The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said it would embark on a nationwide mobilisation of Nigerian workers to protest federal government’s delay in transmitting, enacting and implementing a new national minimum wage of N30,000.
The NLC also urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to investigate allegations of diversion of the bailout fund, Paris Club refund, as well as all budget support releases to the states.
In a swift reaction, Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, said that he was confident that labour would not embarrass the government.
NLC in the communiqué issued at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Abuja, Friday, said it had directed that the protests should hold in all state capitals and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja on January 8, 2019.
The NEC also said all industrial unions and state councils had been directed to fully mobilise workers and coordinate with other labour unions “for this mother-of-all protests.”
According to the communiqué signed by Ayuba Wabba, the NLC President and Peter Ozo-Eson, General Secretary, the NEC also condemned the alleged violation of the fundamental human rights and freedom of association of workers by the Ogun State Government.
It accused the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun of illegal proscription of trade union rights in the Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu-Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.
The NLC lamented what it described as the entrenched insensitivity by some state governments and other political office holders to the plight of workers and pensioners, especially in the states where workers were being owed several months of salary arrears, unpaid pension and gratuity.
“It is most unfortunate that many of the governors diverted a significant part of the bailout funds and the Paris Club Refund initiatives meant to offset salaries, pension and gratuity owed workers and pensioners for purposes of personal aggrandisement and to fund non-impactful frivolous programmes and projects.
“The NEC demands full investigations by the EFCC of the disbursement of all Bailout, Paris Club Refund and Budget Support releases to the states,” the communiqué stated.
The labour unions also picked holes in the alleged unending neglect of the education sector by both the federal and state governments.
It noted that FG’s neglect for human capital development was clearly exemplified by the refusal of government to respect the agreement it freely entered with ASUU, especially the Memorandum of Action of November 2017.
According to Labour, the agreement was primarily focused on adequate funding for the repositioning of public education in Nigeria for national rebirth and global competitiveness of the products of Nigerian universities.
The NLC demanded that all state governments still owing workers arrears of salaries, pension and gratuity must settle all their wage liabilities before the 2019 general election.
“The NEC reiterates its earlier directives to workers all over the country not only to vote out state governors and other political office holders owing workers but also, to mobilise their families and friends to ensure that all elected public office holders who are not worker-friendly are voted out of office in the forthcoming 2019 general elections. Nigerian workers are also directed to support in full force the re-election bid of all state governors and political office holders who are worker-friendly and up to date in the payment of workers’ salaries and gratuity cum pension for retired workers,” it said.
On the issue of the rising unemployment rate in the country, NLC said that beyond the increase in the size of the labour force, another issue of great concern was the increasing pool of graduates, skilled and semi-skilled youth in the unemployment market especially the increase in rural unemployment, which it said was a sign of the sluggishness of the economy and “our inability to diversify beyond oil, extractives and primary agricultural production”.
It added: “It is more worrisome that as unemployment/underemployment increase, so is the general increase in social vices and criminalities around the country where the youth are the most common perpetrators.”
The NEC meeting was attended by members of the National Administrative Council (NAC), Presidents, General Secretaries and Treasurers of the affiliate industrial unions and the Chairpersons of the 36 State Councils and the FCT.
Meanwhile, Lai Mohammed who addressed journalists in Abuja yesterday on the planned NLC protests, described labour as being made up of patriotic Nigerians and that the federal government would continue to engage them until a consensus was arrived at in the end.
He said: “The NLC is a very patriotic union and I am very confident that they will not do anything that will embarrass the government or do anything that is going to worsen the situation.
“Continuous engagement, I think, is the key. We continue to engage them and I think they do also fully understand what the challenges are. Both parties are determined to ensure that a common ground is arrived at which will be comfortable for all.”