Labour, civil society groups protest govt’s policies

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By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Olasunkanmi Akoni & Monsur Olowoopejo
ABUJA — ORGANISED labour, yesterday, at a protest rally in Abuja and Lagos against worsening hardship and frustration in the country, asked the Federal Government to change its style of governance and implement people-oriented policies to avert a looming social uprising.

Leading aggrieved workers and other Nigerians, including some civil society allies, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, made it clear that Nigerians are dissatisfied with the style of governance that had made Nigerians poorer and unable to cope with the hardship.

They demanded that the Federal Government make known the identities of those that looted the commonwealth and also asked that their hands be cut off to serve as deterrent to others.

The protest organised by the NLC, TUC and their civil society allies, also lamented that nothing much had been achieved in the fight against corruption.

To drag govs to EFCC, ICPC over bail-out funds

Nigeria Labour Congress President, Ayuba Waba (m) addressing a rally on Good Governance before a delegation took a list of Labour demands to Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida 09/02/2017

The protesters also disclosed that they would soon drag some of the state governors to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, for allegedly diverting bail-out funds recently released by the Federal Government for the payment of workers’ salaries, arrears, pensions and gratuity

Addressing workers during the protest rally at the Unity Fountain, Abuja, President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said it was unfortunate that a few individuals had stolen the nation’s commonwealth, while noting that nothing had been done to bring them to book.

Wants looters amputated

Advising the government to come hard on the looters of the nation’s treasury, Wabba said: “We must not allow a situation where a few, because of their interest, will hold the system to ransom.

‘’We are demanding that they should be named and shamed. We are also demanding that one of their hands be cut off so that when we see them, we will know that they are people that have stolen our money.

Also speaking, President of TUC, Mr Bobboi Kaigama, said efforts must be made to end corruption in the country as well as promote good governance.

On his part, Vice President of IndustriAll Global Union and General Secretary of National Union of Textiles, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria,  Issa Aremu, said before the increment of petroleum pump prices, organised labour had predicted what would be the outcome of the government policy, adding that the predictions had come to fruition.

Saraki reacts

Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo receiving the 18-Point Demands by Labour Movement for Good Governance from the Nigeria Labour Congress President, Ayuba Waba and the Trade Union Congress President, Bobboi Kaigama (l) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida 09/02/2017

Responding, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, said it is time to go into action towards addressing the numerous challenges confronting Nigerians, adding that everybody should  sit down and work out how to make necessary adjustments.

He said: “It can’t continue this way, the exchange rate is high, cost of things in the market has gone high but only the workers’ salaries remained the same.  When next we meet, I will tell you what the National Assembly has done to improve the living condition of Nigerians.”

Protesters stopped from entering Villa

But the protesters were stopped by security operatives from gaining access to the Presidential Villa to deliver their protest message to Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

The workers were stopped at the Federal Secretariat by heavily armed security operatives at about 11.05 am and were asked to send a delegation to take their message to the Presidential Villa.

Initially, the workers rejected the request, insisting the Acting President either sends a representative to receive their message or be allowed to gain access to the villa to deliver the message.

They, however, nominated 20 representatives from among them to take their message to the Acting President while the rest waited for their leaders as music of legendary Fela Anikulakpo Kuti, late Bob Marley among others, rent the air.

Falana  urges NLC to monitor bail-out funds

In Lagos, the protesters, who displayed several placards to convey their grievances,  marched from Yaba to Ikorodu Road, Mobolaji Bank Anthony  and Obafemi Awolowo Way, enroute Alausa, the seat of Lagos State Government, chanting solidarity songs.

Some of the placards read: “President Buhari let there be light; End jumbo salary for all political office holders; Prosecute all indicted persons; Jail all looters, no sacred cows; President Buhari take time to review power sector reform; End unpaid salary regime; Pay N56,000 minimum wage; Buy made-in-Nigeria goods and Patronize local fabrics, garments.”

The Lagos protest was led by Vice President of the NLC, Mr. Amaechi Asugwani, alongside ace musician, Charles Oputa, alias Charly Boy.

At Alausa, Lagos  lawyer, Femi Falana, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, joined the protesters and halted normal business activities when they stormed Lagos State House for hours.

Addressing the protesters amidst solidarity songs, Falana said Nigerians had been suffering, with no hope that the suffering was ending soon.

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