Address of NLC President at the 2018 May Day Celebration

ROLE OF LABOUR MOVEMENT IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: DARE TO STRUGGLE, DARE TO WIN, MAY DAY ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS; COMRADE AYUBA P. WABBA, mni

Protocols

Introduction:

On behalf of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), I have the honour and privilege to welcome Your Excellences, friends, comrades, allies and esteemed guests to the 2018 Workers Day occasion.

Since 1889, May Day celebrations have become epochal in the life of workers all over the world. Let me use this auspicious occasion to salute the courage and sacrificial contributions of Nigerian workers from all sectors of the economy, and pensioners, our senior citizens, to the development of our country. For us at the Nigeria Labour Congress, this year’s May Day is very significant because it coincides with our fortieth year anniversary in the struggle. A day like this, therefore, offers all of us a perfect opportunity to evaluate our progress as a country and the invaluable contribution of the working class.

Your Excellency, fellow comrades, last year, we addressed you on the theme “Labour Relations in Economic Recession: An Appraisal”. We used the occasion of the 2017 May Day to reflect on the impact of the economic recession on labour relations in the country. We noted that the working class often bears the brunt of the ravaging recessions. Since then, the challenges confronting the working class and their organizations have not significantly changed despite the cheering news that Nigeria is out of recession and on the path of growth and sustainable development.

Workers, the Labour movement, Employers and Government are supposed to be partners in progress in national development based on the understanding that Labour creates the wealth. This informs our choice of the theme of this year’s May Day as the “Role of the Labour Movement in National Development: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win.”

Comrades, this theme avails us the space to review the contribution of the labour movement in the complex process of our national development. The theme also provides us sober moments to reflect on the state of our economy, the quality of governance, the health of our democracy, the global labour-industrial dynamics especially from the prisms of a nationalist labour movement and the need to rededicate ourselves to national rebirth and development.

The Labour movement has engaged in many struggles and contestations to free workers from exploitation and oppression. We have demanded for a better society and better working and living conditions. We have contributed immensely to our national development from pre-independence, to the struggle for independence. We have fought for the enthronement of democratic rule. We have canvassed for good governance at all levels, championed the fight against corruption and the promotion of social justice.

The Labour movement has provided voice to the voiceless. Addressing the huge inequality gap and the provision of shared prosperity among Nigerians have been some of our topmost priorities. We have been at the forefront of strengthening our democratic values especially through the campaign for electoral reforms that would engender free, fair and credible elections.

Despite the enormous contribution of Nigerian workers and the Labour movement to national development, the issue of improved conditions of service, standard of living, and welfare has always been through demand and struggle.

From the first Minimum Wage of N125 which was equivalent to $200 in 1981 to the current Minimum Wage of N18, 000, Nigerian workers have always been forced to bargain so hard, wait for too long and at the end made to endure very little returns that tend to mock their input to national development. This year’s May Day address seeks to inspire strength in every Nigerian worker and pensioner that the only path to victory over the forces of oppression and slavery is to rise above the odds and dare to struggle! The challenges threatening our collective survival as workers, as a movement and as citizens must mobilize in us the courage to dare and the will to win!

State of the Economy

Distinguished comrades, invited guests, despite the promising nature of our economy, its great potentials and positive indicators to the recovery of our economy from recession especially as evidenced by positive run of growth, and increase in internally generated revenue, our economy remains largely import driven and dependent. Though described as mixed, our economy is essentially rent seeking and suffers from systemic distortions. The over dependence of our economy on crude oil revenue for a very long time continues to expose us to severe shocks from price fluctuation in the international crude oil market. This was a major issue that landed us in the last recession. While we commend the efforts of the current government on economic diversification particularly through agriculture, we are not unmindful of serious structural issues that undermine the progress being made, deeply undermine inclusive growth and impact negatively on sustainable development.

