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NLC, TUC to Pres.Tinubu: We are no politicians, but unionists

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The nation’s organized labour under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has reacted to President Bola Tinubu’s jibes at the movement, saying they are not politicians and busy bodies who are ready to contest the 2027 poll with him.

Rather, the unions asserted that members, including the executives, are purely unionists and not politicians, who have the statutory duty to pursue the welfare of members and Nigerians.

Their demands are for the federal government to address pervasive hunger, unemployment, housing, insecurity, and escalating prices of food and other basic necessities of life.

Persecondnews recalls that the president on February 29 threw some jibes at the union leadership at the inauguration of the Red Line Rail Project in Lagos, saying they are not the sole voice of the Nigerian people, and advised the labour leaders to wait till 2027 to contest with him.

But NLC President Joe Ajaero insisted that labour’s preoccupation and business was to ensure effective governance that prioritises the welfare and security of all Nigerians, saying the threats against labour by President Tinubu were unacceptable.

“President Tinubu’s insinuation that Labour lacks the moral ground to challenge his administration, merely nine months into office, is deeply troubling. Moreover, his focus on partisan issues and the distant 2027 election cycle, rather than the urgent needs of the populace, further underscores a disconnect from the realities faced by Nigerians on a daily basis.

“We find these remarks, particularly those concerning the role of labour in governance, to be profoundly at variance with the struggles faced by ordinary Nigerians under existing policies.

“It is regrettable that the President seems oblivious to the profound hardships endured by millions of Nigerians. Pervasive hunger, unemployment, housing insecurity, and escalating costs of basic necessities such as food and healthcare demand immediate attention and decisive action.

“Yet, instead of addressing these pressing concerns, President Tinubu appears preoccupied with political calculations and future electoral prospects.

“The NLC wishes to emphasise that our primary objective is not to vie for political positions, including that of the President,” NLC boss Ajaero said in a statement.

He also said: “We urge President Tinubu to redirect his efforts towards fulfilling this fundamental duty of public office rather than engaging in political rhetoric.

“It is imperative that we refocus our collective energy on addressing the substantive issues that have been the subject of engagement between Labour and the government since June 2023.

“Some of the critical matters that beckons for urgent attention include wage increases, social welfare programmes, infrastructure development, and the revitalization of key sectors such as education and healthcare.”

According to him, in order to avoid the dissipation of energy, it was important for the government to focus on the real issues affecting the workers and Nigerians in general.

Ajaero recalled that organised labour has engaged the federal government since June 2023, following the removal of petrol subsidies by the Tinubu administration.

“The issues are around the non-implementation of agreements reached between us and the government.

“For example, on June 5, 2023, after the hike in the price of PMS, the following agreements were reached between us and the government: review the proposal for wage increases and awards, including the framework for timing and implementation; review the programmeme of cash transfers; and propose the inclusion of low-income earners in the programmeme; review issues hindering effective delivery in the education sector; and propose solutions for implementation.

“To revive the CNG conversion programmes, review the framework for the completion of rehabilitation work on the nation’s refineries, and review the framework for the maintenance of roads and expansion of rail networks across the country.

“However, Mr. President, nothing came out of your promises. It took another round of protests for the October 2, 2023, agreement to be reached. We outline the agreement below so that your government will tell Nigerians which one it has been able to implement,’’ said the labour leader.

He listed the items on the October 2023 agreement to include the N35,000 Wage Award, that Port Harcourt Refinery will come on stream by December 2023, that 25,000 cash transfers to 15 million poor households would be implemented, tax waivers for workers, small businesses, and the general public, government interference in the internal affairs of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), and RTEAN to be stopped.

He said the agreement further stated that CNG buses and 55,000 conversion kits would be provided, visitation to the refinery to monitor completion of the Port-Harcourt refinery, that the National Minimum Wage Committee would be set up immediately, that outstanding wages and salaries for tertiary education workers in all federal government-owned educational institutions would be paid, that fertiliser initiatives would be provided to farmers across the nation, and that funds would be provided to MSMEs across the nation.

“We would want Mr. President to show us the items his government has implemented in this agreement. Perhaps the government wants to tell Nigerians that we do not have the right to ask that it comply with the agreement it willingly reached with us?

“But beside all these, in the two MoUs signed with this government on June 5th and October 2nd, 2023, which item has his government implemented beside rhetoric? The first MoU has seven items, while the second has 15 items. It has been a chain of broken promises, not only to Labour but also to hungry Nigerians.

“President Tinubu’s administration must be held accountable for the commitments made in previous agreements with Labour. It is disheartening to note the apparent lack of progress in implementing these agreements, despite repeated assurances from the government. Nigerians deserve transparency and tangible results, not empty promises and bureaucratic delays.

“Furthermore, the use of divisive language and veiled threats against Labour by President Tinubu is unacceptable. It is incumbent upon all stakeholders to foster constructive dialogue and collaboration in addressing the myriad challenges facing our nation.

“Violence and intimidation have no place in a democratic society, and any attempt to suppress dissent will only exacerbate tensions and undermine our collective efforts towards progress and prosperity.

“Finally, the NLC reiterates its unwavering commitment to championing the interests of Nigerian workers and the broader populace. We call upon President Tinubu to heed the voices of ordinary Nigerians, prioritise governance over politics, and take meaningful steps towards building a more inclusive and equitable society,’’ Ajaero stated.

Speaking in the same vein, Ajaero’s Trade Union Congress counterpart, Festus Osifo, said: “I could speak for the Trade Union Congress. We are not politicians; we are unionists, and it is our right to protest. It is a fundamental right of every single Nigerian. So we don’t have issues with protests when need be; people must exercise their rights, and people must protest.

“In terms of waiting till 2027 to enter politics, I don’t think that is something we could dabble into because, as an individual, I am not a card-carrying member of any political party.

“What I am interested in is the welfare of my members and indeed the entire Nigerian masses. So, the president is alien to us because the right to protest and strike is that of the workers.’’

Speaking on Channel TV on Friday, monitored by Persecondnews, Osifo added: “There are conditions precedents for the fact that you are going on a protest or strike; there are some things that led to it, those fundamental issues must be addressed.’’

 

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