Comrade Kwamande Kwamande is a Chartered Accountant and Unionist. He was Secretary of the Nigerian Labour Congress in Benue State and currently the National Auditor, Nigerian Civil Service Union. In this interview with The AUTHORITY’s AUSTINE TULE , he criticised the Buhari-led administration, saying it has so far failed to improve the lives of the Nigerian workers, while he chided the NLC for compromising the welfare of the Nigerian workers.
Beginning with the present plight of Nigerian workers, Comrade Kwamande Kwamamde, said; “Well, let me begin with the change itself, those who voted for change thought that the other regime was worst and had performed below expectations and so demanded for a change. But unfortunately, what they wanted is not exactly what is happening now. If you look at the standard of living, everything has skyrocketed.
“What is the value of workers wage in Nigeria? Its just about 56 dollar equivalent and the system has unfortunately weaken all institutions in the country, it has weaken even the resolve of the Nigerian Labour Congress. If you cannot feed your family, what then is the essence of the change? During the regime that was said to be very corrupt, the exchange rate was 190 but this one that has recovered all the monies, brought TSA, tighten all the linkages has rather taken the exchange rate to over 510 Naira per Dollar. Nigerian workers are better of under Jonathan than now
“On the other hand, inflation rate when Jonathan handed over power to Buhari was 12.5 percent now is about 18.8, and when look at the GDP you will discover that the per capital income itself has weaken the Nigerian worker. In 2012, there were agitations where workers almost collapse the Jonathan administration over increment in prices of fuel, funny enough that goodwill was extended to this regime yet, we have not seen any good thing on ground and today, petrol is been sold at 145 per litre and now there is a likely hood of an increment judging from the body language of this present government.
“The marketers have began to kick for an increment maybe by 10 Naira to make it 150 and when this people begin to kick, you should know that something wrong is about to happen in the industry. It is quit unfortunate that the goodwill extended to this regime has been abuse by bad policies on ground, weak planning and no thoughtful reasoning within the system, and so today even in the face of the change we all yearn for, we have found ourselves in a terrible situation. It is very unfortunate.”
Asked who to blame for the harsh economic situation in the country, he said, “I think I will blame those while coming into power promised Nigerians heaven and earth. They told us everything that we wanted to hear, on petrol they told us this, on economy and on workers issues they told us sweet words, now that they are on the driver’s seat, they have completely lost control of governance.
“Today, nobody knows the direction the governance is heading to. In fact, I make bold to state that there is more insecurity in the country today than what was obtainable during the immediate past regime especially when you look at the herdsmen attacks on our people. This is not what we bargained for. Now that a strongman whom we knew in 1984, who we said has integrity is on seat, we suddenly come to see that government is been run on auto pilot, a government being run on an archaic machinery even when the whole world has gone digital for over 25 years.
“Look at the Ministers on the other hand, they are simply not working. We expected a lot from them, but most of them are not working, can Buhari then do it alone? Go to the market and see what is happening, prices of every single product has skyrocketed, even biscuits. And it shows that the economic team is not just working.
“I will strongly suggest that the government bring in professionals to come in and help remedy the situation, party affiliations notwithstanding. This country belongs to all of us and we must endevour to do that which is right to salvage it. When you go to the market nobody is selling to you on the basis of party lines. This is a government of the people and it behooves on it to better their lots.
“People said Jonathan regime was worst but I want us to do a clear comparism, the Minister of Information came out the other time to declare that the two years of this administration were better than the six years of Jonathan and people almost stoned him because he was lying. Infact , everything about that regime was better than what we have now. Remember what Prince Tony Momoh said sometime ago; “stone this regime in two years if it cannot deliver on its promises”and by all standards, this regime has not performed at all, I wonder if they have any hope for 2019 because from every indication, the APC is a failed government.”
On non-payment of workers salaries by some state governments despite Federal government’s bailout fund to states. He said: “I will look at it from this way one, if you go to states like Cross River, Anambra and few others for example, this people don’t plug money from trees, most of them got less from the bailout funds that were given but they are doing much better than the states that collected huge bailout including the APC controlled states.
“They got so much money and they have pocketed the Labour Unions in their states because they determine the kind of Labour Union Leaders that emerged. Butmwhat they do not know is that, it is the kind of labour union you have that jots the government to seat up. When you have a virile and up to date Union that will tell you the truth, then it enables you to work better.
“Anybody that is sycophantic as a Labour leader cannot help any government, because even when you are going wrong they cannot advise you. I was happy when I heard that Federal Government had set up seven auditing firms to move round and ascertain how the states used the fund. And it is a good development and I pray the auditing firms do their work well otherwise some of them will use it to flitter away the goodwill the people gave them.
Accessing the current leadership of NLC at the National Level, he said:
“The labour in the country today particularly at the national level has failed the Nigerian workers and that largely accounted for why the strike of 2016 failed woefully owing to the lack of confidence in it by the workers. The leadership of the labour has been heavily compromised. For instance look at the time they are coming to negotiate for minimum wage when the budget has already been presented to the national assembly and is undergoing defence, so are they expecting a supplementary bill for that purpose? It shows that they are off track; there are several critical issues that affect the Nigerian worker today.”