PRESIDENT, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Ayuba Wabba, on Wednesday, tasked President Muhammadu Buhari to epitomize his intention to fight corruption by sending emissaries to states to investigate how state governments had actually expended the bailouts and tranches of Paris Club refund received.
Noting Tuesday’s visit by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to the Presidential Villa to request for additional bailout, Wabba said it was baffling that states were yet to defray all outstanding salaries to workers despite several interventions, hence the need for the federal government to confirm the claims by state governors that the funds received were judiciously utilized.
He stressed that the Buhari administration must focus its corruption fight on making states accountable, adding that the challenge of irregular payment of salaries by states was more of governors’ inability to set their priorities right than inadequate resources.
Wabba who spoke at the national delegates conference of Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), held in Ibadan, asserted the willingness of the labour movement to provide needed information on how the funds were utilized, said anti-graft agencies should also be involved in “unravelling the mystery beyond how those monies were diverted.”
“Two days ago, our governors were at the Villa to ask for additional bailout or what they called the remainder of the Paris Club refund. Resources have never been the problem in Nigeria. The issue of payment of salaries is not about resources but about getting our priorities right. When the bailout was released, it was done on the premise that it will be used to address the issue of payment of salaries and salaries.”
“We demand that all the money that has been released to states, in form of bailout or Paris Fund should be accounted for if we are truly fighting corruption. The only way we can fight corruption is if everyone is made accountable and no one should be above the law.”
“The fight against corruption should start from the states. Anybody in governance should be accountable. Let the Presidency demand how this money has been utilized and the labour union and anti-graft agencies should be ready to participate in unravelling the mystery behind how those monies have been diverted. This is how to fight corruption.”
“The President should go beyond listen with the governors at the Villa and send emissaries to states to confirm the information they get.” Wabba said.
Speaking further, Wabba said there was no justification for states owing salaries to implement the “No Work, No Pay” law, noting that the labour movement would rather apply its “No Salary, No Work” principle.
“The issue of payment of salaries, that we are celebrating, is a right, not a privilege. A worker deserves his wages after 30 days. No government, without paying salaries, can use the “No Work, No Pay” law. Where salary is not being paid, it is No Salary, No work. Nobody can benefit from a law in pieces. When applying a law, you must situate the law in the holistic context of that law. At any point, a worker can withdraw his services.”
“We have states with workers of liabilities of salaries and pensions up to 25 months. How can such a governor say he wants to apply the No Work, No Pay principle?” Wabba asked.
Wabba condemned privatization of public utilities, especially water, as evil.
“Let me say that privatization of water is the worst form of evil that government is doing to our people and cannot be justified. Drinking water is a universal right and if God almighty has made this resource free to all human beings, why should any government privatize water,” Wabba said.
Speaking, President, AUPCTRE, Mr Solomon Adelegan, decried the attendant effect of the challenging economy in irregular payment of salaries resulting in job insecurity, loss of jobs and high poverty.
Consequently, he urged the federal government to see to infrastructural decay, gross exploitation of workers, and collapse of health facilities.
While commending the current focus of government on diversification to agriculture, Adelegan advocated the resuscitation of marketing boards to regulate prices of agriculture produce.
Adelegan also called for new forms of Public-Public Partnership to facilitate collective ownership rather than Public Private Partnership which he said only satisfied private interests and was not providing the intended benefits.
He noted the review the 2011 minimum wage agreement of N18,000 was long overdue, urging the federal government to shun delay tactics and implement the proposed N56,000.
The event which had representatives of various labour unions also had in attendance, Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, represented by Mr Abdulkarim Haruna; Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr Chris Ngige represented by Mr Ayodele Olaniyi and Governor Abiola Ajimobi represented by Permanent Secretary, Cabinet and Security Services, Governor’s Office, Mr Fatai Oladeinde.