The Nigeria Labour Congress, on Sunday, described 2017 as a very difficult year for Nigerians, noting that the All Progressives Congress government ruined Nigerians and pushed more workers into poverty and wretchedness.

It stated that the deplorable economic conditions in 2017 were captured by the statistics recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics which indicated that over four million Nigerians lost their jobs in 2017.

Also, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria said millions of Nigerian workers lost their jobs, while many others committed suicide due to the untold hardship witnessed across the country in 2017.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who said this in his New Year message in Abuja on Sunday, noted that the government failed to fulfil its promise of creating three million jobs annually.

He stated that the APC government had chastised and ruined Nigerians through its policies, noting that workers were the most affected by the despondent economy.

Wabba added, “Rather than work to create jobs and improve the conditions of workers and Nigerians in general, leading elements in the ruling APC government, like Governor Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna state), have been taking measures to further chastise and ruin Nigerians by throwing tens of thousands of workers into the already saturated unemployment market and wretchedness.”

The NLC complained that despite the huge revenue states had received from the Paris Club loan refunds and other interventions to clear arrears of salaries and pensions, states like Kogi, Osun, Benue, Ekiti, Bayelsa and several others entered 2018 with huge arrears spanning up to 10 or more months of wages and pensions.

It vowed to mobilise workers for the full payment of the outstanding salaries and pensions in the New Year.

The NLC added that as the 2019 general elections approached, workers would not forget governors who refused to pay their earned entitlements while paying themselves, their political appointees and cronies’ huge packages.

Wabba also bemoaned the suffering Nigerians were subjected to due to the fuel scarcity in the country, noting that the energy crisis occurred in spite of repeated assurances and claims that the complete removal of subsidy on petroleum products would end scarcity of petroleum products.

The NLC President frowned on the buck-passing between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the petroleum marketers, stressing that the scarcity was caused by the refusal of the government to refine crude oil locally.

He argued that Nigeria was the only major producer of crude oil that depended on importation of refined products.

“For us in the Congress and for majority of working people in Nigeria, the hope placed on the capacity of President Buhari to bring about positive change is being undermined by his government’s inability to address the infrastructural deficit and other related problems in the oil industry, such as making our existing refineries work at optimal capacity by refining products for domestic consumption,” Wabba stated.

Commenting on the new minimum wage, he expressed the hope that upon completion of negotiations, the National Assembly would give the executive bill that will emerge, an accelerated passage for the new national minimum wage to become a reality before the end of the 3rd quarter of 2018.

The NLC called on the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly to ensure that payment of primary school teachers’ salaries was put on first line charge of the Federation Account to assuage the fears of all stakeholders in the local government system.

“As we move into 2018, our expectation is that the executive arm of government will push for the implementation of key anti-corruption protocols and good governance principles in our public and private institutions,” it said.

The union admonished the government to address the security challenges posed by Boko Haram insurgents and Fulani herdsmen, which it said posed significant threats to peaceful co-existence in many states of the federation.

Workers committed suicide, million lost jobs –TUC

In its own assessment, the TUC said Nigerians were subjected to various dehumanising conditions in 2017, adding that in the midst of the gruelling fuel scarcity, many workers were owed up to six-month salaries while pensions remained unpaid.

The union, in a statement by its President, Bobboi Kaigama, and Secretary-General, Musa-Lawal Ozigi, said, “The TUC states here unequivocally that Nigerian workers have not only lost their jobs in millions but many even committed suicide when they could no longer fend for their families.

“It is no news that pensioners (our senior servants), who served this country meritoriously, die on a daily basis, even at verification locations throughout the country.

“Though their pension is not paid yet, they are burdened to feed their graduate children who are yet to get jobs five years after graduation.

“This is not the best of times in our country as Nigerians are subjected to various dehumanising conditions. How do we explain that in the midst of the gruelling fuel scarcity, many workers are still being owed up to six months salaries?”

The TUC alleged that some state governors had diverted the bailouts released to them by the Federal Government to enable them to pay workers backlogs of salaries.

It added, “Bailouts were given but unfortunately diverted by governors and the Federal Government seems not to be doing anything about it. Those governors involved in such irresponsible act should be brought to book. There is no milk of kindness left in our leaders anymore.

