Women Issues are Labour Issues” and “NUT, Leave Unity Schools Alone”, among others.
In his remarks in commemoration of the Workers’ Day, Senate President David Mark advised Nigerian workers to boost the economy and bring prosperity to the nation through commitment to production.
In a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Paul Mumeh, the senate president said only a productive nation could feed its citizens, raise per capital income and maintain acceptable standard of living for the people.
Mark reminded workers that a consuming nation without a corresponding productive sector would be unhealthy in today's world as he expressed appreciation to Nigerian workers for their contributions to the economy and urged them to continue to collaborate with government in the task of developing the nation.
“The task of developing the economy is not the prerogative of those in government, it is a collective effort of all. It is not an issue of government on one side and workers at the opposing end. Everyone is a stakeholder in the task of making Nigeria a better place,” he said.
Mark also urged workers to avoid frequent strikes, describing them as counterproductive "because at the end of the day, we still return to the table for dialogue.”
He emphasised the commitment of the National Assembly towards people-oriented legislation, stating: “We are there for the people, we cannot do anything outside their interest or consideration.”
Fashola: Doctors’ Strike Claimed 16 in Lagos
In Lagos, Governor Babatunde Fashola disclosed during the May Day rally, which was held at the Onikan Stadium, that the doctors’ strike, which lasted for more than three months last year, claimed no fewer than 16 lives.
In his address to workers, the governor also disclosed that more than 6,000 medical appointments, which could have saved lives, were arbitrarily cancelled, thereby leading to the loss of 16 lives that could have been saved.
He urged the labour unions to de-emphasise the use of industrial action in order to ensure industrial peace, and appealed to them to teem up with governments at all levels in order to confront and solve socio-economic issues that pose grave challenges to the country.
He lamented the consequence of industrial action on the national development, citing the 2012 doctors’ strike in the state, which claimed 16 lives and over 6,000 appointments cancelled.
“During the last doctors’ strike in Lagos, over 6,000 appointments were cancelled and 16 lives were lost. After the strike, we paid arrears, but those who died cannot be revived.
“Since the last strike embarked upon by teachers, the percentage of students who passed SSCE in the state has increased drastically,” he said.
The governor cautioned against the use of industrial action as a means of resolving industrial disputes, noting that strike “should be the last resort when all efforts have failed to yield the required answer. A strike should not be called because the management committee of the union is angry with the employers.”
NLC Cancels Rally in Kano
In Kano, the state council of the NLC Wednesday cancelled the workers’ day rally as part of the security measures put in place by the labour unions as a result of the security challenges confronting the state.
The state Chairman of NLC, Isa Yunusa Danguguwa, said: “We are celebrating with a low profile, with a limited number of workers representation and without the march past parade as it was done in previous years.”
He said the decision was not unconnected to the security challenges in Kano State.
“Hence we decided to limit our celebrations this year and we could only visit hospitals to pray and greet patients and children’s homes as the only activity earmarked for the celebration,” he added.
Low Turnout in Ebonyi
The Workers’ Day celebration in Ebonyi State was marred by low turnout of both workers and government officials in the state.
THISDAY observed that the Abakaliki township stadium, venue of the ceremony, was sparse as both government officials and workers were not at the celebrations.
Some workers, who spoke on the issue, attributed the low turnout to poverty and hunger caused by the non-payment of national minimum wage to the workers by the state government, although the government claims to have implemented the wage structure.
However, workers in the state appealed to the state government to provide them with land, a utility vehicle, the establishment of an insurance scheme and housing units for workers to enable them discharge their responsibilities efficiently.
NULGE Shuns May Day in Ondo
Members of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Ondo State Council, Wednesday shunned the May Day celebrations held at the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Arcade in Akure, the state capital.
Though the state chairman of the union, Ayo Omoregie, refused to comment on the absence of the union at the rally, THISDAY gathered that the action of the union might not be unconnected to the ongoing screening of workers in the state civil service.
