MOSES JOHN writes on the expectations of Nigerian workers in 2018 as captured in President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba’s New Year Message. Excerpts
2017 and workers
The previous year saw the working people, pensioners and other Nigerians facing series of daunting socio-economic and security challenges, even though we had hoped that the year would offer succour for the masses of the people.
Socio-economic situation of workers
The deplorable economic situation in the out gone year, is aptly captured by the statistics recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which indicated that over 4 million Nigerians lost their jobs in 2017.
Against the background of the campaign promise of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government to create three million jobs annually, the statistics underscores the grave and depressing situation of the Nigerian economic landscape in 2017.
Rather than work to create jobs and improve the condition of Nigerian working people and Nigerians in general, leading figures in the ruling APC government, like Governor Nasir el-Rufai, have been taking measures to further chastise and ruin Nigerians by throwing tens of thousands of workers into the already saturated unemployment market and wretchedness.
Non payment of salaries and pensions
In the same vein, despite the huge revenue that the states have received through the Federal Government intervention funds to clear arrears of unpaid salaries and pensions in many states of the federation, coupled with additional payment of three tranches of windfall, (Paris Club debt refunds), states like Kogi, Osun, Benue, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Kwara and several others, entered 2018 with huge arrears spanning up to 10 or more months of wages and pensions.
Under these conditions, Nigerian workers, pensioners and their families, remain the most despondent group in an economy that even the well-to-do are groaning and struggling to survive.
No wonder, Nigeria is one of the worst countries known for having many hungry people in the world, according to the World Hunger Index report 2017.
“We wish to re-state our determination to continue to mobilise for the full payment of these outstanding salaries and pensions.
“As we approach the 2019 general elections, workers will certainly not forget governors that subjected them to untold hardship by refusal to pay their earned entitlements on the excuse of scarcity of resources while choosing to pay themselves, their political appointees and cronies’ huge packages,” Wabba said.
Fuel scarcity and the petroleum industry
In the last three weeks, Nigerians have witnessed one of the worst shortages in the supply of petrol in the history of the country. This is in spite of federal government’s repeated claim that with the complete removal of subsidy on petroleum products, scarcity of petroleum products would become a thing of the past.
We have therefore in the last few weeks watched with dismay the unfortunate blame game, accusations and counter accusations between petroleum marketers: Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA), and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), on who is responsible for the current scarcity.
For us in the Congress, our position with regard to the prevailing situation in the petroleum industry remains constant, which is that the crisis in the industry is squarely due to the inability or refusal of our ruling elite to refine all our petroleum needs in Nigeria.
We are the only major producer of crude oil in the world that depends on importation of refined products from abroad. As long as this remains the case, Nigerians would continue to be subjected to this intermittent scarcity.
We had explicitly stated this fact in our 188-page “Report of the NLC Committee on Deregulation”, submitted to the Yar’Adua government in 2010 and which we gave to top officials of this administration when they assumed office in 2015. We wish to note that this report was a product of consultations with key stakeholders in Nigeria – from the Governors Forum (then under the chairmanship of Dr. Bukola Saraki as Governor of Kwara State, now the current Senate President), NNPC, Ministry of Finance, Major Markers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and CSOs, among others.
It was on the basis of the above conviction that the Congress went on national protest in May 2016, following the 66% increase from N86.50 to N145 per litre, in the price of petrol by the current government in the name of total removal of subsidy.
Workers hope undermined
For us in the Congress, and for majority of working people in Nigeria, the hope placed on the capacity of President Buhari to bring about positive change is being undermined by his government’s inability to address the infrastructural deficit and other related problems in the oil industry, such as making our existing refineries work at optimal capacity by refining products for domestic consumption. Not only is government unable to achieve this for almost three years now, but moving forward more refineries, especially modular refineries which can be built between 12 and 18 months are required to address the reoccurring challenge of fuel scarcity and price hike in Nigeria and stop the exploitation of ordinary Nigerians. The inherent corruption in the system has made this impossible for more than three decades and should be addressed headlong.
New national minimum wage
Following the recent inauguration of the tripartite National Minimum Wage Negotiating Committee by President Buhari, it is the expectation of Nigerian workers that the committee under the chairmanship of Ms Ama Pepple, former Head of Service of the Federation, will expeditiously conclude its assignment. This is because a new national minimum wage has been due for over a year now.
It is also our expectation that upon completion of negotiations, the National Assembly will give the executive bill that will emerge, an accelerated passage for the new national minimum wage to become a reality before the end of the 3rd quarter of 2018.
It is our belief that the passage of the constitutional amendment to guarantee local government autonomy will promote good governance and deepen democratic culture at the grassroots level.
We therefore call on the State Houses of Assembly to demonstrate courage, patriotism and assert their desired independence by passing these constitutional amendment bills designed towards emancipating our local governments and freeing their finances from being usurped by governors who are determined to truncate the quest for democratisation at the local government level.
In the same vein, we call on the National Assembly and State Houses of Assemblies to ensure that payment of primary school teachers’ salaries is put on first line charge of the Federation Account to assuage the fears of all stakeholders in the local government system.
We wish to once again draw the attention the Presidency and Nigerians in general to the ongoing draconian leadership of the Kaduna State government under MallamNasir El-Rufa as governor. A couple of months ago, Governor el-Rufai by administrative fiat dismissed over 22,000 primary school teachers in the state under the excuse that they failed to pass assessment tests that the authorized teaching regulatory body did not conduct.
Similarly, he equally sacked over 4,500 local government employees in the state.
Despite the wise counsel of well-meaning Nigerians and protestations from the Congress, including an injunction from the National Industrial Court (NIC) which had ruled that the status quo should be maintained till the determination of the substantive suit brought before it by the unjustly dismissed workers and unions in Kaduna State, the Governor like all despots, has remained adamant.
Last Friday, 29th December, 2017, he authorised Education Secretaries and relevant local government authorities to commence the distribution of sack letters to teachers and local government workers in the 23 local government areas of the state beginning from Tuesday, 2nd January, 2018.
2017: Lows and gains of Nigeria mining space
Highlighting some of the lapses and successes of the Nigeria mining space has become necessary as the world ushers in the New Year. 2017 was laced with controversies, gains and minuses in the mining sector. AYONI M. AGBABIAKA writes on some of the notable occurrences as well as expectations in 2018