The National Executive Council (NEC) of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has issued a communique after its meeting at Dankani Guest Palace Hotel, Sokoto on Thursday, November 10, 2016, to review the state of the nation and also look at that union’s and the plight of workers and pensioners.
This was disclosed in a communique made available to the media by the General Secretary of the NLC at the headquarters, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson on Thursday in Abuja. The communique was signed by both the NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and the General Secretary.
At the end of the exhaustive deliberation by the NEC, the following were resolved:
Increase in Price of Petroleum Products
NEC reviewed the protest rallies in May against the increase in the pump price of petroleum products noting the challenges of prosecution of the rallies.
NEC noted that the present motions by government, in spite of occasional denials, were highlights of another round of pump price increase, stressing that its position has been justified as it had warned that tying the pump price of products to the price of crude in the international market and the black market exchange rate was not sustainable.
Accordingly, NEC resolved to engage government as citizens cannot afford the burden of another round of increase. Neither can the private sector, as it will substantially affect the cost of production.
NEC resolved to urge the government to put in place a more pocket-friendly template on petroleum pricing in consideration of the blow dealt to wages and quality of life by devaluations of the Naira and inflation and the prices of crude in the international market.
NEC resolved to commence sensitisation of members and allies in anticipation of a formal announcement of an increase.
NEC resolved to do self-cleansing as well as review its strategies and tactics in order to achieve maximum effect in subsequent protest rallies.
NEC noted that power stability is key to industrialization, self-sufficiency and economic growth.
NEC commended the judgement of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos which declared as illegal the 45% increase in electricity tariff eight months after it was imposed.
NEC frowned at the refusal of these parties to obey the court judgment.
NEC noted the continued poor quality of service, arbitrary charges, unwillingness of DISCOs to make available to consumers prepaid metres, deficit of technical competence, and lack of capacity to turn around the energy sector as there is a funding gap of N1trillion.
NEC expressed its concern at the campaign by the Association of Nigeria Electricity Distributors to further hike tariff by 200 per cent.
NEC said if allowed, it would amount to crude/outrageous exploitation of consumers, gross insensitivity and undermining of the national productivities, capacity and security.
NEC similarly recalled that in the face of overwhelming challenges, the Canadian Government reversed the privatisation of its energy sector as indeed other countries.
Accordingly, NEC condemned government, NERC, DISCOs for not obeying a valid court judgement and demanded that they obey this judgement .
NEC resolved to organise nation-wide rallies to pressure government, NERC, and DISCOs to obey the court order on tariff increase as well as other processes that constitute conditions precedent to the smooth, efficient and fair running of the sector to all the stake holders.
In the alternative, NEC, in the face of continued overwhelming challenges in the energy sector, resolved to urge the government once again to review the privatisation exercise in the energy sector having failed to deliver.
NEC commended the leadership of the Congress for constituting a Think-Tank which will assist it to develop an alternative development agenda.
NEC noted that such a body gives advantage to Congress in its relationship with its core social partners, Government and Employers.
NEC accordingly resolved that all necessary support should be extended to the Think-Tank as when necessary to enable it discharge its functions without let or hinderance.
Ogun State Council Workers
NEC noted that the Chairman of Ogun State Council and other union executives were dismissed or suspended from service by the Ogun State Government.
NEC noted the circumstances surrounding this issue including the mediatory effort of NUT, the union to which the majority of the affected workers belong.
NEC accordingly resolved to use all legitimate means available to it to get the affected workers re-instated.
Condition of the Nigerian Worker
NEC reviewed the State of the Nation noting the challenges in the economy, the World of Work, Social and Security challenges facing us as a people, the condition of the Nigerian workers, pensioners and their families.
NEC acknowledged the difficulties of the working class and their families, noting that these are some of the most challenging times in the life of the nation as cost of goods and services have more than quadrupled in the face of static wages and pensions that are seldom paid as when due.
NEC took particular notice of the failure and implications of state governments to regularly pay salaries, pensions and gratuities.
NEC commended its members for their patriotism by rendering service or regularly going to work in spite of these overwhelming challenges.
NEC commended the affiliate members for their solidarity-interventions in states where salaries, pensions and gratuities were not paid for a long time, acknowledging that these interventions paid off as they led to substantial remedial measures.