While local government workers and primary school teachers who have passed the screening had been paid their salaries up to February 2013, those who have not completed the screening had not been paid since December 2012.
While the NLC through its state chairman, Bosede Daramola, expressed the support of the congress for the verification exercise, she urged the government to pay those workers that had not been paid.
Fayemi Tells Workers to Shun Partisan Politics
Workers in Ekiti State Wednesday shelved the annual march past as part of activities marking the celebrations of the 2013 Workers’ Day, in honour of the late deputy governor, Mrs. Funmilayo Olayinka, who died of cancer on April 6, 2013 at a Lagos hospital.
This came as the state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, threatened that the state government would wield the big stick against any worker that engaged in partisan politics in the state.
The workers, who converged on the Oluyemi Kayode Stadium, Ado Ekiti, where Fayemi was present, described the late deputy governor as the pride of the state and was at the vanguard of gender equality during her lifetime.
While addressing the workers, who besieged the stadium in their large numbers, Fayemi noted that some workers, who ordinarily should have stayed away from partisan politics, had been engaging in political activities unabated.
According to him, such workers would be held accountable for their conduct when apprehended by the appropriate authorities.
The governor, who decried the rising waves of corruption and insecurity in Nigeria, pointed out that every facet of the country had been debased by poor governance and bad leadership.
FCT Minister Promises Improved Workers’ Welfare
The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Mohammed, Wednesday pledged that his administration remained committed to improved workers’ welfare, and would ensure proper remuneration for its workforce and prompt payment to retiring officers.
Mohammed, who was represented by the Minister of State for FCT, Ms. Olajumoke Akinjide, disclosed this in Abuja at the centenary May Day celebration.
According to the minister, the FCTA is dedicated to constantly improving staff capacity as well as ensuring better living conditions for workers in the territory.
He added that his administration would pursue this policy through its affordable housing programme.
He said: “History has been quick to recognise that workers are indeed the goose that lay the golden eggs. Civilisation indeed rise and fall on the hands of a nation's workforce.
“It therefore stands to reason that every nation that strives for greatness must give dignity to its labour.”
Workers’ Day Holds Amidst Tight Security in Oyo
There was unusually tight security at the Lekan Salami Stadium, venue of the workers' day rally in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
As early as 7am, traffic had built up along the stadium route as policemen and men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) took positions at the entrance and inside the stadium, watching excited workers who trooped in in groups, chanting solidarity songs.
Though no person was harassed, men of the anti-bomb unit frisked all entrants into the stadium carrying bags or other unwholesome materials.
In his address at the rally, the Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, promised to remove the barriers hindering the promotion of GL (grade level) 14 workers in the civil service to enable them move beyond their current grades, starting from first week in May.
The governor said there was need for every worker in the state to be taken care of, and should not entertain fears of any kind in the discharge of their duties.
Imo Workers Confer Award on Okorocha
Organised labour in Imo State described the state governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, as a performer whose achievements in about two years remained remarkable.
Speaking during the 2013 May Day celebration held at the Heroes Square, Owerri, the Imo State Chairman of NLC, Reginald Anyadike, said the infrastructure projects embarked upon by the governor and other transformational programmes, had placed Imo in the league of fast developing states in the country.
The highlight of the celebrations was the conferment of the Labour 2013 Award of Excellence on Okorocha by the unions in the state.
Labour Harps on Human Capital Development in Kwara
The NLC, Kwara State Council, Wednesday urged political leaders at all levels to work and promote the development of their people in order to secure the future of the country.
The state chairman of NLC, who made the disclosure while speaking during the May Day celebrations, also noted that it is only when the development of the people is given priority that the nation will be at ease.
According to him, “The removal of the high tax regime from the workers is a commendable exercise,” adding that the continued prudent management of resources by the Kwara State Government was a clear indication that the future is bright for the people.
He also commended the prompt payment of salary and wages of workers by the state government, adding that the gesture would go a long way in assisting the workers.
