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PRESS RELEASES

PRESS RELEASES

MKO ABIOLA: THE FACE OF A UNITED NIGERIA

PRESS RELEASE

MKO ABIOLA: THE FACE OF A UNITED NIGERIA

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on behalf of Nigerian workers celebrates and congratulates all Nigerians on the 25th Anniversary of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. President Muhammadu Buhari has already declared June 12 as a national holiday in commemoration of our democracy. He has also conferred the highest honour in the land to the arrowhead of the June 12 struggle, Chief MKO Abiola. This confirms June 12 as a muster point of our democratic aspirations as one people united by the quest for wellbeing, dignity and prosperity. We salute the working class, civil society activists, the trade unions, women and student groups for their roles and sacrifice in defending the sanctity of June 12 and enthroning our current democracy.

Nigerian workers celebrate not just the day – June 12 – but the ideals and the progressive credentials of the icons behind the day. The mast of Chief MKO Abiola’s campaign was “Hope 93”. The core of his campaign message was the promise to eradicate poverty. Not a few political commentators believe that Chief Abiola’s towering image as a foremost international philanthropist and humanist rubbed a lot of credence on his promise of hope.

The results of June 12, 1993 elections showed clearly that Chief MKO Abiola’s personality and promise of poverty eradication united millions of Nigerians who defied religious and ethnic boundaries to elect him as the President of the aborted Third Republic. Out of the then 30 states, Chief Abiola won 19 states. A significant feat of great political value was that Chief Abiola won at least a state in all the geopolitical zones of Nigeria. Though from Ogun State in Southern Nigeria, Chief Abiola defeated his only rival, Alhaji Bashir Tofa, in both his ward and in his home state of Kano State. Such a feat has never been recorded in Nigeria’s political history. June 12 was simply epochal.

When the June 12, 1993 elections was annulled by the military junta led by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, it was like dusk at sun rise. Nigerians from all walks of life were united in condemning the annulment and demanding the inauguration of Chief MKO Abiola as the President of the Federal Republic. Perhaps, apart from Labour’s struggle against neo-liberal tendencies of successive governments, no other struggle has resonated with Nigerians as the June 12 struggle. For this reason, at an occasion like this, we must all be sobered and tempered by the ideals and lessons of June 12.

The first lesson of June 12, is the capacity of our people to rise above ethnic and religious sentiments to recruit political leadership solely on the basis of antecedence, performance and ability to deliver desired developmental goals. This credits our ability as a people to build a modern nation state. The fact that Chief MKO Abiola and his running mate, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe; both Muslims, enjoyed popular acceptance across the geo-political zones of Nigeria deals a cruel blow on the aspirations of many politicians of today to acquire political capital on ethnic and religious premise. Abiola’s politics had content – freedom from poverty! He walked the talk. Nigerians trusted him with their votes. We can hardly say the same of today’s politician who though adorned in the garb of ethno-religious pretensions yet impoverishes the rest of us with mindless looting and dubious perks of office!

The second lesson of June 12 is that of the nobility of democratic values and struggles. June 12 represents the struggle for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria. June 12 also epitomizes the values of freedom, respect for the rule of law and social justice for all. June 12 teaches us that there is lasting reward for every genuine effort to dare injustice. Chief MKO Abiola did not give up on the mandate freely given to him by Nigerians. He dared. Today, he has truly won. We can say the same of other Nigerians such as the legendary Senior Advocate of the Masses, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who was mercurial in his fight for democratic rights. There is also the slain wife of Chief Abiola, Alhaji Kudirat Abiola, who soldiered on like a true amazon behind her persuasion on the sanctity of June 12, and amidst very horrifying odds.

The 25th Anniversary of June 12 grants us a good space to reflect on our role as organized labour in the promotion and defense of democracy in Nigeria. The Nigeria Labour Congress was proscribed by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha on the account of our principled rejection of the annulment of June 12. Many of our comrades and labour leaders suffered extreme persecution in the hands of the state because of their persuasion on Jun 12.  Comrade Frank Kokori was incarcerated in Bama Prisons on the account of June 12. Space will fail us to list the names of labour leaders, academics, activists and other patriotic Nigerians including NADECO leaders who were tortured, imprisoned, exiled or even killed because of June 12.