Accordingly, NEC resolved to sustain its intervention drive or campaigns by way of protest rallies in the states where salaries or pensions or gratuities are not paid as when due.
NEC resolved to urge state governments and other employers to ensure regulars payment of salaries, pensions, gratuities and mandatory deductions in order to avert the total collapse of our socio-economic system
NEC urged the State Councils in States with salary arrears of three or more months to invoke the doctrine of “No Pay, No Work”, assuring that such states will receive the backing of the entire Congress in furtherance of its motto, “an injury to one is an injury to all”.
NEC resolved to continue to challenge the obnoxious policies of state governors or any other employer of labour wherever or whenever they occur, adding that rights of workers are inalienable.
National Minimum Wage and Pensions
NEC recalled its formal demand for a new national minimum wage and Pension which it said are due by law and massive devaluations of the Naira and spiraling inflation.
NEC noted that after its formal demand, developments in the economy such as the increase in the pump price of petroleum products, uncommon rise in prices of commodity, increased tariff in utilities, and social services such as education etc. have made the demand more urgent.
NEC noted that the fight against corruption will be more successful if workers are properly paid.
NEC noted the foot dragging by the government to constitute a Committee to deliberate on its demand.
NEC said the need for a new national minimum wage cannot be overstated in light of the outlined facts and accordingly urged the government to urgently review upward the national minimum wage, or speedily constitute a Tripartite Committee to deliberate on its demand for a new national minimum wage, warning that further delay could seriously impair peaceful industrial relations.
NEC noted that the federal and state governments and some other employers of labour are in the habit of withholding Contributory Pension deductions running into several months arrears.
NEC noted that non-remittance of deductions or contributions by the federal and state governments and some other employers constitutes a direct threat to the pension scheme and subjects pensioners to untold hardship.
NEC noted that the unauthorised withholding of pension funds is a contravention of the Pensions Act 2004 (as amended).
NEC therefore resolved to urge the federal and state governments and other employers of labour to ensure that pension deductions are promptly remitted to the appropriate organs of the scheme.
NEC resolved to urge PENCOM to enforce to the letter sanctions for non-remittance of pension deductions as when due.
NEC resolved to advise those canvassing for the investment of pension funds in infrastructure to take note that these funds may not be ideal for this purpose as they are invested in federal government’s bonds and treasury bills.
NEC however, urged that in view of the volatility of the financial market, any investment must guarantee the safety of the funds.
NEC reviewed the government’s fight against corruption in the polity.
NEC commended the government for its unflagging militancy against corruption but noted that a lot still needs to be done.
NEC cited the instances of the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) where corruption is being rewarded and whistle blowers punished.
NEC condemned in strong terms the vindictive actions being carried out against the whistle blowers in these two federal institutions including the termination of appointments of 23 staff at FUNAAB.
NEC expressed dismay at the failure of the Ministries of Health, Justice and even the office of the President to respond, to the complaints of vendetta brought before them.
NEC noted that the fastest way of killing the fight against corruption is to expose whistle blowers.
NEC accordingly resolved to draw the attention of government once again to the ongoing acts of vendetta at FMC, Owerri and FUNAAB, Abeokuta.
NEC resolved that it might be compelled to act in defence of its members if government fails to take the necessary steps.
NEC noted that both the federal and state governments at the moment observe in the breach collective agreements they voluntarily entered into signed with the unions.
NEC noted that this has created suspicion as well as substantially undermined mutual confidence, trust and productivity.
NEC noted that this negative tendency will affect future negotiations or relations.
NEC further observed that all valid collective agreements govern industrial relations should be respected by the parties to the agreements.
Accordingly, NEC resolved to urge the federal and state governments to honour all valid collective bargaining agreements with unions for the sustenance of industrial peace and harmony.
NEC noted that in the past couple of months, its members carried out a series of engagements or campaigns on disputes of right and disputes of interest. These campaigns include electricity tariff, increase in the pump price of petroleum products, tax justice, Decent Work etc.
NEC expressed satisfaction with its role in these intervention campaigns in spite of the challenges it encountered in the course of their execution.
NEC accordingly resolved to sustain these campaigns in order to educate Nigerians as well as protect the vulnerable ones amongst them from the exploitative tendencies of the state, or agencies of government or corporate businesses or even individuals entrusted with the duty of governance or regulation.
