1 May 2014

Nigeria: May Day - Hold Govt Accountable for Hardship - Amaechi

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

Lagos — In the spirit of May Day celebration that renews workers' solidarity worldwide each year, Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, on Thursday tasked the Nigerian workers and students to hold the Federal Government responsible for what he described as avoidable hardship currently plaguing the country.

He also charged the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) together with student's leaders to challenge the "unimaginable and unprecedented level of corruption at the Federal Government level".

Amaechi spoke at the Isaac Boro Park, Port Harcourt, while addressing the workers at May Day rally.

And while Amaechi was speaking in Port Harcourt, President Goodluck Jonathan also addressed the workers in Abuja where he debunked the recent World Bank's claim that Nigeria was poor. In his own address, Amaechi told the workers: "If it is true that you heard that $20 billion was missing from our purse or $49.8 billion either way, if you know how many hospitals, schools, it will build, the workers that can be employed with that kind of money, by now both students and labour leaders will be on the streets.

"Remember you could not see that kind of money that is being stolen in Nigeria, without all the universities going on demonstration, and schools all over the country closed. "And even then you could not do that without NLC coming out in defence. Today all of us and labour leaders are junketing and enjoying with politicians, so the poor ones are suffering, because they have nobody to speak for them," the Governor said.

He accused the Federal Government of impunity, using the police and other security agencies against Nigerians.

"Why should Nigeria lose 200 children and nobody is talking. We are helpless here, because the security is in the hands of the Federal Government, and we cannot do much any longer."

The Governor further believes that the reason for the current insurgency in Nigeria was a form of social protest because people are hungry. "You are daily victims of kidnapping not only of those who carry you away and take money, but of those of us in government."

"I was listening to the Trade Union Congress Chairman's address, and he took me back to my school days because he was able to analyze the problems of Nigeria. But typical of the TUC, NLC in Nigeria, they know the problems, they also know the solutions.

"There has been no successful administration in Nigeria without the support of NLC and TUC. Do you remember the Abacha struggle? Do you also remember the roles played by the Labour Unions? Now, what is happening currently is frightening... if you listened to the chairman of TUC, he said to me and to all of you that the reason for which you see violence and Boko Haram is the presence of social inequality, social injustice".

Castigating the Federal Government further, Amaechi emphasised that "Nigeria will never change until all labour leaders, students and the ordinary man in the street are able to take their own destiny in their hands".

"The reason an Ikwerre man wants to finish his tenure and another one wants to be a Governor, is that you don't vote," he said.

He said he knew how Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) used to rig elections, and urged people to demand validity of voting cards and not to leave any polling booth till all votes were counted.

In his speech, state Chairman of the NLC, Chris Oruge, condemned the violence in the country, especially the bombing of Nyanya Motor Park in Abuja, and abduction of 273 school girls from Government Secondary School Chibok, Borno State.

TUC Chairman, Chike Onuegbu, on his part too, condemned existence of what he described as direct, structural, cultural, political and other forms of violence in the country.

He appealed to the Federal Government to do everything to stop the insecurity and restore peace, and create jobs for the teaming youths.

Also addressing the workers at the May Day rally in Abuja, NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, condemned the attack on members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) by policemen in Abuja during their peaceful protest on Tuesday.

"When we got the wind of what happened when these innocent protesters were maltreated and brutalised by the men of the police on the order of an Assistant Commissioner of Police, we horridly put our heads together and our consensus was that perhaps there is an importation into Abuja.

"Workers know very well what I mean by importation of something to Abuja, but from where? Congress, can you tell me from where, River State, thank you very much for providing me with the answer."

Omar further told President Goodluck Jonathan who was also at the event that such act was not acceptable in a democracy setting and that it is only in anarchy that such things are happening.

"Mr. President Sir, we are saying this act is not acceptable in a democratic setting, it is only in anarchy that such things are happening and I am definitely very sure that Mr. President is not aware of this, that is why we are bringing it to his knowledge, because this has already sound as a wake up call for not only worker in Abuja but for all Nigerian workers.

"Tomorrow if we have any reason to come out for peaceful protest as usual and we are met with this kind of oppression, the next thing we will do is to go back and re-strategise and invite every worker, not only workers in Abuja, but every worker in Nigeria to come and join us," Omar said.

The NLC president, however, said the struggle continues, and thereby called on Jonathan to call his officers to order or even get them out of a sensitive place like Abuja.

"It is our committed resolve that the struggle continues, we want to urge Mr. President either to call his officers to order or even get them out of a sensitive place like Abuja," he added.

Omar said despite efforts by government to guarantee security, the situation seems to be deteriorating particularly in the North East.

The initial gains of the emergency rule have been lost, he said, adding that Boko Haram has now matured into a full blown terror group striking with devastating effects.

The Nyanya blast, Omar said, has erased any doubts about the universality of terrorism, as the choice of targets of Boko Haram, regularity of strikes, weapons and sophistication of operations makes the sect one to dread.

"It is immoral to play politics with the lives of people. In spite of the relative huge security votes in the past few years, the nation's security infrastructure remains weak and inadequate," he said.

President of the TUC, Bobboi Bala Kaigama, on his part listed several indicators that suggested the nation was in serious crises.

According to Kaigama, "The fact that we are in the midst of crises is no longer disputable. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. "Our economy is threatened by incidents of violence and terrorism due to unalloyed greed and irresponsibility on the part of many of our successive leaders and our collective failure to nurture our hard-earned democracy and prepare the nation for a new progressive age," he said.

Meanwhile, members of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) boycotted the May Day rally at the Eagle Square, Abuja.

President of the association, Babatunde Ogun, who spoke to journalists away from the venue of the rally, said the decision to stay away from Eagle Square festivity was a mark of identification with the plights and pains of parents of the over 200 girls abducted by terrorists at Chibok, Borno State.

Ogun called on the Federal Government to without any delay embark on appreciable steps in search and rescue of the girls.

Jonathan, in his address to the workers, argued that Nigeria is not poor but that the issue of wealth distribution was the main challenge of the country.

Jonathan, who was apparently reacting to recent World Bank's claims that Nigeria was among the five poorest countries in the world, said he was amazed when he visited Kenya on an official trip only to discover that most of the private jets which flew into that country were from Nigeria.

"I was surprised when the World Bank listed us among the poorest nations in the world, Nigeria is not poor, it only has the problem of unequal distribution of wealth."

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