By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja
The House of Representatives Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas, has demanded an immediate review of workers wages in the country, to meet current realities and strengthen the nation’s anti-corruption drive.
The Speaker, who was speaking at a reception organized in his honour by the Nigerian High Commission in London, said the upward review would encourage workers and make them honest and transparent in their dealings.
“We need to also intensify the war against corruption. No society in this world can ever thrive and be what it wants to be if corruption is the order of the day. But I agree that for you to fight corruption, there are some things you need to do. Let’s take the example of the UK experiment or the Western world. Fundamentally, what they did was to sit down and say let’s look at what an average worker would need to be paid as salary. Come up with a living wage that will take care of the basics of a person such that he won’t be looking outside his lawful income. Today, if you’re a labourer in London, you will be paid enough for you to go and pay your rent, take care of your basics and still be able to have a fairly good living. With that kind of incentive, you don’t need to go and borrow, you don’t need to go and beg, you don’t need to go and steal,” Hon Abbas said.
He also said that the current Nigerian situation is such that “an average worker earns less than what somebody can use to buy fuel to fill his car tank. You still want that man to be honest and transparent?
“For us to wage a war on corruption, we need to create an enabling environment where each and every one of us will be able to operate transparently without having to steal, without having to intimidate, without having to go and beg or to borrow. That is the beginning of the reform.
“If we can get the rule of law working, we will be able to work on the reforms necessary for fighting corruption. In fighting corruption, we also need to create an enabling environment where an average worker should be able to earn enough to live with his family.”
Hon. Abbas, also said that unless Nigeria strengthened its rule of law and the fight against corruption, the country would not go anywhere.
He said the law of the land must be worked in such a way that both the “big and the small” are treated the same way to give everyone a sense of justice and fairness.
“In Nigeria, some people do whatever they like. You can commit any crime and go scot-free depending on the size of your pocket or the people you know. That has to go.
“Unless we are able to strengthen our rule of law to make it in such a way that it affects both the big and the small, and it doesn’t look at the face of whoever is committing an offence, we will never go anywhere,” he said.
The Speaker also advocated for cultural revolution where a man maintains a family that he is able to take care of at a point in time.
“If your income can allow you to marry only one wife, you have to be restrained from taking more than one wife. If your income can allow you to take care of only four children, for example, you should restrain yourself.
“Nobody says you cannot marry as many as you want, provided you are willing to work and be able to take care of your family. What’s happening in Nigeria is that everyone wants to enjoy, but no one wants to make sacrifice in making sure that they support that enjoyment.
“So, my take is that we should fix the economy. Once you fix the economy, people will get employment. People will get good salary, and there will be enough money to fix infrastructure. We will be able to improve education, health and all other sectors. The key is the economy, and in fixing the economy, there are other variables that should be taken care of.”
Earlier, the Nigerian High Commissioner to UK, Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola, said that the reception was organized to honour Speaker Abbas “who has just emerged in a very popular election that is unprecedented.
“We are proud of his achievements in the past and we wish him an impactful tenure,” Ambassador Isola said.
Tribute to Chief Frank Kokori
By Joe Ajaero
We at the Nigeria Labour Congress are deeply saddened by the passing away of Chief Frank Kokori at 80. Our hearts are with his biological family and the NUPENG family where he was General Secretary. To them and other associates, we offer our condolences.
Chief Frank Kokori was Executive Secretary of OMPADEC which later metamorphosed into NDDC among other national appointments held by him.He was announced as Chairman of the board of NSITF but denied that role by some of the powers that be. He instead chaired the board of Michael Imoudou National Institute of Labour Studies (MINILS) where he made his impact.
Chief Frank Kokori will be remembered for many things but top on that list was being among the Labour leaders that gave their all in order for our country to have democracy.
For his stoic and heroic struggle for the enthronement of democracy, he was arrested and detained by the military alongside other Labour leaders for spells of time under inhumane conditions.
Before his arrest and detention by the Abacha -government, Kokori was in the vanguard of Labour leaders who fashioned an alliance with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) on the understanding that then Congress President, Comrade Pascal Bafyau (now of blessed memory) would be vice president to Chief Abiola. Although Chief Abiola (due to circumstances) beyond his control) did not keep that part of the bargain, organised labour gave him their generous and unflinching support. This, coupled with Chief Abiola’ s own credentials gave him coast to coast victory at the polls in the freest election in the history of the country.