We acknowledge and commend the Federal Government of Nigeria for launching the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). Together with the existing National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), the Plan can promote revival of industries and creation of mass decent jobs. ERGP rightly sets the target of reducing petroleum products imports in Nigeria by 80 per cent in 2018. NNPC must revive the refineries in order to meet the set refining targets. We must walk the talk and not repeat the mistake of our past.

Impact of Spiralling Inflation

Dear compatriots, the 2016 phenomenal hike in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as ‘fuel’, or ‘petrol’, high electricity tariffs, and uncertainties in monetary cum fiscal policies of government have sustained high inflationary rates. Although, records from the National Bureau of Statistics show that Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped from 15.13% in January to 14.33% in February, 2018, this has had very little impact on the living conditions of Nigerian workers and pensioners. Double digit inflation rates continue to erode the living standards of Nigerians.

The punch of rising living costs in Nigeria is made worse for the average worker by the absence of cushioning measures or palliatives such as increase in the minimum wage, upward adjustment of salaries and improvement in social conditions. Unfortunately, the living conditions of many Nigerian workers and pensioners have been further decimated by arbitrary lay-offs and retrenchment of workers in the private sector. Even some state governments now find it convenient to activate mass retrenchment of workers as their first line of ingenuity to cutting down on the cost of governance.

The Challenge of Unemployment

The Unemployment Rate in Nigeria increased to 18.80% in the third quarter of 2017 from 16.20% in the second quarter of 2017. Unemployment has remained high with an alarming proportion of our youth jobless. The few that have a semblance of employment operate under very precarious conditions denoted by job insecurity, poor work conditions and gender discrimination. The trend of factory closures has continued to spiral out of control turning our once lively centres of economic productivity into worship and entertainment centres.

Comrades, as earlier noted, the crisis of widening unemployment in Nigeria has been exacerbated by indiscriminate sack and retrenchment of workers by some public and private employers. Unfortunately, the different levels of government that should be more concerned about protecting our people are the ones leading the campaign to push more Nigerians into the unemployment market.

Escalating Poverty

More than 70% of our population live below the poverty line. In fact, a number of international economic reports forecast that despite the significant difference in our population size, Nigeria may soon overtake India as the poverty capital of the world. The reasons for endemic poverty in Nigeria are not far-fetched. Our economic structure does not provide the enabling space for mass industrialization imbued with the capacity for sustainable jobs. Our public policies and consumption pattern still encourage the export of jobs and the import of poverty.

Industrialisation

Industry is a key driver of sustainable jobs and development for national economies and the foundation of good living standards. United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) had over the years shown that manufacturing industry in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) lags behind other developing regions of the world. There are three leading economies in Africa namely Nigeria which is worth some $406 billion, Egypt $332.3 billion and South Africa $294.1billion. However, in terms of manufacturing value added, South Africa at 25 per cent is the highest, followed by Egypt at 20 per cent and Nigeria with less than 5 per cent. Ghana is even more industrialized at 6 per cent manufacturing value added (MVA). Millions of youth join the labour market annually without jobs making them voluntary slaves to Europe and America. Only industry can provide sustainable jobs, living wages and necessary revenues for government to provide the needed infrastructure for development.

In order for Nigeria to meet the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, especially SDG 9 dealing with industry and innovation, Nigeria must urgently innovate, revive closed textile, steel and engineering mills. We must industrialize! We must copy China’s industrialization drive which has within 20 years moved over 250 million people out of poverty through manufacturing and industrialization. We must stop exporting raw cottons, crude oil, mineral resources only to be importing finished textile, petroleum products from China, Europe and America. Nigeria must make what it consumes, otherwise it will be consumed by the rest of the world.

We commend the Federal Government for refusing to succumb to the Economic Partnership Agreement. Also commendable is the cautious approach of government to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA). The NLC is delighted that a broad and an inclusive group has been constituted to re-examine the contents of the CFTA in the overall interest of Nigerians.

No Industrialisation Without Electrification

There can be no industrialization without electrification. The Federal government should stop any action plan that will further give monies to non-performing privatized electricity distribution companies (Discos) in Nigeria. We also call on the government to massively invest in energy mix of hydro, solar and nuclear to drive industrialization. In this regard, we wish to call for a reduction of tariff duties on solar panels and other solar products instead of the recent increase in these duties.