The NLC has consolidated these efforts by championing national campaigns for electoral reforms. The most prominent milestone of our modest strive are fruits from Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee, which NLC was part of. We are also making efforts to reposition the Labour Party. As we said at the 2018 May Day celebration, Nigerian workers will continue to dare and to win.

Nigerian workers enjoin the Federal Government to honour Nigerians and even foreigners who suffered enormous discomfort, endured state persecution and even paid the supreme price on the account of their unwavering commitment to the June 12 struggle. Like we admonished in our earlier press statement commending the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for the recent honor done to the memory of Chief MKO Abiola, we restate our appeal that a June 12 Cenotaph be erected in the honour of heroes, heroines and icons of the June 12 struggle. This will go a long way in institutionalizing the lessons of June 12.

The third lesson of June 12 is our capacity as a people to organize free, fair and credible elections. The National Electoral Commission headed by Professor Humphrey Nwosu designed a very unique system of electioneering known as Option A4. This dealt a mortal jab at numerous infractions in our electoral process. Nigerian workers expect that with the introduction of technology in our electoral process, elections in Nigeria should be freer, fairer and more credible than the June 12 outcome. Unfortunately, this is not so as politicians have shown from their conduct in recent elections that violence, vote buying, fraud and abuse of the power of incumbency, and not the will of the electorate, are the most critical success factors in electoral contests.

Finally, there is more to June 12 than the symbolic commemorations. We urge the Federal Government to identify fully with the ideals and lessons of June 12 by removing all obstacles to free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. This can be best achieved by evolving the needed political will for the deepening of popular democracy and fully implementing the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Report especially aspects that recommended the setting up of Election Offences Commission, representative cum non-partisan recruitment of INEC leadership and INEC unbundling for increased professionalism. We also call on the government to also enforce relevant provisions in our Electoral Act that placea ceiling on political campaign financing and criminalize violence, vote buying and sundry fraudulent acts.

 

Signed

Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni
President
11th June, 2018

PRESS RELEASES

CELEBRATING FEMI FALANA AT 60

CELEBRATING FEMI FALANA AT 60

The Nigeria Labour Congress wishes to celebrate a great Nigerian patriot, lawyer and defender of workers’ and people’s rights; Comrade Femi Falana as he turns sixty!

Femi Falana since his student days has been in the fore front of the crusade for the emancipation of the Nigerian people. As a student, even before he became a lawyer, Femi Falana was in the habit of bailing fellow student union activists who got captured by the State.

As a lawyer, Femi Falana has continued in the footsteps of Nigeria’s numero uno Senior Advocate of the Masses; Chief Gani Fawehinmi. Femi has always broken through the noise of silence to speak out against oppressive policies and actions of those in the corridors of political power. His interventions as a human rights crusader and activist transcend ethnic, religious and political sentiments and have kept successive governments in Nigeria on their toes.

Comrade Femi Falana is not just a rabble rousing activist; he is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria with an illustrious pedigree as a lawyer’s lawyer and a thorough bred professional. His commitment to pristine principles has elevated him above many of his colleagues in the legal profession who hide under the principles of “adversarial litigation” and “right to defend” to go to bed with all manner of shady characters. Mr Femi Falana has continued to live above board.

In tandem with his avowed commitment to the liberation of the Nigerian State from retrogressive forces, Comrade Femi Falana has always been on the same page with the Nigeria Labour Congress in so many of our campaigns for social justice, equity and national renewal. To describe him as an abiding friend of Nigerian workers would only betray a struggle with the right adjectives.

In further demonstration of his unflinching passion for a better society, Comrade Femi Falana has continued to reach out beyond the boundaries of his professional calling to intervene in the political arena. Recently, he was the Chairman of the National Conscience Party and on which platform he contested for the governorship seat of Ekiti State in 2007. Comrade Femi Falana has also been in the fore front of the call for a vibrant Workers Political Party – a collectively shared aspiration that would soon be a reality.

