Paul Obi in Abuja
Lawyer and Human Rights activist, Femi Falana, SAN, on Saturday took the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government to the cleaners over failed promises since the president and his party ascended into power. This came as a university don and Emeritus Professor of University Ife, Prof. Toyo Olorode accused Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole of sliding away from his labour and pro-poor background to fester the interest of capitalists in the country. He also accused Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola of advancing the interest of the corporate world and capitalists with his support for electricity tariff increment.
Olorode also accused the APC-led government of pursuing a selective anti-corruption crusade where some ruling elite such as former top military officers, top APC party members and close allies have been shielded from facing corruption charges permanently.
Falana, who was the Guest Lecturer at the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Pre-May Day Lecture in Abuja enumerated the failure of the government to fulfil the promises it made during the 2015 presidential campaign; one year after assuming office.
The Lagos lawyer, who was represented by Chairman, Partners for Electoral Reforms, Ezenwa Nwagwu carpeted most policies and decisions recently made by government in the last year of the administration.
He said: “Under an economy controlled by market forces the majority of citizens have been denied access to security, welfare and happiness. In an arrogant manner, the few public officers and their cohorts who have cornered the commonwealth turn round to impose austerity measures on the people.
“In addition to the diversion of public funds by a handful of public officers the government has continued to take toxic loans from foreign financial institutions to fund the escalating costs of running an unproductive bureaucracy. “The on-going investigation into the mega looting of the treasury has shown that if the resources of the nation had been judiciously managed an effective welfare programme could have been established and run in the interest of the people.”
According to Falana, Nigerian workers have continued to face the brunt of economic hardship in the last money, arguing that the best way to cushion the effect is to redirect recovered looted funds to help rescue the poverty stricken masses undergoing pains presently.
“Although the mega looting of the national treasury is being investigated the Nigerian people are being penalised for the mismanagement of the economy by the ruling class. Electricity tariff has been increased even though there is no improvement in electricity supply. Nigerians are being forced to pay more for education, health, fuel and other essential social services.
“The APC-led government has made it clear that it is unable to fulfil its electoral promises due to the damage done to the economy by the PDP and on account of the fall in the price of crude oil in the international market.”
He also questioned the rationale behind the continuous burrowing by government, adding that, “since the federal government is a position to borrow N600 billion every month to pay salaries and maintain a parasitic bureaucracy there can be no justification for not funding the welfare programme promised by the APC.
It is therefore suggested that the stolen wealth being recovered should be channelled towards the funding of a welfare programme for the people.
“By virtue of section 17 of the Constitution the government is under an obligation to provide for a living national minimum wage and make conditions of work just and humane and ensure that the health, safety and welfare of all persons in employment are safeguarded and not endangered or abused. But in total disregard of its constitutional responsibility to Nigerian workers the government has provided for a starvation wage of N18,000 per month. Even the starvation wage is not paid as and when due as stipulated by law.
“According to President Buhari, workers in 27 out of 36 states are owed arrears of salaries. Although the Nigerian people have been asked to be prepared to tighten their belts no tier of government in the country has taken steps to reduce the expensive costs of running the public service. Over 70 per cent of the budget still goes for servicing a parasitic bureaucracy. No government has reviewed projects that constitute a drain on public treasury. Governors still travel so regularly to Abuja and other places in hired jets. There are 11 planes in the presidential fleet! Public officers move around in long convoys.
“Because there is not much law making going on legislators have opted for the business of executing constituency projects and conducting public hearing on all matters including the investigation of criminal offences and auditing/probing of public accounts when you have the police, the anti-graft agencies and the office of the auditor-general. With houses of assembly at the states what is the justification for retaining the legislative councils in the 774 local government councils and the 6 area councils in the Federal Capital Territory?” he queried.
Falana explained that “with the profligacy in government there is no sign that we are going through tough times. Our public officers are paid the highest traveling allowances or estacodes while our legislators are the highest paid in the world.
He stressed that “to stop the reckless killing of people in Nigeria we have to disband the police force which has contempt for our people because of the neo-colonial content of their training. In its place a new police service which will respect and defend the people should be established. To free our society from the tiny grip of looters the Nigerian people should be mobilised to struggle for popular democracy.”
Olorode also said: “privatisation is about debilitating labour; it is a shame that some of the former labour leaders go around campaigning for privatisation. I read something about what Comrade Oshiomhole said that Nigerian electricity workers should forget about trying to reverse privatisation of NEPA that in fact, it is the best way to go. So we need to work internally and externally.
“Fashola went to talk to electricity workers that the reason why we cannot have regular power and are losing so much money is because of regular strike. He quoted some sum that has been lost. Meanwhile, it is being suggested that a fresh N209 billion be provided to finance the power sector.
NLC Vice President and Chairman of the May Day Committee, Comrade Peters Adeyemi reiterated the commitment of the union to the proposed N56,000 new minimum wage, stressing that labour would not back down until the new wage is implemented.
Adeyemi called on workers across the country to support NLC’s course to ensure that government address its demands for a new minimum wage, suspension of electricity tariff hike, revival of the economy, solution to the lingering fuel scarcity among other critical issues.