Casualties By the Armed Forces
NEC expressed shock and outrage at the death of about seven gallant members of the armed forces in a questionable ambush by Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State.
NEC described the death of the officers led by Lt-Colonel Abu Ali as painful and a huge loss to the nation, noting that they paid the supreme sacrifice in defence of their country and that there could be no greater sacrifice.
NEC in consideration of this, resolved to express its deep condolences to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Tukur Buratai and the families of the deceased, describing the deceased as national heroes.
NEC resolved to urge the Armed Forces to immortalise these officer and men as well as ensure their families do not suffer want.
NEC also resolved to urge all Nigerians including communities in the theatre of war, members of civilian JTF and individuals to continue to support the armed forces to enable them roundly uproot the remnants of Boko Haram insurgents especially around the Lake Chad Basin and its environs.
NEC resolved to urge the Nigerian Armed Forces to not only deal decisively with the incidence of sabotage or treachery in their ranks but to make it a capital offence.
NEC also resolved to commend the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai for presently leading the charge against the Boko Haram insurgents in the jungle of Borno State.
Niger Delta Militants
NEC noted the destruction of critical oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta by militants in pursuance of a redress for decades of degradation to the Niger Delta region by oil exploration.
NEC noted that the deployment of violence in prosecution of an otherwise noble cause is not in the overall interest of Nigerians or Niger Deltans as this violence has led to further degradation of the environment, loss of lives and revenue to the nation.
NEC therefore commended the militants for embracing dialogue with the Federal Government.
NEC expressed confidence in the on-going dialogue between the government and the militants as an enduring process to full and final solution to the Niger Delta conundrum.
Accordingly, NEC resolved to urge all patriotic Nigerians and genuine friends of Nigeria to support the on-going dialogue or peace moves.
It also resolved to urge the militants to keep faith with this process, noting that they are first and foremost Nigerians.
It resolved to urge the government to sustain the momentum in the interest of the nation.
NEC expressed concern at the free-fall of the Naira and the abortive efforts by the Central Bank to arrest this fall.
NEC noted the harm and pain the massive devaluation and the attendant inflation have wrought on tens of millions of families across the country.
NEC noted that this situation may escalate into a state of national panic except a solution to the economic malaise is found soon.
NEC accordingly resolved to urge the government to take all measures necessary to arrest the recession and turn the economy around-including recovering from multinational oil companies the un-remitted over $20 billion (as reported by NEITI), $7billion bail-out fund given to commercial banks by government with no re-payment reschedule and the billions of Naira similarly given as bail-out to private airlines but with nothing to show for it.
NEC urged the government to comprehensively reform its budget process as well as put in place a transparent and accountable system in line with the principles of good governance.
NEC urged the government to sustain its war against corruption by ensuring good governance and the prosecution of all corrupt cases and recovery of stolen funds.
NEC urged the government to urgently review upward the National Minimum Wage and pensions to reflect the present economic realities.
NEC also resolved to urge the government to put in place a more pocket-friendly template on petroleum pricing in consideration of the blow dealt to wages and quality of life by devaluations of the Naira and inflation and the prices of crude in the international market.
Capitalism and Social Justice
Quoting a Forbes Magazine report, NEC observed that capitalism has generated massive wealth for a few but has devastated the planet and failed to improve the well-being of the human race on an acceptable scale.
NEC expressed its support for Forbes when it said, “Unless it changes, Capitalism will starve humanity by 2050”.
NEC in consideration of the precariousness of the human condition expressed its grave concern and resolved to urge leaders at various tiers of government to be guided by the immortal words of Nelson Mandela, “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people”.
NEC also resolved to defend the rights and freedom of its members and vulnerable Nigerians no matter the cost to itself.
NEC said the leadership retreat for State Council Chairpersons with the theme: “Strengthening the Labour Movement in the Face of Contemporary Socio-Economic Challenges” is part of the process of honing the leadership skills of State Council executives and staff in preparation for future engagements with government and employers.
NEC said the retreat is intended to complement an earlier one for the industrial unions as well as create the needed synergy and spark for union members to be able to respond to the challenges in the contemporary World of Work and the polity.
NEC, accordingly, resolved to urge its members to be in a perpetual state of preparedness as the task ahead of defining and protecting the interest of workers and vulnerable Nigerians will be performed by no other but themselves.