On behalf of the working people of
We are delighted that Mr. President has found time out of your crowded schedule to receive us personally in order to avail us of this opportunity to share views and ideas on important national issues and others that are currently agitating the minds of our members across the country.
Global Economic Meltdown
The first of these issues is the global economic meltdown and the response of government to it. We are aware that government is concerned about the crisis and has already taken some measures to address it. For example, we are aware through media reports that government is now involved in a belt-tightening programme that envisages cuts in the perquisites of political office holders. While we salute the initiative of government in this regard, we believe that this initiative will be more effective to the extent that it is based upon and derives from a correct understanding of the causes of the meltdown and its particular impact on
Although many causes are implicated, one generally accepted fact is that the global crisis has arisen as a result of the collapse of the economic ideology of free market forces. The economic meltdown has now shown conclusively that the economy and its regulation cannot be left to the whims and caprices of free market forces and that government does have a strong and leading role to play not only in the regulation of business and the economy but that it must also be a key player in the ownership and management of business and non-business institutions for the regulatory role to make the desired impact.
It is for this reason that in the so called liberal economies, notably the
Economic Bailout Plans
In saying this, we want to indicate that labour would be opposed to the kind of bailout plans that seek to socialize the losses of big business while privatizing their profits. Over the last years for example, Nigerian banks have largely fallen over themselves in the relay to declare huge profits and dividends. However, we would also like to urge Mr. President to conduct a thorough investigation into the management and health of the banks and stock exchange markets as in spite of the huge profits being declared, the value of the shares of the banks have shrunk to a fraction of what they were worth only some months ago. We believe that something must be terribly wrong in a situation where banks are declaring huge profits and yet, the value of their shares continues to tumble. Unless what is wrong is found quickly and addressed, the impact of the global failure of free market forces on
We are worried by the continued closure of industries in the country as this has continued to harm employment generation as well as generate lower economic growth. Recent reports show that one of the credible ways of development as a nation is through manufacturing and not the sales raw materials in the international market.
Injection of State Funds into Public Works
Mr. President, one measure which has been adopted to deal with the crisis in the developed countries is the massive injection of state funds into public works that are designed to generate employment for millions of people. While the catastrophic unemployment figures in these countries are of recent origin and traceable partly to the collapse of market forces,
Nationalization of Failed Private Enterprises
Another measure is the continued privatization of the State-owned enterprises in the country. We maintain our long held position that (a) privatization has adverse effects for employment, prices and public welfare (b) there should be no privatization of the strategic economic, social sector and of public monuments (c) and that where privatization is inevitable, the process must be transparent, participatory and accountable with emphasis on the need to protect jobs and benefit of Nigerian workers in the effected enterprises.
What has become worrisome is the continued sales of every category of public enterprise in manners that violate the basic tenets of transparency and openness. It is in this light that we kindly request Mr. President to revisit the entire privatization programme with a view to instilling sanity and transparency in the process.
Regulating the Activities of the Market
A third measure is the need to regulate the activities of the market. In this regard, we find it strange that while governments across the world are now moving in the direction of more government regulation and protection of local industries, there is still quite some talk about deregulation of the market in
Labour also urge you to rapidly fix the refineries to boast the available quantum of products in the country and to save the resources used on importation.
Mr. President, we believe that you will be the first to acknowledge that the issue of corruption lies, in part, at the heart of the failure of development efforts in
Mr. President, we are aware that
Release of Electoral Reforms Committee Report and Good Governance
We would also want to observe that corruption applies not only to the theft of public funds but also to the theft of the people's vote. Indeed, political corruption has been the second half of the bane of economic, political and social development in
In line with our contributions and submissions to the Committee, we want to urge Mr. President not to relent in his determination to bequeath to the country a new order of politics that is characterized by integrity, fair play, sportsmanship and where the people genuinely feel that their votes count. The example of
Confront Problems in the Education Sector
Mr. President, one other concern we have is the crisis in the education sector. As various studies and reports have shown, the quality and quantity of education in
In the area of the universities, a lingering problem has remained the situation in the University of Ilorin where as several panels, including those set up by this government, have established that 49 academic staff were unilaterally and unjustly sacked by the Vice-Chancellor. The situation has generated several crises in the university system and we are aware that it has even been brought to the attention of Mr. President. We urge Mr. President to intervene in the matter by ensuring that justice is done quickly. We believe that any issue, no matter how already advanced within the court system can still be settled out of court. This indeed, is the position of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The argument that the courts should be allowed to conclude on the matter only helps those who have been and are still working tirelessly to ensure that justice is delayed. We therefore want to urge Mr. President to resolve the matter administratively and decisively.
