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2017 NEW YEAR IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO DELIVER ON PROMISES
11-Jan-2017


NEW YEAR IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO DELIVER ON PROMISES Being the text of the new year message of the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni, on January 1, 2017. 1.Preamble: The outgone year was perhaps the toughest and most difficult for workers, pensioners, and the generality of the poor and working people of this country in almost three decades. The astronomical increase in the pump price of Petroleum Products, the massive and continuing devaluation of the Naira, the rise in inflation, and the 43% increase in electricity tariff in February 2016, all combined to make life difficult for the wage earners, and worse for the teeming millions of our people without any means of livelihood. In the last 12 months, the living standard of majority of Nigerians has taken a terrible beating as a result of the above. On behalf of the National Executive Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress, I therefore wish to warmly congratulate Nigerian workers and people for surviving these difficult times to see the New Year. The patience and patriotism of the workers in the face of the daunting challenges of the preceding year are commendable. The economy went into full recession in the course of the year, with the 4.3% GDP growth projection for the year turning into negative growth from about the 2nd quarter of the year. At the beginning of 2016, the Naira was exchanging at N197 to $1; by the end of the year, it had depreciated to N495 to $1 in the so-called black market, with at least 9 or more other rates in between; in the name of flexibility introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Under this regime, we have different rates of exchange for pilgrims, Customs, budget, Interbank, Fuel imports, Bureau de Change, Special funds Airlines, Western Union, Travelex etc. The projection and forecast for the economy in the New Year are equally not very optimistic. At the wider level of the polity, we however have seen the consolidation in the gains of the Nigerian armed Forces in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency, and the reduction of the destructive activities of militants in the Niger Delta as a result of the combination of dialogue and the activities of our Armed Forces in the area. 2. OUR STRUGGLES IN 2016 In the year 2016, we fought a number of battles in furtherance of our mandate to protect the working and living conditions of our members in particular and Nigerian people in general including the following: (a) Strike Against Fuel Price Increase. In May 2016, against the often stated position of President Buhari that he did not believe that petroleum Product Prices were being subsided in Nigeria, he eventually succumbed to the lobby of vested interests in the industry and others who wanted extra revenue from the price hike, and massively increased the pump price of fuel from N86 a litre to N145 a litre. Despite the challenges from within, we declared a national strike on the 18th May 2016. The strike lasted till 22nd May 2016, when the National Executive Council of Congress met and called it off following interventions by patriotic Nigerians and assurances by government there would be palliative measures to cushion the effects of the increase. However, in the last seven months since we ended the strike, government is yet to fulfill its promise of putting in place a palliative regime.The NNPC continues to do the bulk of the importation of Petroleum Products thereby putting pressure on our foreign exchange situation. Our infrastructure continue to be underfunded; in addition to the underfunding of education, health and other social welfare facilities. As with previous administrations, we have entered 2017 without the Federal Government having on the table a serious plan to turn around our dependency on importation to satisfy our Petroleum Products internal consumption needs. And yet we continue to be the only OPEC and Oil Producing Country that allows this type of situation. Everything we predicted would happen if oil price were increased are unfolding before our very eyes. Government needs to quickly address this challenge by creating an enabling environment for enhanced local refining to meet rising local needs. (b) Struggle against unpaid Salaries and Pensions/Retrenchments in the PublicSector. In the preceding year, we have tackled a number of state governments over non-payment of outstanding wages and pension of workers and pensioners. Among the states were IMO, OYO, OGUN, EKITI, KOGI and NASARAWA. In the case of Nasarawa, we lost two workers to trigger happy Nigerian Policemen, who murdered these workers in cold blood for protesting the unjust policy of the state government of paying half salaries to different cadres of Civil Servants in the state. In fairness to the Federal Government, President Buhari had made consistent efforts to bail out state governments to pay workers’ wages in the states as 27 of the 36 state were in default at the inception of the administration in May, 2015. In the New Year, with states earning more revenue from sales of crude oil, and more naira as a result of the massive devaluation of the naira, the NLC will continue its campaign to ensure that the incidence of non-payment of salaries as when due, is no longer a feature of our national life. 3. The Fight Against Corruption The Nigeria Labour Congress welcomes the recent Federal government's decision to institute reward of up to 5% on recovered stolen funds to any successful whistle blower. This policy which was approved in December, by the Federal Executive Council, we understand is one of the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption. We also understand via the briefing by the Hon. Minister of finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, that a bill to support this policy is already before the National Assembly. We call on the National Assembly to give expedited hearing to the bill so that it could be signed into law by Mr. President in the first 3-6 months of the New Year. In the interim, we urge the government to give serious thought to our demand for the protection of whistle blowers at the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri and the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, who have been made to bear the brunt of the anger of the Chief Executives of these institutions. We also urge the government to do the needful by prevailing on the Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri to stop performing her statutory functions in compliance with extant Civil Service Rules until she is cleared of the corruption charges for which she is standing trial. It needs no stating that for the war on corruption to be sustainable, whistle blowers must be protected. 3.1 Non-confirmation of EFCC Acting Chairman by the Senate. A major setback to the current Anti-Corruption campaign of the Buhari administration has been the non-confirmation by the Senate of President Buhari nominee for the chairmanship of the EFCC. This was after he had acted in that position for one year. The circumstances leading to the non-confirmation leaves many questions unanswered. For instance, is it not common practice that before such a nomination goes to the Senate, that the Executive arm normally ensures that the nominee to such sensitive positions gets security clearance? This is of course without prejudice to the power of the National Assembly to ask for an independent report from any agency of government, if it deems it necessary in the course of it’s legislative and confirmative functions. As NLC, we are worried that the President was unable to get such a key appointment through Senate confirmation. This is despite the fact that the President’s party – the APC controls the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly. We are equally concerned that an inter-agency conflict or rivalry might have played a role in the events leading to the non-confirmation of the EFCC chairman designate. Since these agencies are all part of the Executive arm, Mr. President clearly must take responsibility and rein them in so that they work in concert to implement government’s cardinal programmes. The lesson from the non-confirmation of the EFCC chairman going forward is that the Executive arm must work with the Senate and its leadership to ensure that nominations into key and sensitive positions are treated speedily before they resume in the new positions. This is because as we can see with the EFCC case, they’re bound to step on toes of vested interests in the course of their assignment. The longer they stay without confirmation in acting capacities, the more this affects their chances of being confirmed. As NLC, as we have maintained right from the onset, we will continue to support the anti-corruption effort of the present administration, because of our belief that corruption is at the heart of our inability to develop to our full potentials as a nation – 56 year after political independent from Britain. We however urge the Federal government and all the anti-corruption agencies under it to act to avoid the perception gaining ground that only members of the opposition are targeted in the anti-corruption fight. Indeed a leading member of the opposition recently said that those defecting to APC are doing so to escape prosecution on corruption charges. In the New Year, we shall continue to work and collaborate with the President’s Advisory Committee Against Corruption to execute its mandate. We shall in the New Year also join the committee in campaigning for the establishment of a Special Court to try high profile corruption and other special crimes. It will be recalled that all chairmen of EFCC from Nuhu Ribadu to the current acting chairman, have canvased for this special court, in recognition of the frustrations they have encountered on the length of time li.

 

 


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