Stop Smuggling

The government should also combat smuggling of imported contrabands, including textiles and rice. Customs must always be on duty to fight smuggling of imported banned goods.

We commend the current leadership of the Nigeria Customs for the increased onslaught against smuggling and urge them to do more.

Raw Material (Cotton)

It is an irony that Nigeria today is facing the problem of cotton scarcity. There should be increased production of cotton locally. We have to give incentives to local farmers or cotton growers to encourage them to produce more cotton as raw materials, as well as food crops.

Executive Orders

We commend the Executive Orders recently issued by the Federal Executive in line with the promise of President Buhari on the ease of doing business. Of special importance is the order mandating Government agencies to spend more of their budgets on locally produced goods. This singular order would help in the recovery of our labour-intensive textile industry and many other factories in Nigeria.

The challenge is to ensure that the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) make the executive orders a reality in patronizing locally produced goods. The Police and Customs department should stop buying officers uniforms from Bangladesh and China, when the surviving textile factories can produce at home.

National Development Planning

Nigerian workers are worried by constraints imposed by the dearth of deliberate planning of our national economy for many years. The difference between the prevailing politically tenured rolling plans as opposed to long term national development plans which were not tied to the political nuances of incumbent governments is there for all to see. We can attest that many of the enduring national development legacies were products of the first, second and third national development plans.

Our budgetary framework remains frail as appropriation bills stall longer than necessary before they are passed into law. This is particularly the case with our Federal budgets. The 2018 budget is a case in point. It is still trapped in the National Assembly four months into the year. This has further compounded the sufferings of Nigerians whose daily sustenance depends on the budget. We are worried by the unnecessary bickering between the National Assembly and the Presidency over the budget.

We call for an overhaul of our budgetary system, improved relations between the legislature and the executive and cutting down of wastes in government.

Corruption and Good Governance

The fight against corruption is a collective battle and has to be transparent and holistic. Corrupt persons in and outside government must be dutifully tracked and diligently prosecuted. This needs a reformed judiciary. Recovered looted funds must be transparently accounted for and utilized to revitalize the economy and attend to the welfare of citizens.

As a country, we must address the disparity between the remuneration of political office holders and other workers in the public sector. It is also important that we tackle the wide gap between actual budget appropriation and releases. We should strengthen processes that ensure that government institutions are made to account for public resources committed to their care.

We demand for specialised courts to speed up the prosecution of all corruption cases. Cases must be dispensed with in a specified period of time.

STATE OF THE STRUGGLE

Upward Review of the National Minimum Wage

The process of reviewing upwards the National Minimum Wage to meet the current economic realities is on-going especially after the inauguration of the tripartite committee by Mr. President late last year.

The benefits of a new minimum wage cannot be over emphasized. An increase in the minimum wage will pull many workers out of poverty. A new minimum wage will put the country in positive light globally as it would ensure compliance with the International Labour Organization standards. Overall, an increase in the minimum wage will raise the levels of productivity and enhance the purchasing power of workers.

Our current demand of N66, 500 as the national minimum wage will only manage to meet the basic needs of the average Nigerian worker if inflation is kept at a single digit. We have also proposed that the Minimum Wage Act should be amended to guarantee review every five years. This was the recommendation of the 2011 Belgore led Tripartite Committee. We have also proposed that the minimum wage law should apply to all workers and not restricted only to establishments with 50 workers and above. We have also demanded that there should be minimum pension for our retired workers and senior citizens who currently in some cases are receiving N2000 as monthly pension.

The recent nation-wide minimum wage public hearings have unmasked the enemies of Nigerian workers. We insist that once the Minimum Wage Act is signed into law, all employers in public and private sectors must pay at once. We shall stand with those willing to pay more than the minimum. We shall resist any move to renegotiate the minimum wage at any level.

