Says no gain without pain Saraki calls for action, inflation intolerable
Tobi Soniyi and Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has said the pains Nigerians are currently passing through are necessary to get the country out of recession and place it on the pedestal of sustainable development.
Osinbajo, who met the leadership of the protesting organised labour in the Presidential Villa, Abuja yesterday, said there would be no gains without pains and that there ‘won’t be omelette without breaking of eggs.’
He told the protesters that President Muhammadu Buhari is a honest man and that the country needed Buhari’s honesty to wrestle the country from those who were determined to cripple it.
The protesting labour movement was led by Ayuba Wabba and Bobboi Kaigama of President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) respectively.
Wabba, who spoke on behalf of the 18 union leaders, said labour was concerned about issue of good governance and corruption.
He urged the government to address the issue accountability and adherence to the rule of law pointing out that the challenge in Nigeria was not about resources but about prudent management of available resources.
He pointed out that corruption was systemic in the country.
The TUC president said every Nigerian should join hands with the government in fighting corruption even as he pointed out that corruption must not be viewed only in terms of Naira and Kobo but also in ensuring equity among the populace.
Responding, Osinbajo said: “We commend you for taking this laudable campaign to the Villa on behalf of the Nigerian people. For a democratically elected government, we must constantly report to the people and we must show that we are accountable to the people. That is why positions like yours have to be received properly and we must find ways to take positive action on the many demands that were raised.
“When we came on board, there were 22 states that were not paying salaries, some running into six or eight months, that was despite that oil prices were still high. President Buhari decided that salaries of workers across the states must be paid and that was what informed the first bailout. We were bailing out at a time we were losing 60 per cent of our revenue on account of what was going on in the Niger Delta. We later did the second bailout, the third was the Paris Club refunds. These are sums of monnies owed to states and nobody has ever paid that sum of money.”
Osinbajo agreed with the labour movement that the management of resources was very critical in sustaining development in the country.
He assured the labour that government would ensure accountability.
He said: “Management of resources is critical especially when those resources are as small as what we are witnessing today. We want to ensure that everyone is held to account. If resources were not efficiently managed we will not be able to do even the things we are doing now because we are operating at less than 60 per cent of revenues as at 2015, today.
“Every time you fight corruption the way we are trying to fight corruption, there is a major fight back, because corruption in this country is wealthy, powerful, influential and it is in every aspect of our lives. It is in practically all institutions including religious institutions. The social media campaign of bring back corruption is an orchestrated one. Nobody that is suffering can say bring back corruption.
“Attempts by those who are being tried for corruption to delay trials is also part of the orchestrated campaign. If we don’t speak up against corrupt officials who make it look as if there is a witch hunt, then we will not succeed in the fight. Government needs everybody to speak up. We have a serious battle in our hands and if we don’t win that battle this country will never get to the path of sustainable development.”
He noted that the country had suffered from the looting of its resources, adding that the government had no option but to fight corruption.
“It is a tough one but we must fight it,” he added.
Osinbajo said government remained committed to ensuring due process and rule of law.
Earlier, the NLC President had told Osinbajo that the labour unions and their allies decided that on the second day of their national action for good governance and protest against corruption, they should visit the Presidential Villa to present their demands.
While expressing delight that the acting president personally received them, he said the workers were concerned about good governance and systemic corruption.
He expressed regret that the Nigerian masses have been at the receiving end of bad governance and corruption in the country.
As part of their 18-point demands, Wabba said workers would like to see a nation where public office holders forfeit assets that they refused to declare.
Also, the TUC President said the organised labour and civil society allies were prepared to support the fight against corruption.
“It is a fight every Nigerian must be part of. Government at all levels and arms should abide with rule of law, corruption should not be tolerated. We are here to identify with government in his resolve to fight corruption,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, while addressing the union workers and civil society groups who staged a protest at the National Assembly complex, said it was time to go into action towards addressing the numerous challenges confronting Nigerians. He said: “We need to sit down and work out how to make necessary adjustments.
“It can’t continue this way, the exchange rate is high, cost of things in the market have gone high but only the workers’ salaries remain the same.
“By the next time we will meet, I will tell you what the National Assembly has done to improve the living condition of Nigerians,’’ he assured.