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NLC PRESIDENT 2016 MAY DAY SPEECH
01-May-2016


THE WORKING CLASS AND THE QUEST FOR SOCIO-ECONOMIC REVIVAL TEXT OF ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS, COMRADE AYUBA WABBA, mni, ON THE OCCASION OF THE MAY DAY CELEBRATION AT EAGLE SQUARE, ABUJA ON 1ST MAY 2016. PROTOCOLS. PREAMBLE. Comrades, our special guest, Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and our very distinguished guests. We are celebrating this year’s May Day against the background of heightened socio-economic difficulties being faced by millions of Nigerian working people throughout the length and breadth of our country. This dire situation notwithstanding, we must use the occasion of this year’s may day to pay tribute to those matyrs who laid down their lives 130 years ago in the grounds of Haymarket Square in Chicago, USA, so that the working people of the world could today enjoy 8-hour work day, which was the main goal of their protest on that fateful May Day. While remembering the heroism of these comrades departed, we normally use May Day occasions to reflect on the state of workers in today’s environment, to outline key issues which are of concern to Nigerian workers in particular and Nigerians in general. This year’s May Day is also coinciding with the first anniversary of the current administration under President Muhammadu Buhari. This therefore provides us an opportunity to review the state of the nation in the last one year. However, before we go into the details, Comrades, on your behalf, I wish to express our appreciation to Mr. President for accepting our invitation to personally grace this May Day celebration today. THEME: THE WORKING CLASS AND THE QUEST FOR SOCIO-ECONOMIC REVIVAL. We chose as theme of this year’s commemoration “The working class and the Quest for Socio-Economic Revival”, to underscore the fact that socio-economic renewal is one of the greatest challenges confronting our country, and Nigerian workers and their families today. Our government at various levels, needs to urgently articulate ways and strategies to turn around for the benefit of our people, the socio-economic fortunes of the country. The situation of our country in the socio-economic sphere before the last general election in March 2015 had been bedeviled by insecurity as a result of Boko Haram insurgency, an economy in ruins as a result of years of maladministration and corruption, at Federal and State levels; drastic fall in the price of crude oil in the international market, coupled with continuing fall in the value of our national currency; a festering social crises symbolized by a huge un-employment crises and inability of a number of state governments to pay salaries and pensions, among other challenges. These challenges and problems were all inherited from the previous administration under former President GoodLuck Jonathan. Nigerians had voted the current APC government under President Muhammadu Buhari in the belief that his personal integrity as a man of virtue and experience would help to bring about a positive change in their lives, as promised in the party’s campaign slogan of “Change”. This May 2016, marked the 1st anniversary of the coming into office of the current administration. What has been the score card of the government in addressing the mirage of problems it met on assuming the reign of governance? What has happened in the areas of national security, in the fight against corruption, in the efforts to revive the economy and provide jobs to Nigerians, to cite a few concrete areas in the last twelve months? NATIONAL SECURITY VIS-À-VIS BATTLE AGAINST BOKO HARAM INSURGENCY. At the beginning of the year, we had cause to assert that on the security front our armed forces within the year redeemed their reputation as a resilient fighting force and fought the Boko Haram insurgents, inflicting heavy defeats on them in the North Eastern part of the country. We said that our conviction was that though the war was still on-going, Nigerians now believed that it was only a matter of time for these evil forces to be defeated. Nigerians no doubt, now believe that the turn-around in the struggle against this deadly force is as a result of the leadership President Buhari had provided in this direction. As workers who have been direct victims of the violence in the North East, we want to use this May Day to restate our call for Mr. President to combine the military success with a marshal plan for the reconstruction of the devastated infrastructure of the geo-political zone. ON OUR CHIBOK GIRLS: Last month marked the 2nd anniversary of the abduction of almost 300 school girls from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State. With over 200 of them still in captivity, we urge the federal government and the military authorities to redouble their search for these young Nigerians to be found and reunited with their parents. No stone must be left unturned to achieve the above objectives. OTHER SECURITY CONCERNS: In the past few years, other security concerns have similarly gained ascendency in our public consciousness. These include such acts as kidnapping, cattle rusting, communal and sectarian clashes, as well as pastoralist-farmers clashes, and the deliberate vandalisation of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta region. Government at all levels must work to stamp out this anti-social and criminal behaviour from amongst our people and communities. FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION. As organized labour, we were perhaps the first to share the current government’s concern about the impact of corruption in our national life. We believe that one of the fundamental problems of our country presently is endemic corruption. This has penetrated all facets of our national life and is responsible in a very large part, for our retarded development. Indeed, there is a convergence between our own promise to Nigeria workers during our 11th Delegates Conference in February/march 2015 and the campaign promise of President Buhari, during the general elections, which came after ours, on March 28, 2015. This was what motivated us 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”. In our letter to Mr. President, the leadership of the National Assembly and state governors on that occasion, we canvassed for: ❖ All stolen funds identified and recovered to be kept in a special account and appropriated for job creation, funding educational infrastructure and upgrading our health care infrastructure; ❖ The establishment of Special Anti-corruption Courts to try corruption cases throughout the country; ❖ All elected and appointed public officers to publicly declare their assets and liabilities upon assumption of office; ❖ An urgent need to review and strengthen our anti-corruption legislations; ❖ An expansion of the whistle blowing and fraud protocol by the EFCC to include payment of 10% of the forfeited undeclared assets to the whistle-blowers/informants when successfully prosecuted; ❖ Ant-corruption agencies to as a matter of urgency extend their search light to the two tiers of government, the states and local governments; ❖ The appointment of anti-graft judges as provided for in the ICPC Act, in the 36 states of the federation to handle corruption-related cases exclusively; ❖ A drastic downward review of the unsustainable high cost of operating the current democratic dispensation. These suggestions on how to address the crisis of the corruption and good governance in our country are as valid today as when we made them nine (9) months ago, in September 2015. Our worry as organized labour is that if no concrete convictions are secured in the many corruption trials going on, between now and the next 12-15months, those who have stolen these huge fortunes will start feeling that they can outlive the Buahri Presidency, and return to a regime of “business as usual” as far as corruption is concerned. (III) UNFINISHED REFORMS IN THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM In our last May Day address, we were full of praise for the former chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, for his firmness in refusing to be manipulated by politicians, and for standing his ground in ensuring that new technological innovations helped to reduce rigging substantially in the March/April 2015 general elections. We also praised the statesmanly role played by then President Goodluck Jonathan, in allowing the will of the electorate to prevail without executive interference. However, the required reforms needed to perpetually guarantee this nation free, fair and credible elections are not yet completed. Despite the fact that in the last twelve months of the Presidency of the President Buhari, INEC has been left to run its show as it deemed fit, the desperation of politicians of the two mainstream parties gives us a lot of cause for concern. Unless the unfinished reforms started with the partial implementation of the Justice Mohammed Uwais’ electoral reform committee are completed, we see dangers ahead. Among these reforms waiting to be implemented is the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission. For us in organized labour, unless our politicians know that there is real possibility that their electoral rascalities carry real penalties of jail terms or long term disqualification from contesting for public offices, the type of disgraceful mayhem witnessed during the recent election in Rivers and other states would continue unabated. Similarly, unless we fine-tune the procedure for the appointment of the chairman and key officers of the electoral management body as recommended in the Justice Uwais report, the current progress made in the independence and operations of IN.

 

 


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