The Federal Government must ensure that federal allocations are not released to states and local governments that refuse to implement the new minimum wage. We are battle ready against public and private organizations that would refuse to conform to the new minimum wage. At our disposal is the power of our votes! We shall ensure that governments that refuse to pay the new minimum wage will not receive the support of the working class, pensioners and their families.

Withholding of Contributory Pensions Deduction by Employers

Incidences of unlawful and illegal withholding of contributory pension deductions from workers’ salaries and not remitting same to their Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) still abound. The unpleasant situations where workers retire from public service and are forced to wait for several months for their pension benefits to be processed still persist. The lethargic payment and non-payment for those who are already pensioners – especially by state governments continue to militate against the smooth operation of pension administration in our country.We call on all employers of labour and the three tiers of Government to promptly remit all contributory pension deductions to workers’ PFAs.

Salaries and Pension Indebtedness

Your Excellency, currently, some states owe workers and pensioners their salaries and pension ranging between three and fifteen months. Some states owe pensioners many months of pension arrears despite the bailout funds, budget support fund and the Paris debt refund. The callous and inhumane treatment of pensioners has unleashed untold sufferings on our senior citizens whose only crime was dedicating their entire lives to public service. Many of our pensioners have gone down with avoidable ailments and even suffered untimely deaths while waiting for their well-deserved pension allowances. This situation does not augur well and sends the wrong signal to workers still in active service.

The lack of payment of salaries and pension in some states is not essentially as a result of insufficient funds. It is mainly symptomatic of crisis of governance. First is the issue of over bloated retinue of political jobbers and payment of bogus salaries to such appointed political office holders by state governments. Second is the issue of dearth of public accountability. Third is that some state governments have over borrowed to fund white elephant projects that have no bearing with improving the lives of citizens and in most cases end up as abandoned projects. These projects litter all over the country. Last is the fact that at different levels of government, priority is not accorded to the payment of workers’ salaries and pension.

Outsourcing and Casualization of Labour

According to a Report published by the Campaign for Democratic Workers Rights, 45% of the workforce in Nigeria operates as casual workers. 50% of the burden of casualization exists in the downstream oil and gas and banking sub sectors of the economy and some other work places. Casual workers in our workforce operate under very precarious conditions with near total denial of the benefits associated with permanent and decent work. Nigerian workers can no longer offer their labour to slave drivers whose only interest is profit maximization and capital mobility.

Ladies and gentlemen, closely related to the trend of labour casualization is the worrisome pattern of anti-unionization posture by employers of labour in the public and private sectors. We wish to remind all employers that our laws allow all workers to exercise their freedom of association to belong to unions of their choice in line with the provisions of ILO Convention 87 and Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. MTN is a major culprit in this regard. We warn offending employers that they should expect organized labour soon at their doorsteps as we will increase picketing activities against such roguish corporate entities. We will dare you! We shall win you!

Failure of the Privatization and Neo-Liberal Policies of Government

Distinguished guests, well-meaning Nigerians, since the privatization of electricity distribution, Nigerians are yet to see the fulfilment of promises of efficient service delivery. Instead, things have gone worse with chronic failures by DISCOs to supply prepaid meters, exploitation of Nigerians through estimated billings and reluctance to attend to the simplest complaints by electricity consumers.

The failure of our refineries to work and government over reliance on massive fuel importation are reprehensible. Nigerian workers are appalled that Nigeria is the only OPEC country that cannot refine its own crude.

The removal of subsidy on PMS in 2016 has not fully addressed the challenge of perennial shortage of the product. When government ditched the so-called subsidies and hiked the price of ‘fuel’, it claimed that the move would save trillions of naira, ensure uninterrupted supply of petrol and even force the price of PMS down. The reverse was the case recently when we had shortages.The failure of all our refineries to work optimally to end the regime of fuel importation continues to put tremendous pressure on our foreign exchange and undermine our national development. In fact, the full resuscitation of all the existing refineries and building new refineries especially the modular ones will enable us make refined petroleum products readily available locally, service the West African sub region, create sustainable jobs and put Nigeria firmly on the path to sustainable growth and development.

