The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said Monday that the on going debate about restructuring and evolution of power and resources to states will mean nothing to the Nigerian worker and Nigerians generally unless it is accompanied by good governance and respect for the rule of law.
The congress also ask the federal government to immediately constitute the national minimum wage negotiation committee to commence the immediate negotiation of the current national minimum wage saying workers were gradually running out of patience over government delay in constituting the committee.
Congress President, Comrade Ayuba Abba who spoke at a symposium to mark the nation’s Independence Day celebration on Monday in Abuja said Nigerian workers believe that the greatest problem facing the country today is the absence of good governance as exemplified in massive corruption in the nation’s body policy.
According to the NLC President, the congress believe that restructuring the country cannot replace good governance which he said is responsible for the huge unemployment crisis, poor service delivery, and the continuing absence of dividends of democracy for the massive majority of our people.
Wabba said “during the colloquium we organised recently on the discourse on Restructuring and the Role of the Working Class, a dominant issue that emerged was the fact that one of the greatest problems or challenges of our nation has being the absence of good governance in our polity.
“This crisis of good governance is exemplified by the massive corruption in our body politics. This in turn is responsible for the huge unemployment crisis, poor service delivery, and the continuing absence of dividends of democracy for the massive majority of our people.
“The latest manifestation of this is the refusal by a number of state governments to fulfil their elementary obligations to their workers, by not paying salaries and pensions as at when due.
“As we have seen from the various discourse/debate on restructuring, it means different things to different people depending on their standpoints. For us in congress, however we look at it that restructuring cannot be a substitute for good governance and respect for the rule of law.
“Therefore for our members from all the nooks and crannies of our country, the discourse makes little meaning to them when as workers and pensioners they are owned salaries and pensions running into several months.
“We must state from the outset that for us, restructuring, devolution of more powers and resources can only make sense if there is good governance. We have heard in the course of these conversations talks about our reverting to regions, with suggestions ranging from 3, 4 to 8 regions as of the last count.
“As long as our political and bureaucratic elite continue to misappropriate and divert resources made available for development, we cannot hope to overcome our current developmental challenges. This much Mr President’s figures on bailouts and refunds on Paris debts refunds and the persistent diversion by some state governors.”
On the failure of government to constitute the committee to negotiate the minimum wage, Wabba said “we must again ask the federal government to reconstitute the national minimum wage negotiating council to enable us negotiate a new national minimum wage for this country urgently. The 2011 collective agreement entered into with the government at the end of the last negotiations, provided for a 5year cycle, for reopening negotiations, which is overdue.
“Secondly, all economic indexes such as inflationary rate, cost of living index, exchange rate, high cost of goods and services etc, have all shown that the current minimum wage of N18, 000 is obsolete. There is an urgent need for the government to give the go ahead for these negotiations to start as workers are running out of patience.”
He lamented that in almost six decades of national independence, we are not where we ought to be, in virtually all facets of development indexes, looking at our available human and natural resources.
He said further that Nigerians “should not dismiss ourselves as a failed nation. This is because while there are a number of countries that are our peers in nationhood that have made tremendous progress, there are also a number of other countries that got independence around the same time as we did, that have not progressed as much as we have.
“Some of these countries have even literally ceased to exist as nation states. Additionally, we must bear in mind that due to the potentials we possess as a big nation, as the giant of the black race, many do not want us to actualise our full potentials. There are many out there that do not wish that we succeed and prosper as a nation.
“As Nigerians, we must continue to have confidence in ourselves as citizens, build bridges of peace and unity instead of indulging in hatred and constant promotion of separatist agitation. We must believe in our ability to overcome our national challenges and turn our diversity into an advantage to promote the wellbeing and welfare of all the people that populate this huge country.”
He maintained that one of the founding principles of the international labour organisation (ILO) as contained in the founding constitution almost a century ago, in 1919, is the declaration that universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice.
He argued that addressing the issue of poverty and inequality and economic imbalances between the super-rich tiny minority and the rest of the population is one of the key challenges of our nationhood today, adding that “our middle class has more or less been wiped out. What we now have are a very tiny few who are at the top, and very rich, and the vast majority of the people at the bottom ladder who are poor.
“It is in the above context that government must refocus its development programmes and planning to address the pressing needs of the vast majority of Nigerians that are excluded if the upheavals we are having in different parts of the country is not going to develop into a convulsion. Government must address the critical area of full, productive and decent employment.
“Despite our independence, because of the compromises and betrayal of our ruling elites, we are now grasping with neo- liberalism and the control of our decision and policy making processes, which are now dictated by multinational organisations of the IMF and World Bank and their sister hegemonic organisation, the WTO.
“Under the above dispensation, the Nigerian state which had at the beginning sought to be a developmental state, with control of the commanding heights of the economy, has now surrendered this important position to a so called private sector, which is now seen as the main engine for national development.
“None of the countries that have witnessed true and genuine development have followed this illusionary path. Therefore for Nigeria to truly develop and industrialise, all Nigeria patriots must join us in the struggle to bring back the Nigerian state to being an arrow head and engine of development.
“This must mean that we must discard the dictates of the international financial institutions and invest massively in education, health care and other social services; invest in upgrading our infrastructure in such critical area as energy etc.”
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