6 August 2012

Nigeria: Construction Workers Plan Mass Rally Over Unpaid Contracts

Construction and civil engineering workers have decried the huge debt owed construction companies by the all tiers of government.

Consequently the workers have vowed to embark on an industrial action part of which is a mass rally in Abuja to draw government's attention to the plight of workers.

President of the Construction and Civil Engineering Senior Staff Association (CCESSA), Comrade Augustine Etafo, said the rising debt profile had impacted negatively on the operations and activities in the industry.

He said government at various level owe contractors over N100 billion for contacts already executed stressing that this have disrupted the implementation of capital projects across the country.

Etafo, who spoke at a press conference last Friday, said the current situation has forced contractors to resort to borrowing from commercial banks at high interest rate in order to execute projects.

He explained that most contractors rely on borrowed funds from banks to execute projects, stressing that often times government failed to reimburse the contractors long after such projects had been completed.

According to him, government refusal to settle financial obligations on contracts has made some contractors to cut corners thereby leading to project failure.

"Governments at various levels have not been honouring the agreements on contracts by refusing to pay for contracts that have already been executed and certified complete. As we speak now, contractors are owed over N100 billion. Consequently capital projects are disrupted and contractors have moved out of site for lack of funds. Government have also reneged on payment for cash backing projects.

"This is democracy and if the political leaders are sincere to deliver to the people who voted them into power the dividends of democracy then they must be ready to settle all financial obligations on capital projects that have been executed and certified complete. These projects border on infrastructures which form the bedrock of development of any nation," he said.

Also speaking, General Secretary of National Union of Civil Engineering, Construction, Furniture and Wood Workers (NUCECFWW), Babatunde Liadi, blamed rising debt profile in the industry on failure of the Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to release funds for contacts that have already been executed adding that "the contractions are afraid to take them to court for fear of losing future contracts".

He also cited the case of lack of continuity of projects by successive government that do not want to complete the projects embarked upon by their predecessors.

"There are situations in which contracts have been awarded and executed but when a new government comes in, they will claim to be unaware of the transaction. This has also contributed to the huge debt profile in the industry," he said.

According to him, the implication is the attendant job losses in the industry noting that not less than 100,000 workers have been severed of their jobs without any benefits.

The union leader further bemoaned the spate of deforestation in the country, which he said has continued to threaten the ecosystem.

He recommended that all tiers of government should embark on programmes that would encourage the planting of tress in their domain.

He also charged government to collaborate with relevant agencies and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to step up enlightenment campaigns on the effects of deforestation.

"One of the core issues of climate change being discussed all over the world is deforestation. We should be on the same page with the world by managing our climate in order not to suffer the effects of global farming," he added.

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