To promote productivity and reverse the de-industrialization of our economy, there is need to increase investment in our real sector. In this wise, Nigerian workers demand that all our refineries must be made to work again! We REJECT the neo-liberal agenda of keeping public refineries under lock while government officials fall over themselves for ‘selfies’ at just one private refinery under construction. We will continue to RESIST coronation of private capital as the sole driver of market dynamics in the downstream petroleum sub sector.

Attack on Workers and Trade Union Rights by Kaduna State Government

The foundation of democracy in any society is respect for the rule of law, human rights and dignity. We condemn in strong terms the recent violation of workers and trade union rights by the Kaduna State Government where over forty thousand workers from various ministries, departments and agencies, tertiary institutions and the local government were issued sack letters without respect of our labour laws and court pronouncements. This is with the intention of avoiding the payment of the terminal benefits of these workers. This is an act of cruelty and inhumanity to fellow humans and citizens.

Also condemnable is the desperate attempt by the Kaduna State Government to deny the sacked workers and the trade unions their fundamental right to protest. The right of citizens to peaceful protest is a universal constitutional right that cannot be denied or wished away. The only requirement according to our legal jurisprudence is to inform police for coverage. No permission is required nor prior approval from the security services. The deployment of over eight thousand security agencies to stop workers’ protest in Kaduna protesting their illegal sack is an aberration and undemocratic especially in a situation where pro government sponsored protests in Kaduna are held regularly.

Workers could recall that in 2012 when El Rufai felt threatened by the policies of the then government, he wore a tee shirt and joined the organized labour protest from Berger Junction in Abuja. We wish to remind Governor of El Rufai that no condition is permanent. A day would come when he would once again need to gate-crash as a participant in workers’ protest.

Finally, the Kaduna State government has also refused to comply with Section 16A of the Trade Union Act. As required by international conventions, a formal complaint has been filed at the ILO against the Kaduna State Government.

We use this forum to call on the governor to thread the part of honour and respect the rights of citizens.

Public Service

The public service remains the engine room of government for implementation of people-oriented policies and programmes. The following issues require special attention to bring out the best in them in our civil/public service:
•low pay and huge salary disparity in the core civil service when compared to other MDAs need to be addressed. The ILO principles of equal pay for work of equal value should apply;
•we appreciate the commencement of the payment of promotion arrears, transfer allowance and other legitimate claims of workers. This should continue to be paid as at when due;
•working tools and facilities should be provided to make workers more effective and productive.

Education Sector

Education is the foundation of human development in any society. There has been challenge of poor funding, decay of infrastructure and teaching aids in our education sector especially our universities. The expanding population of students leading to widening student teacher ratio and lack of respect for collective bargaining agreements reached with unions and workers in the education sector has only made matters worse.

We call on government to improve funding to the educational sector through special interventions as it has been proven that budgetary allocation has never been enough. There should also be respect for all bargaining agreements.

Health Sector

Our healthcare system is a shadow of what it used to be in the years back where people from many African countries, especially our neighbouring countries, trooped to Nigeria in search of healthcare services. The reverse is now the case as many Nigerians now embark on medical tourism. This leads to huge capital flight from our economy. The principal factors responsible for this decline include funding issues and decay in infrastructure and technology.

As I speak, healthcare workers and professionals of all the federal tertiary institutions are currently on a nationwide indefinite industrial action. This is largely due to government inability to honour collective bargaining agreement freely entered with unions. Every preferential treatment to one cadre would only compound the situation. Healthcare delivery is a team work and every healthcare worker and professional is important to the optimum performance of the team. There should be fair treatment to all and equity without discrimination as against what is now being witnessed.

Global best practice and standard should guide the action and inaction of government in dealing with this precarious situation. There is the urgent need for government to put all machineries in motion to quickly meet the legitimate demands of our workers in the health sector and save the health sector from total collapse.

