• Decry Nigeria’s high debt profile
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Organised labour has expressed its resolve to mobilise its members to ensure that states that did not meet its December 31 deadline are made to do so without delay.
The labour movement also expressed concern about handling of the country’s economy, particularly its rising debt profile which it described as a major concern both locally and internationally.
On the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage across the states, the labour movement, in its New Year message by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said it would vigorously fight for the nationwide implementation of the new wage and consequential adjustment.
While commending the states that had started paying the new wage and consequential adjustment, the labour leader urged others to follow suit, saying the new national minimum wage is a law and governors do not have the luxury to choose whether to pay or not.
“We use this medium to implore states that are yet to implement the new national minimum wage including the states that are yet to begin negotiation with labour on the consequential wage adjustment to speedily do the needful. In tandem with our position as adopted and communicated after a stakeholders’ meeting on December 11, 2019, organised labour in Nigeria will not guarantee industrial harmony in states that fail to implement the new national minimum wage by December 31, 2019.
“We direct our state councils to be on the standby to robustly engage state governments that fail to obey our laws. We wish to remind state governors that no excuse would be good enough for failure to pay,” Wabba said.
On its part, TUC urged the governors that are yet to pay to do so without delay. “In as much as we would not want to disrupt economic activities, we would still not compromise the welfare of our members. A stitch in time saves nine,” it said.
NLC also regretted the government’s inability to institutionalise tripartite consultation among the social partners in Nigeria especially through the institutionalisation of the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) despite persistent advocacy by labour and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.
In the year 2020, NLC said it would mount a very robust campaign for the generation of mass jobs and for already existing jobs to be decent.
“To this end, the NLC is perfecting plans for a National Job Summit in 2020. We will get stakeholders: experts, policymakers, concerned demographics and workers on a roundtable to find answers and solutions to Nigeria’s burgeoning unemployment crisis,” the statement added.
NLC also said it would continue to work assiduously towards the promotion of national security, peace and unity.
“In 2020, we demand that government must prioritise the security of lives and property. Nigeria has seen enough bloodshed. While we commend the sacrifice and commitment of our soldiers and other security personnel in the war against terrorists and other violent crimes across Nigeria, we urge government to do all it takes to end the bloodletting and brigandage in different parts of the country.
“As we have always canvassed, the war against insecurity must be anchored on human security. We must feed hungry stomachs. We must create jobs to engage our youths. An idle mind is devil’s workshop,” NLC said.
The labour union urged the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory Administration to fully comply with pension laws by “ensuring the immediate enactment of enabling laws on Contributory Pension Scheme for states yet to enact same, prompt remittance of both employers and employees contributions to pension fund administrators, actuarial evaluation for retirees whose pension is due and procurement of a Group Life Insurance Policy for workers under the Contributory Pension Scheme.
NLC also expressed concerned about plans by the federal government to renovate the National Assembly with N37 billion, saying given our developmental deficits and level of poverty, labour considered the proposed renovation as misplaced priority.
“This is more worrisome given that the National Assembly complex has always enjoyed top-notch routine maintenance. In the New Year and in the decade ahead, we urge government at all arms and tiers to be altruistic in their priorities and to demonstrate utmost fiscal restraint and discipline,” NLC said.
Also, TUC, in its New Year message by its President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, deplored what it described as the alarming increase in the country’s debt profile. It said the debt rise was coming even as international bodies like the World Bank have severally warned on the danger of continuous borrowing.
The labour union said it would work to protect members’ interest, ensuring democratic values are adhered to, advocating for the rule of law by ensuring decent and fair wages, among others.
TUC said apart from the $29.96 billion loan which has gained the approval of the National Assembly, reports have it that the country has allegedly borrowed $1 billion from African Development Bank; $1 billion Eurobond, with additional $500 million expected from Global Medium Term Note Programme.
“The N5.8 billion borrowed from China Exim Bank is hanging on the country’s neck. Over 30 per cent of the federal government’s revenue will be used for debt servicing. The question is: how have these loans benefitted the ordinary masses of the country? How can we use as much as N2.7 trillion to service debt and budget a paltry N2.4 trillion on expenditure?
“It is hard to come to terms with the position of the Information Minister, Mr. Lai Mohammed, who told Nigerians that $84 billion loan is nothing to worry about. We are tempted to feel that politicians are not in tune with the plight of the masses,” the statement explained.
Assessing the country on good governance, TUC expressed worry at the weakening constitutional check and balance roles of the three arms of government, the executive, legislature and judiciary.
TUC regretted that these arms of government are supposed to check themselves but that has not been the case. “Our experience so far has been an unpleasant one. We felt robbed when the Senate and the House of Representatives leadership at various times showed indifference to the loans and other excesses of the federal government. In the year 2020, we expect the allegiance of politicians and all Nigerians to be to the country and not individuals, even if in power,” TUC said.
TUC said it would continue to advocate for good governance, adding that it’s opposed to the Hate Speech Bill. It added that the underlying factor for such offensive reactions in most cases is hunger and frustration as Nigerians at every given opportunity try to vent their anger.
“How do you tell a people denied of the basics of life not to cry out? To silence the poor masses from crying some individuals are pushing fiercely to pass a Hate Speech Bill. The congress will never support that bill. Why are those behind the law perturbed if they do not have skeletons in their cupboard? We advise the people behind the obnoxious bill to use their time to pursue a rational agenda,” TUC added.
While appraising the country’s electoral process, TUC alleged it’s disgraceful that in the 21st Century election was still a ‘do-or-die’ affair in Nigeria.
It noted that the last election in Kogi State was a typical example of how low our politicians could go, alleging that it’s even most unfortunate that the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and some security operatives most times aid/sit and watch while all these anomalies take place.
In order to further deepen our democratic process, TUC advised that the federal government to as a matter of urgency respect the rule of law. It said the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, must wake up to his responsibilities, adding that total disregard to rights of people, lack of accountability, intimidation, indifference to the rule of law by some state and non-state actors alike was dangerous to the peaceful existence of the country.
“The idea of the Department of State Services keeping people in custody despite being granted bail by courts is uncalled for. We must not appear unserious before the international community. We call on Cross Rivers State Government to release Agba Jalingo; Kaduna and other states keeping journalists to release them,” it said.
On the issue of fuel subsidy regime, TUC said President Muhammadu Buhari should as a matter of urgency relinquish his position as the Minister of Petroleum so that a technocrat with consummate know-how should be allowed to man the industry for efficiency and effectiveness.
It alleged the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) could not continue to be the ATM of a privileged few and their cronies.