Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa
Bayelsa State Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, has expressed worry over the way and manner organised labour have been tackling issues bordering on the welfare of the masses in Nigeria in recent times.
He observed that the performance of labour organisations such as the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) have not been too impressive in terms of protecting the interest of their members, democracy and the national economy.
The Bayelsa number two man, has therefore, charged the labour leaders to wake up from what he called “self-induced slumber.”
Senator Ewhrudjakpo stated this while granting audience to the National President of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Comrade Benjamin Anthony, and the South-south chairpersons of the Union in Government House, Yenagoa.
In a statement yesterday , deputy governor asserted that organised labour had lost the fervency it was known for in the past when the likes of late Michael Imodu, Ali Ciroma, Chief Ovie Kokori, Chief Wariebi Agamene of NUPENG and others held sway.
Insisting that the labour movement had lost much integrity, Ewhrudjakpo noted that labour’s silence in the country when most public universities had been shut for upward of seven months was unacceptable.
He maintained that in the face of skyrocketing cost of living in Nigeria occasioned by soaring food and fuel prices, which have made nonsense of the national minimum wage, labour cannot afford to be indifferent while workers are being subjected to economic hardship.
He reminded them that under their watch, the federal government had borrowed so massively that the national debt profile had hit thresholds never known in the history of the country.
While assuring the AUPCTRE delegation of government’s support for their upcoming conference in Bayelsa, Senator Ewhrudjakpo pledged that the Governor Douye Diri Administration would continue to prioritize the welfare of workers in the state.
His words: “We believe that labour has almost lost its integrity. Labour has decided to downgrade itself from a four-category hurricane to a mere seasonal storm, and that is not encouraging for us.
“If you read the struggle for independence and the one against military dictatorship in Nigeria, you will agree with me that we no longer have the Michael Imodus, the Ovie Kokoris, the Pa Oyeyemis, the Ali Ciromas and the Agamenes in our labour movements.
“What is happening to us? Personally, I am disappointed at the role of labour; labour’s silence is unacceptable, uncomfortable and worrisome.
“If labour were playing its role, I don’t think we can have our children at home for seven months that our universities have been under lock and key. Labour is playing the ostrich.
“We have incessant increase of pump price of petroleum products, as against what they (APC government) promised before they came into office. Yet labour is quiet.
“We have prices of food stuffs skyrocketing daily, and labour is quiet. The fact that these are not direct labour issues does not mean that they are not issues for workers; because at the end of the day, they affect the wages of the workers.”
Earlier, the National President of AUPCTRE, Comrade Benjamin Anthony, acknowledged the labour-friendly disposition of the state government, which explains the reason the union conferred a special award on Governor Diri earlier this year.
According to Comrade Anthony, the team was in Bayelsa for the State Delegates Conference holding in Yenagoa, the state capital.
The AUPCTRE national president was accompanied on the visit by the Bayelsa Chairperson of AUPCTRE, Comrade Ayibalayefa Gabriel and her counterparts from Edo, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Delta and Cross River states.