2 May 2014

Nigeria: May Day - Labour Faults FG's Job Creation Policy, Warns Against Rigging

Photo: Vanguard
Cross section of Nigerian workers, during the 2014 Workers Day.

Organised labour comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as well as the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has laughed off the job creation policy of the present administration, describing it as a mere gamble that will achieve nothing.

The labour union also said workers will no longer fold their hands while fraudulent politicians violated and desecrated elections and the electoral process, warning that votes must count in the 2015 elections.

Speaking during the 2014 May Day celebration in Abuja, NLC president Comrade Abudwaheed Omar said the recent damning verdict of the World Bank which places Nigeria among the world's first five "extremely poor" countries is a sad commentary on wealth distribution system in the country.

He said Nigeria has no reason to be poor with all its material and human resources, lamenting that "the poverty situation in the land is real and grim".

He said: "Over the years, government churned out laws, policies and programmes that disempowered and pauperised its citizens, leaving a tiny clique protected. Today, we have just two classes of citizens: the super-rich and the super-poor. Even payment of wages and salaries is skewed against workers. The time has come to link the remuneration of political officeholders to the salaries of workers in the public sector.

"While we appreciate the technical basis of the rebasing, the size of the economy serves to highlight the skewedness of the distribution of income in our country. Wealth and income are increasingly concentrated in a tiny proportion of the citizens. This situation, if unchecked, portends dangers for peace and stability. Government needs to evolve policies to promote inclusive growth and more equitable society.

"While we note that the 2014 budget has been christened a budget for job creation and inclusive growth, we find no details in the budget to promote these objectives. The proposed budget for 2014 amounts to a total expenditure of N4, 642, 960,000,000. Of this sum, N399, 687, 801, 891 represents statutory transfer; N712, 000, 000, 000 is allocation for debt service (both domestic and foreign debt). Non-debt recurrent expenditure has an allocation of N2, 430, 665, 361, 597. The residual of N1, 100, 602, 836, 512 constitutes the capital component of the budget. This represents a mere 23.7 per cent of the total budget."

Speaking further on the level on unemployment he said: "Unemployment continues to be a major challenge of the economy. All levels of government must rethink their policy measures in tackling the problem of unemployment. What the economy requires is not short-term or temporary job creation. Sustainable and or enduring jobs cannot be created by recharge-card selling, job creation by gambling in the name of 'you win', graduate street cleaners, graduate road traffic officers, vocational training of a few hands , and so on. What the disturbing degree of unemployment requires today is direct [intervention] by the state and preparedness to fight corruption head-on.

"We find it disgusting and embarrassing that despite our experiences and huge resources expended on elections, we have chosen to get it wrong most of the time while smaller nations are getting it right."

Nigeria is not a poor nation - Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday faulted the World Bank report which placed Nigeria among the five poorest countries in the world, saying "the nation is not poor".

Addressing workers at the May Day rally at the Eagle Square, Abuja, the president said "the challenge of the country is not poverty but redistribution of wealth".

He said that the realities on ground did not portray the country as a poor nation, but a nation which abundant wealth needed to be evenly redistributed.

The president added that his administration was working assiduously and putting policies in place to ensure that Nigerians had access to financial resources to create wealth for themselves.

"Nigeria is not a poor country. Nigerians are the most travelled people. There is no country you go that you will not see Nigerians. The GDP of Nigeria is over half a trillion dollars and the economy is growing at close to 7 per cent."

"Aliko Dangote was recently classified among the 25 richest people in the World. I visited Kenya recently on a state visit and there was a programme for Nigerian and Kenyan businessmen to interact and the number of private jets that landed in Nairobi that day was a subject of discussion in Kenyan media for over a week.

"If you talk about ownership of private jets, Nigeria will be among the first 10 countries, yet they are saying that Nigeria is among the five poorest countries.

"Some of you will experience that there is an amount of money you will give to a Nigerian who needs help and he will not even regard it and thank you, but if you travel to other countries and give such an amount, the person will celebrate.

"But the World Bank statistics shows that Nigeria is among the five poorest countries. Our problem is not poverty; our problem is redistribution of wealth."

The president added that "probably wealth is concentrated in very few hands and a number of people do not have access to it and that is why my administration is committed in terms of financial inclusiveness and we are working very hard to achieve this".

Jonathan specifically noted that, in the agriculture sector, government introduced the electronic wallet for farmers in rural areas so they could access income through bank facilities.

He said government was also moving agriculture from just a rural development programme to wealth creation and major business programme, adding that government had taken pro-active steps and policies to stabilise power so that small and medium-scale enterprises will thrive. "The key commitment of government is to make sure that so many Nigerians have access to finance so that they will be able to create wealth for themselves."

The president also read certain political undertones in the processes of ratings by international bodies and global rating agencies.

He explained that "so many countries were downgraded economically in the past few months including some African countries.

"They looked at Nigeria and we gave explanations and they could not see any convincing reason but to downgrade our economy; they left us as BB minus.

"They said elections are coming, politicians are shouting at themselves, it may affect their economy; we will no longer give you stable outlook but give you negative outlook, which is same BB minus.

"When so many countries have been downgraded, they said Nigeria is one of the five poorest countries."

Jonathan assured that with the support of Nigerians and, in particular, the organised labour, the nation would overcome its challenges and take its pride of place in the globe.

"We must collectively move this country to where we want to go. Government is working with labour leaders and workers of this country to create wealth. We will sure move this country to where we want to go."

The president also reiterated that the on-going National Conference was not personal but meant to evolve a roadmap that would redefine Nigeria.

He said he had no personal agenda for initiating the conference, but for the common good and progress of the country.

He added that "a number of people came to me that any president that set up this kind of conference must have a roadmap set for him. But I said to them that the roadmap is the roadmap for Nigeria.

"Jonathan has no personal roadmap for the conference. You can go and ask the over 500 people that are there whether I have sent any emissary to anybody to define anything for my own interest. I repeat: the issue is not Jonathan. I have spent three quarters of my life on earth.

"What we want is a Nigeria for our future generation. We will lead our country to where we want to go."

The president noted that the overall interest of the country informed the nomination of many representatives of organised labour, civil society organisations and youths to the conference.

"This is the first time that the government is having a national conference and labour has such a number of representatives," he added.

He said the civil society was robustly represented at the conference and the first time that youths were well represented.

"There are 18 youth representatives at the conference, which has never happened. We believe that, as elders, we must prepare a country for the young generation and build a nation for our children and grandchildren.

"The conference is to redefine Nigeria," he assured. "I believe that, at the end of the conference, if the resolutions are agreed by everybody, I will be able to work with my brothers, sisters and friends in the National Assembly to see that whatever they agreed on sailed through. All what we want is to agree on something that is common and useful for the country. "

The minister of labour, Emeka Wogu, said that the theme of the 2014 Workers' Day, "Building Enduring Peace and Unity", was impressive, apt and relevant.

He urged labour unions to have faith in the Jonathan administration as it continued to implement policies and plans for national emancipation.

He said the administration had ensured and would continue to ensure that the voices of labour were heard.

Wogi added that the Labour Bill drafted to improve the lots of workers pending before the National Assembly would soon be passed into law and urged the unions to be considerate in their demands.

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