At sixty years, the Nigeria Labour Congress wishes our erudite and eminent partner in the struggle for workers’ and peoples’ rights; Comrade Femi Falana, a graceful ascent to golden years ahead!

Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni.

President, Nigeria Labour Congress

PRESS RELEASES

A VERY COSTLY GAFFE!

PRESS STATEMENT

A VERY COSTLY GAFFE!

Nigerian workers are shocked by statements credited to the Minister of Labour and Employment; Dr Chris Ngige, and reported by many national media houses that Nigerian workers should wait beyond September 2018 for the New National Minimum Wage.

We used the word “shocked” because it was the same Minister that in February 2018 without prompting or pressure announced to the whole world that by September, 2018, the Federal Government would start paying the new national minimum wage.

The current volte face by the Minister of Labour is not only provocative; it is also insensitive especially in the face of the excruciating suffering being endured by Nigerian workers particularly as occasioned by the increase in the cost of living.

Do we need to remind the Minister that he was once a civil servant who always looked forward to his monthly salary? Nigerian workers who are not privileged to earn fat salaries, allowances, estacodes and other perks of political appointment are looking forward to enjoy minimal relief in the form of the new national minimum wage.

The leadership of the NLC regard the gaffe as inconsistent with the fervour so far demonstrated by the tripartite committee set up by Mr President to review the National Minimum Wage. The Minister’s stance is also at variance with the declaration made by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo when he represented Mr. President at this year’s May Day Celebrations. He Yemi Osinbajo promised Nigerian workers that government is committed to ensuring that the issue of the new National Minimum Wage is concluded and delivered.

Our concern is “who is the Minister of Labour speaking for?” Nigerian workers want to know who has sent Dr. Chris Ngige on this nebulous errand. On whose side is the Minister of Labour on the upward review of the National Minimum Wage?

Our position was that we would expedite actions at the level of the tripartite committee on the minimum wage and ensure that discussions and negotiations are concluded by August 2018 so that Nigerian workers can start benefitting as quickly as possible from the New National Minimum Wage.

Finally, may we remind the Minister that the review of the National Minimum Wage is long overdue. The 2011 Belgore Tripartite Committee set up by government agreed that the review of the Minimum Wage should happen every five years. It is now close to eight years that the last review of the national minimum wage took place. Nigerian workers demand a Change in the humiliating culture of forcing workers to bargain too hard and wait too long for meagre increases in their salaries.

It will be a great disservice to his boss; Mr. President, if he keeps taking for granted this very important issue of a new national minimum wage. For many Nigerian families, this is the difference between survival and extinction. The NLC, therefore, categorically rejects the continued delay in approving our demand of N66,500 as the New National Minimum Wage.

Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni.
President

PRESS RELEASES

18 YEARS OF DEMOCRACY: TIME TO ASK QUESTIONS

Press Statement
18 YEARS OF DEMOCRACY: TIME TO ASK QUESTIONS

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) wishes to congratulate Nigerians, especially workers on the commemoration of another Democracy Day. May 29 reminds all of us that we are on a democratic journey. It also affords us the space to review how far and how well this journey has progressed. For Nigerian workers, democracy day reminds us of our commitment to building a just society.

It was Abraham Lincoln that described democracy as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. This simple but iconic definition of democracy offers ample insight into the purpose of democracy and provides a basic basis to evaluate the performance of democratic actors in any clime.

There is no doubt that the mention of ‘people’ thrice in the definition of democracy is not a coincidence. It is only a statement of fact that the people are the fulcrum of democracy. So, for us in Nigeria, it is perfectly fitting to ask ourselves “how has democracy served the people of Nigeria?” In our view, 18 years is long enough a time to ask ourselves “how much progress have we made as a people in our democratic journey?” The truth is that 18 years of democracy has come with very sparse rewards for the Nigerian people.