We also call on government at all levels to make it mandatory for all public officers to patronise our schools and health facilities for their children’s education and medical needs of their families.

National Security Threats:

The nation is immersed in a renewed outbreak of blood-letting and violence. The initial successes recorded against the Boko Haram insurgency which earned this government international accolades and respect, have come under serious challenge. The North East region has witnessed renewed cases of Boko Haram attacks. The abduction of Dapchi girls, more or less, a replay of the Chibok tragedy reinforces the view of how badly things have deteriorated. We urge the Federal Government to intensify efforts to ensure the successful release of the remaining Dapchi girl still being held reportedly on the account of her faith, and indeed, all the Chibok girls yet to be released.

Also worrisome is the escalating phenomenon of “killer herdsmen”, pastoralists-farmers clashes, cattle rustling and all sorts of extra judicial killings. The frequency, repulsive nature and national spread of these orgies of bloodletting present themselves as the greatest threat to our well-being and unity as a people and as a nation. With the military deployed in twenty-seven of our states, it is very clear that the country is drifting to a precipice.

While we commend our armed forces, who have sacrificed their lives, limbs and comfort to keep us safe from numerous attacks, we call on government to improve on security intelligence, welfare of our soldiers and all our security agents and do everything possible tobring to an end these emerging security threats.

The Politics of Restructuring

Nigerian workers, pensioners and our allies condemn and reject in its entirety the report of the Mallam Nasir El-Rufai’s All Progressive Congress (APC) committee on restructuring particularly their recommendation that local government system be removed from the constitution and that labour matters including trade unions, labour relations, occupational safety, minimum wage, and industrial arbitrations should be moved from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List.

The education that Mallam ElRufai and his committee members need is that first; the removal of labour issues from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent list is not in conformity with global best practice. Second is that member countries of International Labour Organization (ILO) are responsible for implementing labour standards not sub national governments.

Nigerians need Local Government autonomy and not abolition.

The Labour Party (LP) of Nigeria

Comrades, the issue of the ownership of the Labour party is no longer in dispute. The courts have said that “the Labour Party though not a trade union, is an institutional political party, founded, promoted and registered by the Nigeria Labour Congress on behalf of the Nigerian workers and masses”. We are therefore working assiduously to revitalise and strengthen the party in order to achieve the cherished ideals expounded by its foundational initiators. We therefore use this historical occasion to call on Nigerian workers and our allies to commit ourselves to the urgent need of rebuilding the party.

Towards 2019 General Elections

Fellow Citizens, as we progress towards the 2019 general elections, we call on the political class and all Nigerians to always put the interest of Nigeria above any other interests. We must all respect democratic values, imbibe political tolerance and shun all tendencies of politics of “do or die”. INEC must work assiduously to ensure free, fair and transparent elections. INEC should provide a level playing ground for all political actors. There are still very positive aspects of the Report of the Justice Uwais led Electoral Reform Committee that should be implemented especially the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission.

We also advise that INEC should prioritize early preparations for the forthcoming elections. INEC should also improve the delivery of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs). A situation where Nigerians are forced to wait for too long or travel long distances to collect their PVCs induces voter apathy and constitutes a strong source of disenfranchisement. INEC should also conduct a thorough polls register audit in order to weed out names of double registrants and under age voters. Such a move would help boost the confidence of voters and all stakeholders in our electoral system.

Politicians must avoid over heating the polity as we approach 2019 general elections. The labour movement calls on the political class to play the game according to the rules – avoid inflammatory comments, handle differences with decorum and restrain their supporters from resorting to self-help and violence.

As NLC, we are committed to deepening our democracy. We will not only be involved in the processes of voter education, mobilization and election observation, we shall also provide platforms for issue based political debates.

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY

Solidarity with the Cameroonian Trade Union Movement

Our hearts go out to our comrades in the Cameroonian Trade Union Movement who face horrifying harassment in the hands of the state. It is unfortunate that many of the teachers, civil servants, activists and even some members of the Cameroonian Parliament especially in the North West and South West English speaking regions of Cameroon have been detained for prolonged periods in very inhumane conditions for calling for political referendum on a system of government they believe suits them better. We call on the government of Cameroon to halt the harassment of our comrades and other citizens.

Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic Struggle for Emancipation

The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara) is the last outpost of colonialism in Africa. The Nigeria Labour Congress in tandem with its avowed ideological stand on democratic freedomand respect for human rights has maintained unwavering solidarity with the struggles ofWestern Sahara people. We call on Morocco to grant unconditional sovereignty and independence to the people of Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.

We Stand with Comrade Lula da Silva and the Workers Party of Brazil

Nigeria workers stand resolutely with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in his current travails in the hands of organized global capital and their imperialist collaborators. We extend our solidarity with Brazilian workers for their sustained support for Comrade Lula da Silva.

President Lula’s legal harassment heightened the moment it became clear that he was the leading candidate for the October 2018 Brazilian general elections. Political rivals who could not stand Lula’s towering popularity have used the courts to get what they cannot get through the ballot box. This raises great fears on the fate of popular democracy in Brazil. It is a shame that a man who through his famous Bosla Familia (family allowance) and Fome Zero (zero hunger) social interventions led close to 40 million Brazilians out of poverty could be so cruelly hounded. It is a shame that a President who left power with an approval rating of 82% could be treated like a common criminal.

Are we surprised? Certainly not! Red hot cruelty, iron clad vindictiveness and messy pettiness remains the global badge of organized capital. The NLC considers President Lula’s persecution as an attack on the global working class. We urge Brazilian workers and people not to capitulate. We urge our Brazilian comrades to continue to dare. We will win!!!

Solidarity with the Cuban People

It is noteworthy that the Cuban people have managed to stand tall amidst over fifty-seven years of United States’ economic blockade. Despite isolation by western capital, the Cuban healthcare and education systems have continued to impress. The recent smooth transition of political leadership from Comrade Raul Castro to President Miguel Diaz Canel is commendable. This shows the resilience of Cuban’s home-growndemocracy. We all have lessons to learn from the discipline and patriotism of the Cuban socialist struggle.

While our love and solidarityabides with our Cuban comrades, we call for the removal of all forms of blockades against the government and people of Cuba.

Tribute to Comrade Winnie Madikizela Mandela

We salute Winnie Madikizela Mandela’sfidelitytill death to the struggle to decapitate the most brutal racial segregation ever known to man. Winnie was audacious, unpretentious and unrepentant about her commitment to black emancipation. Even her worst critics admirethe originality of her convictions.

Comrade Nomzamo (the one who tries) Winnie Madikizela Mandela has tried her best. She has run her race. She has finished her course. Now, she has obtained an imperishable crown of affectionate remembrance in the hearts of all lovers of freedom, democracy and dignity. Winnie bows out in aplomb.

CONCLUSION

Comrades, this address cannot be complete without saluting the courage, resilience and patriotism of Nigerian workers, pensioners and their families who have continued to endure the profligacy and profanity of unrepentant ruling elites. Be assured that our fists struck in collective commitment to struggle are enough to dare and to win.

I dedicate this May Day to the Nigerian worker, the Armed Forces and the Police who despite numerous challenges still diligently carries on with theirresponsibilities. I dedicate this day to Nigerian pensioners who despite humiliation by the country they served still turned up today swinging fervently to the rhymes of solidarity songs. You truly embody the finest aspects of our humanity. You continue to inspire our younger comrades that there is virtue and honour in daring and in winning!

Finally, I salute our forebears in the struggle, particularly the generation of Pa Michael Imoudu; Labour leader number one, Comrade Hassan Sumonu, Comrade Ali Chiroma, Comrade Paschal Bafyau, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar. We consider the honour we recently bestowed on your labour for the labour movement as only a token of what you mean to us. Organized labour in Nigeria will continue to take inspiration from your legacy of daring and winning!

Long Live Nigeria Labour Congress

Long Live Working Class Solidarity

Long Live International Solidarity

Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria