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Nigerian workers are in a critical state – Msgr Ukah

Constitutional Lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana has urged the Nigerian labour movement to lead campaign for the recovery of stolen wealth and the prosecution of all indicted looters. Falana made the call at the 2016 pre-May Day lecture, with the theme, ‘The Fundamental Objectives and directive principles of state policy’.

The lecture was organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). The radical lawyer who was represented by the Chairman, Partner for Electoral Reforms, Ezenwa Nwagu noted that the need to prosecute indicted looters have become imperative. He lamented that there has been diversion of public funds by a handful of public officers.

Speaking also on the state of the Nigerian worker without mincing words, societal conflict resolution counselor, people’s priest and renowned human rights enthusiast, the Very Reverend Father Monsignor Livinus Ukah told The Daily Times that the workers’ welfare in Nigeria is still a far cry from what it should be.

“Nigerian workers are in a critical state. Unless God comes in to intervene, they will be everlasting victims of the big politicians,” he began.

“When you stimulate the workers to be able to work and make the economy strong, but they are not paid, they don’t eat, how can they stimulate the economy?

“Look at the senators driving beautiful, luxury cars. Our Archbishop Cardinal Okojie pointed it out last time but the government is not listening. What kind of government is this that is not sympathetic to the common man?

“Governors in many states have not paid their workers, yet Nigerians workers are very obedient, they’re not like workers in Iraq who have been demonstrating against corruption in Baghdad; even workers in Brazil want to impeach the woman because of corruption but in Nigeria, the workers take things lightly and the only thing they can do is make a lot of noise in the newspapers.

“I read that President Buhari is worried that state governments have not been able to clear the salary backlogs inspite of FG bailout. Now, why is he worried? He has the veto power to tell them what to do; he has all it takes to sanitise the society and make Nigerian workers live meaningful lives – that’s why he is there.”

On the contribution of the Church, the Monsignor revealed that “The Church is packed full with poor people coming for foods every day. They keep coming from morning to 6 o’clock in the evening, and when you tell them that you don’t have enough, they begin to insult you.”

On the first year Change administration

“So far they’re not offering us anything; everything is what the people call ‘sit-down-look’. How long will the Nigerian people wait? They should gain credibility by fulfilling their electoral promises and make the people feel happy.”

Acknowledging that corruption will be difficult for Buhari to fight outside the rule of law, Fr Ukah recognised that corruption has been there for ages.

“I don’t think Buhari’s government of change that has only four years and at most eight years can cut down corruption completely: he is only scratching it.”

Way out

“Let you journalists, religious bodies, everybody speak out with one voice so that they will hear.  In Nigerian society, those who speak don’t employ good tools; you don’t need to burn tyres, kill people – just speak out continually through the mass media. That is why I like that man, Ayo Fayose; he’s an action man; you may not agree with me but he says it as it is.”

Fulani herdsmen

“That’s another big problem in Nigeria; a disturbing phenomenon; we do not know the anthropology behind it; maybe we are looking at another political scheme, but the people should try to examine it very well because you can’t come to farmers and invade and destroy them: what is our President saying?

“The rumour if it is a rumour that they want to pass a bill at the National Assembly to create grazing land for herdsmen in all the 36 states of the federation is now left for the people that the electorate voted to represent them. They just went there to make money, otherwise, they are supposed to attack structures that create problem for the people, to counter negative thinking that creates crisis in the society.

“How can they even think like that? God has given them their own natural environment, then these people will come, invade their farmlands and killing the people, it smells of political. Fulani herdsmen are known to carry stick or at best bow and arrow, but now they carry sophisticated weapons and even wear bullet proofs: who is giving them and what is the purpose. The trend is showing Nigerians what the future will be.”

A final word for Nigerian workers

“Nigerian people have a deep sense of endurance, patience. They will continue to endure until God sends another messiah. My advice to them is that they should continue working: one day, God will tap them at the shoulder and tell them that better days are coming,” Msgr Ukah concluded.

Meanwhile, our correspondents from across the states report that the celebration was interpreted in divergent ways.

Meanwhile, the Lagos Chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress in Lagos complained that the security lapses in the country has lasted for too long. The workers identified the root causes of these challenges to include mass illiteracy, ignorance, poverty and widespread unemployment among others. “The government needs to proffer solutions to all these as soon as possible as the only means to find a lasting solution,” a worker told our correspondent.

Ogun State

At the 26th Workers’ Day Celebration held at the MKO Abiola stadium, Kuto, Abeokuta, Gov Ibikunle Amosu appealed to state workers to maintain their support for the state government for its developmental programmes, promising that his government will continue to ensure that their salaries are paid as at when due.

In their response the workers appreciated government’s efforts in ensuring stability in the state but want improvement in some areas, especially workers’ welfare and payment of gratuity.

Oyo State

The celebration was held at the Lekan Salami sports complex in Ibadan where workers expressed divergent views on the state of workers-government-relationship in the state.

“Every worker in Nigeria today and Oyo state in particular is working under industrial hostility because I consider where workers are owed up to five months salaries are not paid as a hostile industry,” the workers said.

Edo State

It was a welcome news at the Edo State Capital as State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomole announced a N25,000 minimum wage (up from N18,000) for employees in the state civil service at the grand finale of activities marking the 2016 Workers’ Day on Sunday.

Assuring that increment takes immediate effect, Oshiomole promised prompt payment of outstanding salaries to the staff of Local Government Council in the state.

At the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Principal Air Transport Officer, Mr. Okunniwa Olufunsho Lawrence said beyond the celebration and fanfare that characterise the Workers Day, it’s a day for them to reflect on and take stock of how far they have come towards achieving their goals and reaching the development of their various countries as well as ensuring that their own demands to are met by government.

“It is an opportunity for workers to look at the scorecard to see how far they have gone over the last year,” he said.

Apparently unimpressed at the state of the Nigerian worker however, the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR)  said of the rallies, “Unfortunately, May Day celebration is largely characterised by jamborees and partying rather than sober reflection of the appalling and worsening condition of the working class.

“You can see the display of company names and brands; they are just for promotional values in addition to speeches from trade union leaders that lack a clear path to political and economic emancipation of the workers and the masses.

“With individual needs soaring high like an eagle, all is definitely not well with Nigerian workers. We live in hovels, work in sweatshops, drive rattletraps, wear second-hand clothes, eat rice without meat at ‘mama put’, get health care from rundown hospitals, and our children are frequently sent out of schools due to late payment of tuition,” a CDWR said.

“Trade union leaders are doing little or nothing at unionising and organising defenseless workers in many workplaces who are in dire need of a union platform to defend their interest. Cases abound of union leaders who betray workers struggle or do little to defend workers rights and interests,” the body said.

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