The National Administrative Council (NAC), Central Working Committee (CWC) and National Executive Council (NEC) of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has said new minimum wage, $ 2.1bn arms deal, return of toll gates among others will form agenda for its meeting.
The Congress in a statement to NEWSVERGE said, “The issues that would take the centre stage at the forthcoming meetings of the National Administrative Council (NAC), Central Working Committee (CWC) and National Executive Council (NEC) of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) on 10th and 11th of December, 2015 include new minimum wage, corruption, the $2.1bn arms deal, proposed return of toll gates, incessant fuel scarcity, N2.7bn set aside for the board members of National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), amongst others.
The Congress, as a responsible organisation interested in the progress of the country, considers it critical for all its organs to meet and take a position on these issues and subsequently publish its resolutions for the benefit of the government and people at all levels.
These views were expressed by the Congress in a statement signed by its President, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama, and Secretary General, Comrade (Barr.) Musa Lawal. The statement held that proper management of the issues by the government would guarantee sustenance of industrial peace in 2016 and beyond.
On the issue of corruption, the Congress described as laughable the claim by some governors that N18,000 minimum wage was imposed on them when oil sold for $126 as against the present price of $41 per barrel and that they cannot pay it. The labour chiefs ascribed the governors’ comments as occasioned by unbridled corruption and mismanagement of public funds by the governors themselves, and reiterated that the minimum wage was a product of tripartite meetings involving government at all levels, employers (through Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), and organised labour. They emphasized that the negotiations fulfilled International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards and resulted in passage of the Minimum Wage Bill into law by the National Assembly.
On the fuel crisis which has lasted for several months now, the Congress expressed dismay that the sixth oil producing country in the world does not have functional refineries and has to regularly face the perennial fuel imbroglio, noting that the situation portrays Nigeria as an unserious nation amongst the comity of nations. The statement advised the Federal Government to investigate news reports that fuel depots were selling petrol to members of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association (IPMAN) for as much as N117 per litre rather than the government-controlled price of N87, and punish all identified culprits.
On the $2.1 billion arms deals scam, the statement recollected how the Congress championed calls for the release of soldiers condemned to death because they allegedly revolted against orders asking them to face the Boko Haram sect with obsolete weapons and equipment, and observed that the two issues are obviously connected. It accused the military of killing too many innocent soldiers who went against unjust orders of their superiors, and warned that such conduct compromises the security of the country. It called for the prosecution of officers who feed fat on monies earmarked for purchase of arms and payment of soldiers’ allowances. “Soldiers are people, bread winners, husbands and uncles too and deserve to be well catered for and protected from the antics of unscrupulous officers,” it said.
The Congress is happy that the fight among the political gladiators in the National Assembly appears to have subsided. It however expressed concern that the House is yet to pass any meaningful bill into law six months after being inaugurated, preferring instead to expend much time and energy on the issues of government’s planned reduction of the legislators’ salaries and other allowances from N150bn to N120bn, a bill on social media, and return of toll gates. The Congress asserted that the lawmakers must jettison inconsequential issues in a country gasping for breath and start making good on their promise of positive change by making needful sacrifice that would demonstrate real care for the ordinary masses of the country.
The Congress also decried calls by senators who demanded that toll gates be rebuilt to generate money to maintain roads. It recalled that almost half a billion naira was allegedly spent to demolish all toll gates throughout the federation at the inception of the present political dispensation, and canvassed that alternative sources of revenue generation be explored instead, especially in view of the dwindling price of oil in the international market.
The statement concluded by intimating governors who claim inability to pay N18,000 national minimum wage that the Congress has concluded plans to engage government in dialogue towards increasing the minimum wage to N52,000. “They cannot use our collective wealth on their electioneering campaigns, payment of their children’s school fees abroad, foreign medical tourism, etc. only to come tell us they cannot pay salaries because the price of oil has dropped. They are not serious,” the statement said.
The Congress added, “Our position is that the searchlight beamed on the arms deal scam should be extended to board members of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) who served for only five years and have set aside N2.7bn for themselves, whereas they offered us nothing but a privatisation exercise that has produced nothing but darkness. Lastly, we affirm that Nigeria has enough money to maintain its roads; we do not need toll gates that’s will only end up making the so-called big boys richer at the expense of everyone else.”