The National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria held a peaceful protest in Lagos on Tuesday to mark the 40th anniversary of the organisation.

Worried by the increasing state of insecurity in the country, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Thursday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to rejig the current security architecture in the country with the conclusion that the current system has failed the country.

The Congress also concluded that the widening gap in poverty between the rich and the poor in the country and the increasing spate of misgovernance as well as none payment of salaries by state government has been largely responsible for the increase in violent crime of armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom and other vices.

In his message to state Delegates Conference of the Congress, President of Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba also warned the government against the planned increased in Value Added Tax (VAT) and adhering to the recommendation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to remove subsidy on petroleum products saying such an exercise would erode the gains of new minimum wage recently signed into law.

Wabba also informed workers that now that the agitation for a new national minimum wage was over, workers should be conscious of the fact the minimum wage is not a gift to them from the government, insisting however that employers of labour should immediately commence the implementation.

He task the leadership of the variously state councils to emerge from the conferences to push for the implementation of the new wage by state government, pointing out that the argument of whether or not states can implement the new wages has been laid to rest.

He said there was the need for state governments across the country to cut down on the cost of governance in their various states to conserve resources for the implementation of the new wage.

He said: “We are all witnesses to the waves of bloodbath and brigandage surfing across our country. There is hardly any day that passes without one incident of armed robbery, kidnap for ransom, militancy or terrorism attack making headlines. We call on government at both federal and state levels to urgently rejig our security architecture, structure, and management.

“Clearly, the current approach has failed. We also call for a robust and sustainable response to renewed security challenges in our country even if that means an increase in the budget for internal security so long it is judiciously and transparently used.

‘The political arena offers one of the most effective spaces for tackling almost all the challenges that we have already highlighted to bring about socio-economic transformation. Unfortunately, the conduct of the last general election left a lot of sour taste in the mouth. Incidences of hate speech, vote buying, ballot box snatching, abuse of provisions for manual accreditation, logistics tardiness, isolated cases of violence, and a spate of inconclusive elections trailed the 2019 general polls.

“These electoral infractions did not only erode some of the grounds won as a result of the push by the NLC and its allies during the 2007-2011 campaign for electoral reform in Nigeria but also presented new threats to efforts to consolidate and deepen our democracy.

“The chaos in our electoral space is only symptomatic of the crises of governance bedeviling our country. We cannot lament forever. The onus is on us as the working class to recover the political initiative through the reactivation and repositioning of the Labour Party.

“We took very concrete resolutions at different levels of leadership and ultimately at our last National Delegates Conference to recover the Labour Party as the political vehicle for the actualization of the socio-economic transformation that we desire for our country. I urge you to use the occasion of this Conference to mobilize workers in the state to build robust political structures at the state and local government levels.”

While congratulating State Governors, State Houses of Assembly members for their election during the just concluded 2019 general election, Wabba reminded them that holding any public office is akin to holding public trust, saying “we all must strive to use our different public positions to make our country a better place. This we can do by addressing issues of governance especially the widening inequality and poverty prevalent in our society.

“The clarion call to service makes no better appeal than now when our nation is confronted with a myriad of social, economic and political challenges. You will agree with me that these challenges show up more monstrously in states. Some of our state governments are still owing arrears of salaries, pension and gratuity.

“This ugly situation has persisted despite Federal Government’s bailout and budget support initiatives which at the last count is close to two trillion naira. I expect that this State Delegates Conference will elect labour leaders who will take on headlong this evil trend and punitive injustice against workers.

“We have demonstrated tenacity in the pursuit of a new national minimum wage for workers. We have held several rallies, protest marches at both federal and state levels and even embarked on a few strike actions to press home our demand for a new national minimum wage. A few weeks ago, the two chambers of the National Assembly passed the National Minimum Wage (2019) Amendment bill. The bill was assented by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 18, 2019. There cannot be a more perfect May Day gift for Nigerian workers.”

Wabba stressed that the “upward review of the national minimum wage is not so much a gift as it is the right of workers. This right was delayed for too long. As Mr. President ordered during the signing into law of the National Minimum Wage (2019) Amendment bill, we call on all employers of labour to commence payment immediately. I urge the incoming leadership of our state councils to make the immediate payment of the new national minimum wage of N30, 000 and review of monthly pension by state governments your top priority.

“We have crossed the bridge of the debate whether state governments can pay the new national minimum wage or not. The feedback we got from the nationwide rallies for a new national minimum wage which took place in January 2019 indicated that most state governments are willing to pay the new national minimum wage once Mr. President grants his assent.

“The truth is that if state governments cut down on high cost of governance and corruption, they will be more than able to pay the new national minimum wage of N30, 000.

“We completely reject proposals to increase the Value Added Tax (VAT) as a means of funding the 2019 budget. We warn that any increase in VAT or PAYE would not only rob workers of the minimal relief from the increase in the national minimum wage but would also leave our economy in dire straits.

“We urge government to consider other progressive ways of financing the budget. Government should adopt progressive taxation in a manner that captures more people in the tax net and also ensures that the rich and luxury items are properly taxed.

“We should all be concerned with the shape, structure and dynamics of our national economy. High inflation and poor salaries have combined to erode the purchasing power of workers. The design of our economy is essentially rent-seeking and exclusivist thus undermining productivity and job creation.

“Our industrial base is almost totally decimated due to erratic power supply, shabby physical infrastructure and poor policy choices. This leaves us with an economy stuck in the backwaters of subsistence production. Succinctly put, we have managed to develop an economy that specializes in exporting jobs and prosperity and importing joblessness, poverty and misery.”

Wabba lamented the continuous privatisation of major assets in the country saying “the commanding heights of our economy are being parceled away to private interests with little or no commitment to nation-building and social progress.

“The consequence is that the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider by the day resulting in widespread tension and upsurge in violent crimes. Even the rich cannot sleep at night because the poor are awake to hunger. Indeed, an unjust economic system is a threat to everyone including the oppressors.

“Unfortunately, the social infrastructure that lays the foundation for shared prosperity is being undermined on daily basis by those who we elected to public offices. The state of our public schools and hospitals leaves a lot to be desired. It is a tragedy that the public schools that produced today’s elites have been abandoned.

“Our elites now take pride in showcasing the foreign schools their children attend while not giving a hoot that the children of the poor are being left behind. Our public hospitals that used to be referral centres across the continent are now shadows of their former glories forcing our citizens to take to very costly medical adventures to hospitals around the world. Indeed, the deconstruction of our public institutions has come full circle.

“We wish to caution the government against contemplating any further increase in the price of refined petroleum products especially the premium motor spirit (PMS). We understand that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has advised the Federal Government to remove the so-called “petrol subsidy” which is a euphemism for increase in the pump price of petrol. This advice is ill-willed and completely insensitive to the suffering of most Nigerians.

“Congress believes that the current regime of petrol subsidy reeks of corruption. The crisis in our downstream petroleum sector is occasioned by the failure of successive governments to deploy the political will to end the national shame of importing refined petroleum products. Nigeria is the only oil producing country caught in this malady.

“It is our abiding conviction that the chronic anomaly of “petrol subsidy” as primarily fueled by constant devaluation of the naira and fluctuation in the international price of crude oil can only be solved permanently by getting our local refineries to work optimally. We will resist any attempt to transfer the cost of incompetence by government to the masses.”

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