Nigeria Labour Congress was similarly in the vanguard of national resistance when the military scuttled Chief Abiola’ s election or victory. It was in execution of that resistance that Chief Kokori among other Labour leaders was arrested and incarcerated while others were hounded out of the country. The “lucky” ones were only put on the security watch list and were routinely harassed at their homes, airports and at public functions considered by the State to be subversive. At the risk of sounding immodest, among those arrested and incarcerated at such functions at Ilorin were Comrades Joe Ajaero and Chris Uyot, Deputy General of Congress. There were several others who suffered differing indignities for fighting for democracy.
Even while some of its leaders were in detention with Chief Abiola, Labour leaders did not give up on their struggle for enthronement of popular democracy.
For their “obduracy”, the organised labour paid a heavy price. The Nigeria Labour Congress and NUPENG for instance, were illegally dissolved by the military and their assets seized. Sole Administrators were appointed to oversee their affairs until 1999!
It is in light of this that we find it a big irony that those who collaborated with the military yesterday while Labour was in the trenches would have the audacity to say today that Labour has no business in politics. It is a shame they are allowed to eat their cake and have it because quite a number of them through the roof or the back door are in government or positions of influence. And clearly, the dilemmna in which we have found ourselves as a people and as a nation cannot be divorced from this syndrome of opportunism and messiah complex…same faces, same cases, same places ( Akinola Aguda).
Chief Kokori, a dogged and fearless fighter has played his role and gone, history has the next chapter.
Meanwhile, while the wheel of history turns, we urge the federal government and the Government of Delta State to immortalise him, for what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Comrade Joe Ajaero is President, Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC)
Passengers Stranded as NLC Locks Down Abuja Airport
By Idris Umar Feta Abuja
Many air travellers were left stranded following the closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, by officials of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Thursday.
A combined team of NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) blocked both the entry and exit ways of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.
The protest was part of the series of actions that the two labour unions say they would zero in on Imo, following the attack on the NLC president, Joe Ajaero.
The NLC and TUC had on Tuesday, declared a nationwide strike, which will commence on Tuesday, November 14, due to the face-off with the Imo State Government.
Strike: FG Okays 30 Days Implementation of MoU with Labour
The Federal Executive Council, FEC, on Wednesday approved a 30 day implementation plan for the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU between the Federal Government and the Organized Labour.
The government also is taking a decision against any external interference in unions activities by external bodies.
This is as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong alongside the Minister of State, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha have met with the factional leaderships of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, presided over by President Bola Tinubu, at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, Lalong said a Memorandum was presented to the council on the implementation of the agreement with labour.
He said, “We presented a memo from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and the memo was basically on the agreement between government and the labour. You are already aware that 15 items are parts of the agreement.
“But we went beyond mere agreement, we told them that something different this time is happening because one, part of the agreement is to file it in the court of law which we have set the process already.
“And the other one was the presidential approval. There cannot be any presidential approval more than the Federal Executive Council. So we presented them to the Federal Executive Council. We analyzed each and every aspect of the agreement and to show the genuineness and also provide for harmonious and good industrial relationship and that was why it was presented and it was approved for implementation.
“It was agreed that within 30 days, there must be evidence of implementation and that was the basis of presenting to the Federal Executive Council the memo and the Federal Executive Council also approved it and within this 30 days, we will go on with the implementation of the agreement between labour and government.”
Fielding on the item six of the MoU which was the government alleged interference in the activities of the democratically elected leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW and the mandate to him (Lalong) to resolve the crisis in the union on or before October 13, the Minister said he had already met with the various factions
He said, “Item six in the MoU is about interference specifically with issues that were about road transport workers. Immediately the next day, we embarked on meetings between the two organisations.
“As of today, they have already reached out and have concluded that of Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN, today they are making a report to the ministry about their agreement because they went into agreement too and we are also going to get back to their parent association.
“The next one is the NURTW. Last week we were with them. Of course if some of you were there, you knew why we postponed it, I reminded them that we are keeping to the date of the agreement but they said they cannot strictly keep to the date because it is very important to them that we realized the aim. So we shifted the meeting till tomorrow. Today, we are going to get the report, by tomorrow we will fix a meeting.
“The reason why we presented these items to the Federal Executive Council is for them to note and approve that after these things we will not want to be tolerating interference into union activities.”But those that are pending are within the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment. Our own is to dispense with conflicts and we are going to continue to do that and these two items we have mentioned, were really the particular things they hammered on when we met. By God’s grace in the next few days, those ones are going to be sorted out.”
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