Confronting the Problems of the Power Sector
Power is equally a crucial driver of national development. For this reason, it is a true calamity that in spite of the huge national resources that have been ploughed into the energy sector, most of the country is still run on generators. This fact is confirmed by the inclusion of some N2.8 billion in the 2009 Budget for the purchase of diesel oil and maintenance of generators for official government business. As a result of the power sector crisis, most of our jobs are now being shipped to neighbouring African countries, notably
A Return to National Planning
Mr. President, we are aware that some of the issues we have raised are in the 7-point Agenda of your government. However, while there may be much talk about this agenda even by highly placed officials of government, very few Nigerians including those making reference to it in their speeches understand what the agenda means. What is needed is a holistic planning framework within which such an agenda may be located. In essence, we believe and are calling for a return to the framework of national development planning that characterized not only our early history of nation building but that produced the steel plants, fertilizer plants, refineries, housing estates and other state assets that the last regime regretably dashed away to its friends. The only difference would be that under your leadership, we would now be applying the framework in erecting the foundation for a new national beginning that hopefully, future generations of Nigerian rulers will want to commit to and build on.
Demand for Minimum Wage
Mr. President will recall that long before your recent leave, the NLC had submitted its request for a negotiation of a new national minimum wage. The demand for a new minimum wage has become necessary given the current cost of living. Our arguments for the new minimum wage have always been unassailable. The Nigerian worker, particularly in the public sector, is one of the least paid in the world. This is true when taken against the absolute national currency, as well as wages and salaries based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which adjusts the national currency for the differential cost of living of the relevant nations.
It was in recognition of how bad the situation was, indeed the crisis-nature of the situation that led the NLC to demand for wage increase during the President Olusegun Obasanjo regime which culminated in the signing of an agreement aimed at providing a living wage within three years.
The consequence of the abdication of the agreed approach to the implementation of the phased-wage increases has been that wages and salaries have been sharply depressed.
To compound matters, since the 15 percent increase within the framework of wages and salary consolidation, a number of developments have further depressed the actual take-home pay of workers. Inflation has intensified in the last one year, with the cost of living index in the urban sector increasing by over 14 per cent. The disproportionate increase (20.9 percent) in the costs of food means that the erosion in the real wages and salaries of workers is alarmingly severe.
Worse still, the process of consolidation has resulted in a significantly higher income tax burden on workers. The process of monetizing and consolidating in-kind, benefits which were hitherto not taxed has resulted in an escalation of the tax paid by workers. This has further depressed the real take home pay of workers.
Apart from this erosion in the real take home pay, the relativities in the economy is quite skewed against the working class. For example, a comparison of workers' pay to that of political office holders within the same public sector does not suggest that there is a rationale or principle undergirding salary and wages in Nigeria. For example, while workers' salaries increased by 15 percent between 2006 and 2007, those of political office holders increased by over 800 percent.
Before your annual leave, there have been indications that negotiation on this was soon to commence. We were therefore surprised that during your leave, statements emanated from the Presidency that there would be no wage increase. This was followed up with a submission for the reduction of salaries and allowance of political officer holders. While this move to reduce the salaries and allowances of political office holders is commendable, a clear distinction between the condition of ordinary workers and political officer holders needs to be drawn. In particular, the demand for new national minimum wage is a humane call to consider that many workers in
Mr. President, we believe that you owe achievement of these goals as an obligation to yourself, ourselves and the entire country.
Once again, we are immensely grateful for this rare opportunity you have given to us to meet with you. We pray to Allah to give you the grace, wisdom, health and long life to serve the people of this great country so well that you will be remembered only for your legacies of good deeds by Nigerians and posterity.
Long Live the Nigeria Working people,
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.