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We Have Great Expectations for 2016 and Will be Alive to Our Responsibilities Being New Year Message from the Nigeria Labour Congress
12-Jan-2016


Dec 31 at 4:12 PM We Have Great Expectations for 2016 and Will be Alive to Our Responsibilities Being New Year Message from the Nigeria Labour Congress PREAMBLE The outgoing year has been an eventful and challenging year for Nigerian workers in particular, and Nigerians in general due to a number of developments in our polity, which tested our resilience as a people. The March/April general elections took place against the backdrop of a lot of apprehension and doomsday prediction that our country would be unable to overcome the attendant crisis that would emanate from it. The outstanding performance of Prof. Attahiru Jega-led INEC, and the remarkable statesmanship displayed by the then incumbent President Jonathan, as well as the firmness of his challenger, General Muhammadu Buhari, combined to give Nigeria its first authentic transition from one ruling party to the other in our 55-year history as an independent nation. On the security front, our armed forces within the year, regained its reputation as a resilient fighting force, and gallantly fought the Boko Haram terrorist insurgents, inflicting severe defeats, routing them out of occupying any part of the North East Geopolitical Zone, which they had terrorized for some years. Though the war is still on, Nigerians now have a sense of belief that it is only a matter of time for these evil forces to be overwhelmed and defeated. On the economic front, the year 2015 was a particularly trying one for Nigerian workers and Nigerians as a whole. The combination of falling crude oil price, our main source of foreign exchange, compounded by the legacy of massive corruption and maladministration by the Jonathan administration at the federal level, and at the state levels by state governors across political parties, had combined to further incapacitate workers and the masses of our people. The governors had so recklessly plundered state resources that by the May 29, 2015 handover date; a number of them could not perform the ceremonial handing over, a number of them left unpaid workers’ salaries ranging from three (3) to nine (9) months. Our economic crisis was further deepened with the free fall of the naira, which has lost over 30% of its value since the price of crude oil began to crumble. Against the above adverse economic situation, rather than being creative about how to revive the economy, our political leaders (the political and economic elite) have sought to find scapegoats for their mismanagement of the economy and lack of foresight in Nigerian workers and the downtrodden masses of our people. OUR EXPECTATIONS OF THE NEW YEAR The working people and the rest of the poor mass of our people are entering the New Year against the backdrop of these uncertainties and other challenges. Given the massive support Nigerians gave President Buhari as a symbol and icon of change, they expectedly harbour tremendous expectations that his government will deliver on a number of areas and provide succour that has for decades eluded them. For the NLC as a vanguard organisation of the Nigerian working class, we wish to use the occasion of the New Year to highlight a few of these expectations and indeed also our fears. ELITE RESPONSE TO OUR ECONOMIC SITUATIONS Instead of using our current economic reality as a basis for deep reflection on how to revive and rebuild our economy, our political elite have instead chosen to engage Nigeria workers in battle. This is symbolised in recent threats by the Nigerian Governors Forum to abandon the payment of the N18, 000 national minimum wage which was enacted into law in 2011, or in the alternative sack workers to join the army of the unemployed. Another threat against the poor masses of Nigeria is the vigorous advocacy by several representatives of the ruling class, their business elite collaborators, the World Bank and IMF, is that the Nigerian government should use the opportunity of the low price of crude oil to remove the subsidy on petroleum products. The argument, as we have heard over and over in the last 30-35 years, is that the money so freed from paying subsidy will be used to upgrade our infrastructure, provide educational and healthcare facilities among others. For us, the fall in the price of crude oil provides a unique opportunity for our country to go back to the basics; to diversify and make governments at every level to look critically at areas of its comparative advantage and concentrate efforts to make the difference in. Virtually all parts of our country is blessed with one form of agricultural produce or the other. Our governments need to invest in modern agricultural infrastructure so that we can bring back the groundnut pyramids, the cocoa and palm plantations of the First Republic. In Ikeja Industrial Estate and the Apapa Port in Lagos, the infrastructure built to handle bulk export of cocoa are still lying waste. These can be revived. In the same vein, our business elite and multinational companies are notorious for evading paying taxes. The federal and states revenue services need to step up identifying those that had not been paying taxes and get them to do so efficiently in the New Year. Government needs to impose property tax on the several hundreds of flashy estates and other structures in Abuja and several state capitals across the country. Some of these structures have laid unoccupied for years, making us to believe that they are properties developed with laundered funds. It is such a big national shame that Ajaokuta Steel Company conceived to be the foundation and cornerstone of our industrialisation has been wilfully neglected and abandoned all these years after over $5 billion had been sunk into the construction of its huge and vast edifice. Additionally, Ajaokuta was also meant to produce the steel we need as a country to replace our obsolete rail lines with modern standard gauge rail lines. On a recent visit by a delegation of Congress leadership to China, and following discussions with top officers of the ruling establishment there, shows a clear readiness to partner with Nigeria to make functional our steel development sector, which the western world has over the years conspired with our unpatriotic elite to prevent from functioning. •Campaign Against Corruption We believe that one of the fundamental problems of our country presently is endemic corruption! This has permeated all facets of our society and it manifests in varying dimensions with the greatest casualties being the average Nigerian who are in perpetual economic bondage, lack of basic infrastructure and violence and general insecurity of lives and property. The recent exposure of the massive corruption scam superintended over by Col. Sambo Dasuki (Rtd), is one sordid example that graphically illustrates how bad things went under the last dispensation. In the light of the above, the Nigerian Labour Congress is giving its full support to President Muhammadu Buhari in his resolve to fight and defeat corruption. In fact, there is a convergence between our own promise to Nigerian workers during our 11th Delegates’ Conference in February/March 2015, (when we were elected), and President Buhari’s campaign promise during his own election campaigns which came after ours on March 28, 2015. In our programme we had stated: “It is a fact that the level of corruption in our public life has reached an unacceptable dimension”. We then said we would take up the campaigns against corruption more vigorously as we move into a new dispensation post-May 2015. This, we said, is as a result of the corrosive effect corruption has had on our quest for development. This informed our decision early in September 2015 to mobilize our members and allies in civil society to have the one-day “National Rally Against Corruption and for Good Governance”. •Campaign for Good Governance In the New Year we shall also intensify our campaign for good governance side by side with our battle against corruption. The national leadership of Congress had long before now acknowledged the fact that the performance of most of our political office holders across the various layers of the governance structure has been less than satisfactory. As a result, we had pledged to “institute a mechanism of accountability and assessment of all public office holders”. We promised to work with professional bodies and other credible organizations to make these assessments and publicize them annually. Before the end of the first quarter of 2016, the Congress shall convene a National Civil Society Summit. The summit will, among other issues, address how trade unions, professional bodies, religious organisations, market men and women organisations, students and youth bodies, other mass organizations and civil society bodies attending the summit can fashion out ways of holding our political leadership at all levels accountable and responsive to the developmental aspirations of our people. The summit will also agree on mechanisms for developing a scorecard for cabinet ministers and for state governors on good governance index that will subsequently be released every December. The summit will also (hopefully working with the Nigerian Bar Association as lead), devise ways in which we can ensure that the use of existing loopholes in our justice system to prevent treasury looters to evade justice for upward of seven to ten years as is currently being witnessed in the country, are identified and blocked. As happens in civilized societies, we want to see people being tried for corruption to have their cases concluded within a maximum period of 9-24 months. •On the Campaign to withdraw Subsidy on Petroleum Products and Deregulation of the Downstream Sector of the Oil Industry. In the last 30 to 35 years since successive Nigerian governments –.

 

 


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