By Appolos Christian
In recent time, some Nigerians have characterized the Nigeria labour Congress (NLC), as toothless bulldog. Some say that the reason for the name calling is because of the recent seemingly ‘forth and back’ strike threats against some government policies that are glaringly harsh to the citizens.
But NLC has often time praised itself for the countless efforts and actions it has taken over the years and still taking to counter unfavorable government policies. And to the general public of Nigeria, the mother labour center (NLC); has charged to desist from criticizing its efforts but join hands in action to demand for favorable policies and treatment from the government.
“Nigerians are being so docile. The seat in the comfort of their homes and complain. They complain here and there that NLC is not doing anything against some obvious harsh government policies. They complain that NLC plans for strike but afterwards negotiate with government, but the question is, what action have Nigerians as a general public taken against harsh government policies? Until the general public of Nigeria decide to take action against such government policies they seat at home to complain about, nothing will ever happen and they will never get that Nigeria every body want.” Said NLC President Ayuba Wabba, to journalists in a private conversation during the recent fuel price and electricity tariff hike negation with the Federal Government at the Banquet Hall of the Aso Rock, Abuja.
Probably bearing the criticism of Nigerians in mind, NLC in its independence celebration message to Nigeria government and the citizens, said;
“The journey of Nigeria’s nationhood cannot be complete without mentioning the great and timeless contribution of the Nigerian working class in the liberation and developmental struggle for Nigeria. The role of Organized Labour in defying the British imperial rule especially through the June 22, 1945 General Strike and Labour’s demand for the respect of the rights of Nigerian workers and people to decent work, just wages and actualization of self-government was a defining moment in Nigeria’s history. Organized Labour has continued to play the role of a vanguard pan Nigerian institution standing as a check to neo-liberal and anti-people policies of successive governments.
“Sixty years in the life of a working person is usually the age of retirement from active service. One of the major demands on retirement age is reflective introspection and honest appraisals of one’s life – the highs, the lows, the goals, the misses, the successes, and the failures. At this point that Nigeria is sixty, there is no more evading of critical national questions. Now, is the time to face them squarely.
“It is a big disservice to our natural endowments and a huge slap on the resourcefulness of our people if after sixty years Nigeria is still importing toothpick, pencils, and needles from abroad. We make a huge mockery of the biggest assemblage of black people on the planet if at sixty years we are unable to refine our own crude oil. Indeed, Nigeria is the only OPEC country suffering from this self-inflicted malaise. It is unimaginable that with the abundance of water sources, vast windy terrains, coal and large deposits of natural gas, Nigeria struggles to generate and distribute up to 5000 megawatts of electricity, a sum insufficient to power some airports abroad.
“It is sad that at sixty years, our political leaders still prefer to send their children to schools abroad and treat themselves in foreign hospitals since our public schools and hospitals have been so terribly mismanaged. Truly, the message Nigerians especially workers get when our political leaders say that we are together is that we are together to the extent of baking the national cake. When it comes to eating from the cake, Nigerian workers and people are shut out in the cold and rain while those who had forced their way to positions of political leadership corner the collective wealth for themselves and their families alone.
“It is in light of these reflections on our journey in nationhood that Organized Labour adopted some of the positions we took in our recent engagement and negotiation with government over the increase in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as ‘fuel’ or ‘petrol’ and the astronomical hike in electricity tariff.
“We told government that the so-called deregulation cannot just be about incessant increases in the price of refined petroleum products but should be more about the efficient management of our God-given resources especially our oil refineries for the benefit of the Nigerian people especially workers and the poor. It was on this basis that government for the first time since Labour’s age long struggle against incessant increases in the pump price of petrol yielded to the demand by Labour to set timelines for the complete overhaul of Nigeria’s refineries and include our unions in the oil and gas sector in this process to observe progress being made.
“On the issue of hike in electricity tariff, Organized Labour reminded government of the provisions of Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that stipulated that the commanding heights of the national economy must be managed by government in the interest of the people. We pointed out to government the folly of making a profit of about N400 billion from the sale of our electricity assets to private investors and then going ahead to spend N1.5 trillion on an asset that had already been sold. This clearly justified our conclusion that the privatization of the power sector was a failure and the recent hike was only an attempt by government to pass off its own failure in the power sector privatization program to poor Nigerians.
“Consequent upon our argument, the Federal Government was forced to suspend the recent increase in electricity tariff and constituted a high powered committee made up of representatives of Labour and Government to examine the challenges in Nigeria’s power sector in order to find a more sustainable and mutually acceptable tariff plan and enabling conditions for electricity consumption in Nigeria especially the unjust and vexatious issue of estimated billing against poor Nigerians. These dividends from our recent negotiations are consistent with the contribution of Organized Labour in Nigeria to the genuine togetherness of the Nigerian people and the harnessing of the intellectual and physical abilities of Nigeria for national development.
“Mindful of the deleterious effect of the insurgency of the novel corona virus disease (Covid-19), Organized Labour had also used the opportunity offered by the recent negotiation with government to ensure that workers are not completely left high and dry by the recent twin harsh policies of government. We insisted that we must be able to provide workers with affordable means of transportation. The Federal Government promised to release to the two labour centres 133 CNG/LPG Autogas mass transit buses for workers. Workers who are also interested in setting up agricultural facilities were also promised direct accessto Federal Government’s agriculture loans in a short time.
“As a pan Nigerian mass membership-based organization, the Nigeria Labour Congress would continue to seek for real solutions, not cheap populism, to the challenges that beset the Nigerian people and the Nigerian workers. On this commemoration, we renew this bond with Nigerian workers and the Nigerian people. Labour would continue to be the voice of the voiceless, the voice of caution, the voice of unity and thevoice that galvanizes ‘togetherness’ towards realizing the huge potentials in the destiny of Nigeria and her immensely talented people.”