While we celebrate democracy’s irreplaceable gift of freedom, liberty and popular representation, the truth remains that this democracy has served the political class and not the average Nigerian.

Unfortunately, those we elected to serve as democratic leaders have not only turned around to serve themselves but continue to exploit every given opportunity to turn the rest of us into paupers in our own land. 

Beside the frequent unlawful dipping of fingers into the public till, everything including salaries, pensions, perquisites, ways and means are skewed in their favour to the exclusion of workers

.This certainly makes a mockery of the very essence of democracy which is service to the people and for the benefit of the common good.

For us in the labour movement, a democracy that does not allocate resources in such a manner that ensures equity, justice and sustained national development or cohesion is beggarly.

We reason that Nigerian workers are frequently turned into canon fodder by the Nigerian political elite in their high stakes political games and mindless scramble for the commonwealth.

 Despite escalating costs of living, devaluation of the Naira and general hardship in the land, the Nigerian worker is still forced to survive on N18,000 as minimum wage with not a few states owing backlog of salaries and pensions.

While Pensioners in not a few states wallow in misery and unimaginable suffering, the members of the political elite led by state governors as a matter of ‘law’ and policy, take in advance whopping severance packages to which they are not entitled in the first place.

How well has this democracy uplifted the spaces where we live and work? Without prejudice to the effort of this government, our infrastructure is still in tatters. Our roads are impassable and public electricity supply remains epileptic. 

Our schools and health facilities have become sorry relics of what they used to be in the first decade post-independence.

 The spate of killings, general wave of violence and insecurity across the country further traumatise the hapless citizenry.

In spite of the great effort by the Buhari administration to fight corruption, corruption keeps fighting back more viciously.

While, unarguably, our electoral processes are improving by the day, the same cannot be said of elections conducted by State Electoral Commissions. Worse still, we are worried by the political intolerance of governors and their philistinal behaviour, completely at variance with what obtains at the centre.

In light of the foregoing, this May 29th should be like no other as it should not be devoted to false homage to democracy but devoted to soul-searching and truth-telling, so that with commitment from all of us, we can get it right.

This day avails us a great opportunity to demand for accountability from our leaders, especially, governors, and also from ourselves as citizens of a great country that has potential to be greater

It is a day for us to shift from our pliant position as citizens to a position of virility, vitality, proactivity or of asking questions, especially, those who have appropriated the machinery of democracy to feather their nests.

This May 29 must be seized by those who have been under-served by the chefs manning our democratic kitchen. This May 29 must be captured by those who have been left behind in our democratic journey. There is no better time to demand for accountability from political office holders than now. 

There is also no better time to demand accountability from the popular side – ourselves – than now. What have we done with our votes? What will we do with our votes in 2019 and in elections that would take place before and after then? Our destiny is our hands to shape!

Yet, despite the inability of our democracy to put on the table our expectations, it still remains the best form of government. Accordingly, we will continue to support all processes that will enthrone or perfect our democracy.

For us, the dark memories of military rule are still fresh and we pledge not to stand by as some elements seek to imperil this democracy by their acts of greed, insane desperation for power, petty proclivities and inanities.

Nigerian workers, activists, peasants, women and students did not work so hard to bring about this democracy – some even paid the supreme price – for opportunists masquerading as political leaders to loot it dry and then truncate it.

Nigerian workers must personally appropriate this challenge as we seek to rebuild an enduring political platform that would offer the fullest essence to our age-long struggle for a society where no one is oppressed, cheated, excluded, isolated or left behind.

At the risk of repetition, the biggest gift this anniversary offers us in our view is, as part of our civic duty, to register and obtain our voters cards, vote and defend our votes. It also gives us a chance to monitor government and hold it to account

As a people, we have the power to elect or change governments if only we are willing and committed. We are also obligated to support government if it is doing the right thing. On no account should we allow primordial or pristine considerations to preclude us from doing the right thing.

Once again, I congratulate the government and people of Nigeria, especially, workers on this day.

Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni
President.