“….Senators have virtually made the country ungovernable, they shamelessly speak on the floor of the chamber like parrots…”
Comrade Hadiza Dije Aliyu, is the Vice Chairperson, Women Commission of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, as well as the National Women Leader of Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU). In this interview where she spoke on the state of working conditions of the Nigerian workers, she barred her mind to Muhamadu Aliyu, our Kaduna correspondent, on the performance and conduct of Federal Law Makers among other issues.
Nigerian workers are at crossroads over the state of labour in the country today, coupled with uncertainty over their future. As a unionist what do you think is the way out?
The labour movement in Nigeria is not doing badly, because we have been fighting for the welfare of Nigerian workers, and the NLC is still agitating for increase of the minimum wage from N18,000 to at least N56,000. We have been canvassing for this as workers celebrated Workers Day all over the country. We wish to assume by now that the Federal Government should address this issue squarely. Even though the issues of workers are on the concurrent list of the constitution, but we expect even the states and the local governments where we have employees drawn up from the same pot to take the issue seriously because they all draw from the Federation Account and therefore, we expect that conscience should guide the executives from local to federal government to see to the plight to the Nigerian workers. What is N18,000 and what can it do for the Nigerian workers? Is it for the payment of house rent, transportation, school fees or the feeding of the family? We are still not comfortable because it is disheartening up to this moment, going by pronouncements of government officials on the increase of minimum wage, which is sad.
Going by this situation, government at all levels are trying to reduce their workforce claiming they have too many workers despite the meager salary paid to these workers. Do you agree with this position?
Is it the minimum wage that should be an issue or the looting of Nigerian economy, which is outrageous? We are all living witnesses to how some cliques are silently looting our treasury, if all the funds looted were utilised appropriately either for national development or for the well-being of the people, if the funds had been appropriately utilized, Nigerians will not be on starvation and graduates won’t be roaming the streets looking for jobs. What are we saying? While huge funds are being spent on the Legislature, despite their low performance yet huge resources are expended on them. How much are we talking about? The legislators’ package at the end of every month is enormous, simply because they are the ones conducting the legislation forgetting about the masses and Nigerian workers, forgetting about their poverty and unemployment. Everyday schools and Universities are turning out students and yet the so called National Assembly keeps quiet as if we do not have problem, because they are not feeling what the ordinary Nigerian is going through, the suffering among the people.
What then is the way forward?
The way forward is for the government to be sincere. Those we elected to represent us at all levels should be sincere because there is no sincerity of purpose among our leaders. They are not ready to make sacrifices because currently even with the huge package they are being paid, I mean the legislators, they are still fighting for more, I thought with the recession, they will be selfless because they are talking as the people’s representatives, I expected even the Senate to come up with pronouncement that, they have cut down their monthly package by at least 50% in the face of the current recession in the country .Sadly they are not even ready to do that.
How can Labour address the National Assembly package considering that most of them have retired from public service, while some of them who were governors are now senators, yet they are still receiving both pension and salaries at the same time?
It has gone beyond what any reasonable person can think about. Some of them who left office as governors and are now in the National Assembly receive both salaries and pensions. Most of them have found their way into the Senate collecting salaries and pensions including constituency allowances. This doesn’t make sense because the bottom line is insecurity and also the level of selfishness in public service does not augur well for the nation. If they have the interest of the nation at heart, they won’t be asking for too much, milking the treasury of the country despite the situation Nigeria finds itself today. The Anti- Corruption Bill is still in the National Assembly because if it is passed into law, it will deny them so many things and that is why they are frustrating the effort of the Executive Arm of government in its fight against corruption. They have virtually made the country ungovernable with their attitude and conduct, and every day you see them shamelessly standing on the floor of the chamber speaking like parrots. The level of insecurity is too much, and I wonder where we are heading.
Do you agree with the notion that civil servants are the ones helping politicians to loot the public treasury?
All we need is orientation, because corruption has eaten deep into our system, into virtually every Nigerian. You may discover that even your children sometimes you have to bribe your way for them to accord you the level of respect due a parent. Nigerians have to accept the reality, and to also imbibe patriotism and to also believe that we have no other country than Nigeria and we must mean well for ourselves. This has to start with us as individuals. The civil servants must take it as a duty to imbibe patriotism, and whatever they will do it must be in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. That is where the change will begin and politicians will definitely change from their shady deals. I wish to commend Cuba for introducing free education right from primary school to first degree but Nigeria cannot do that because of the high level of corruption in the country. Can Nigerians stand by their government like the Cubans did despite all the economic hardship they encountered through various sanctions imposed on the country by the super powers? Now Cuba has the best scientists, doctors, engineers in the world, and why not Nigeria? What we believe is only to fight ourselves, to create ethnic and religious differences.
As a woman leader are you satisfied when you are still fighting to be recognised and to be given appropriate slots in government?
Even in the Executive Arm of government, how many women are in key positions? But whatever the case, women should be given the opportunity to contribute towards national development. Recently in the social media, there were reports making mockery of women simply because Habibat Lawal was appointed Acting Secretary to the Federal Government. If it is the will of God we are praying that she will be confirmed in that position, and she will do well.