“Families die on our roads, yet, they tell us our roads are not as bad as some Nigerians claim. It is only in Nigeria people pay for services that they did not use. The power sector is a case in point. If things remain like this, the congress may have no option than to hit the street.”

The union said it was worried by the astronomic rate factories closed shop in Nigeria and the billions spent on medical tourism.

It said Nigerians were brought back from Libya lame, blind, abused, adding that Nigerian leaders, who had failed to provide the basic things of life, must be blamed for this.

The TUC stated that the National Minimum Wage Committee, set up by the Federal Government, should conclude everything concerning the new wage on or before the end of the second quarter of 2018.

It said all state governments should pay the outstanding salaries and allowances to workers before the end of the first quarter in 2018.

“All corrupt political officials should face the music, irrespective of their political affiliations. No more soft landing for any body found to have looted the country. “Congress can no longer accommodate this perennial fuel scarcity, especially during the Yuletide or any other time. If it happens, we will direct and mobilise our members all over the country to abandon their cars on major roads,” the TUC stated.

Buhari administration is not asleep –APC

But in his New Year message, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was not asleep.

He said the administration was doing all within its power to deliver on the promises made to Nigerians in 2015.

He described 2017 as an eventful, but challenging year for many Nigerians.

While expressing gratitude to Nigerians for their continuous support and prayers for the Buhari-led APC administration, he urged them to look to the New Year with renewed optimism and vigour.

He expressed confidence that brighter days were ahead.

Odigie-Oyegun stated, “Indeed, the collective task before us is converting our country’s potential – derived from size, demography, human and natural resources –to greatness.

“While the task may seem onerous, it is achievable. With the right ethics, morality, attitudes and priorities, we will get out of our current societal morass that has found expression in our economic challenges, bad politics, ethno-religious divisions and other negative aspects of our national life, sooner than sceptics believe is possible.”

The APC chairman said the party was aware of the hardships faced by Nigerians.

Odigie-Oyegun added, “We are acutely aware of our current national challenges, particularly the economy.

“However, we assure Nigerians that the administration is not asleep, but working assiduously to address these challenges and meet the expectations of Nigerians.

“We remain focused and solidly committed to delivering on our party’s 2015 election promises which were largely hinged on curbing corruption, restoring the economy and the security of the nation.”

The party chairman noted that Nigerians could only downplay the ramifications of corruption to our peril.

He said, “Corruption has, for long, enabled its perpetrators to divert resources for delivering development to the citizenry and as a result bred discontent, which religious bigots and ethnic jingoists take advantage of to create insecurity and other societal malaise.

“Therefore, the solution is the enthronement and entrenchment of quality and accountable leadership in governance.”

NLC needs to look at the brighter side-APC

Reacting to NLC’s criticism, the National Vice-Chairman, (South-South) of the APC, Hilliard Eta, asked the NLC to look at the brighter side of government’s efforts instead of making unverified claims.

Eta was reacting to claims by the labour union that the APC-led administration pushed more workers into poverty in 2017.

He spoke in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, on Sunday.

According to him, it will be difficult for the NLC to substantiate its claims because it did not make public any data of a research it conducted to arrive at its conclusion.

Eta said, “Unfortunately, the NLC has not provided us with the data of a research it carried out to support the claim it has made.

“We can only say that there is a revolution in the agricultural sector and it is better for Nigerians to look at such a sector for job opportunities than to depend on white collar jobs.

“Opportunities have opened up to Nigerians in the agricultural sector and in Small and Medium Scale Enterprises. Nigerians should begin to be more creative.”

The party chieftain added, “I personally think Nigerians should begin to emphasise less on going to China to import finished consumables instead of working on our home made goods which will create more job opportunities for Nigerians.

“Nevertheless, I am confident that the benefits of the policies of this administration will begin to bear the kind of fruit that will prove our critics wrong.”

Attempts to get a reaction from the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, were unsuccessful.

Calls to his mobile indicated that the phone was switched off at the time of the call.

Similar calls to the telephone of Odigie-Oyegun were neither picked nor returned as of the time of filing this report.

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