Chime Hails Govt-Labour Partnership
Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State has commended the partnership and mutual understanding between his government and workers in the state, saying the relationship has contributed to the success of his transformational agenda for the state.
Chime while addressing workers at the Okpara Square, Enugu, said his administration was committed to building a functional civil service that would continue to thrive long after he has left office.
To achieve this, Chime, represented by his Chief of Staff, Mrs. Ifeoma Nwobodo, said the government had set new standards and would continue to meet its obligations to public servants in the state in a prompt and responsible manner while also continuing to make their welfare and re-training a priority.
The governor, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Mrs. Ifeoma Nwobodo, added that the ultra-modern workers’ secretariat now under construction was designed to help improve working conditions and environment for workers and to restore the sense of decency, dignity and productivity on the job.
Uduaghan Offers Employment to 1,072 Casual Workers
In its bid to reduce the ever increasing unemployment crisis in the country, Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmnauel Uduaghan, has announced the offer of employment to no less than 1,072 casual workers in the state.
Uduaghan, who stated this yesterday in Asaba, the state capital, during the May Day celebrations, accused government officials of being behind the menace of the over-bloated workforce in the state through casualisation, which he said was never the policy of the state.
He said: “It is important to state at this juncture that casualisation of staff, which has never been a policy of this government and its predecessors, has been perpetrated through the indiscriminate engagement of staff without following due process.”
Uduaghan, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Ovuzerae Macaulay, stated that “the ghost of casualisation in the state public service has been laid to rest never to resurrect again.
“In this regard, I have just approved the appointment of 1,072 casual workers across ministries, departments and agencies in the state.”
Imoke Splashes Largesse on Labour
Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State has said that a well-motivated labour will strive to ensure service delivery.
Imoke stated this while presenting two pick-up vans, a bus and other incentives to the labour unions during the May Day celebrations at the U.J. Esuene Stadium, Calabar, Wednesday.
According to the governor, the pick-ups vans were for the NLC and TUC respectively, while the bus was for the Nigerian Pensioners Association.
The governor disclosed that the Ministry of Lands and Housing was working on the cost and estimates for a proposed NLC secretariat in the state while it had also actively implemented the revised new tax regime, thereby putting additional resources in the hands of the workers.
He said as a state with a significantly high proportion of its workforce in the public sector, it had accelerated the management of the process of promotions to ensure that deserving workers right across the state are promoted as and when due, while the Local Government Service Commission had been directed to immediately commence the implementation of promotion of its staff.
On the highly anticipated 27.5 per cent Teachers Special Allowance (TSA), Imoke explained that it was being negotiated with the unions and hoped that an amicable resolution would be reached soon.
He reasoned that government does not only support the labour in the form of policies and programmes, but also provides tangible support in terms of concessions and subsidy schemes that improve the general welfare of the public sector.
Orji Promises Better Times for Workers
As a mark of appreciation for the peaceful industrial relations and constructive dialogue with government, Abia State Governor Theodore Orji yesterday assured workers in the state that he would meet their outstanding demands.
The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Emeka Ananaba, at this year's May Day parade, noted that the disposition of labour to pursue their demands without recourse to strikes had made it possible for a number of issues to be resolved amicably, adding that Abia workers had always demonstrated high productivity and maturity in labour relations.
He restated his commitment to the welfare of Abia workers, pointing out that his administration was currently engaged in sustained efforts to reduce unemployment to the barest minimum among the youths.
Orji cited the youth empowerment scheme, which had provided employment for thousands of Abia youths, adding that his administration was also creating the enabling environment to attract more investors into the state to create more employment opportunities.
Earlier, the Chairman of NLC, Abia State chapter, Mr. Sylvanus O. Eyeh, commended the government for paying teachers' salaries regularly.
“We want to appreciate the achievements in our education sector more especially the payment of teachers’ salaries to March 2013 including the (TSS), thus bringing them at par with other civil servants in the state,” he said.
But he asked the state government to intensify efforts to clear the backlog of the minimum wage in secondary schools as well resolving the problems of the health workers in the state.