The President f the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba has said that president Muhammadu Buhari’s bailout to states to pay salaries and pensioners made the difference between life and death for Nigeria’s workers.
“Your Excellency, I can stand here today and say your intervention was the difference between life and death for many workers.”
Ayuba Wabba, who led the leadership of organized labour comprising Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) on a visit to the president today, Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja said: “government and labours are primarily partners in progress. The success of government is linked to its workers. And the success of workers is linked to government.
“We all remember the special bailout, Paris club refund and budget support package you introduced to support state governments during the recession. Your directive during this intervention was that state governments must offset accumulated arrears of salaries and pension liabilities. I remember your publicly and openly asked state governors, “how do you manage to sleep at night when the salaries of workers in your state are not paid?
“We also commend you for paying off the pension and accumulated entitlements of disengaged staff of Nigeria Airways and many other pensioners whose pension had been left to accumulating by successive governments. Despite the recession, you did the right things.”
Responding, President Buhari described the 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government as the era with unprecedented, irresponsible expenditure.
According to the President, the PDP has not been been able to successfully explain to Nigerians what they did with the unprecedented earnings during the period as no tangible infrastructure was built.
Buhari recalled the negotiations that led to the approval of the N30,000 minimum wage, saying that he had to ask the minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige to remind the workers what his administration met on ground and what its been able to achieve with minimal resources.
“During your negotiation with the minister of labour and when he briefed us in council on N30,000 minimum wage, I gave an analogy of a mad woman, who went to fetch firewood but when she realized it was too heavy for her to carry, instead of reducing it, she added more.
“I said, we are struggling to survive as a nation. You (workers) knew what this country was earnings between 2009 and 2015, you knew the state of infrastructure when we came in. God gave them 16 years of unprecedented earnings. Multiply 2.1 million by $100 by 16 years. I don’t think the PDP has been able to successfully explain to Nigerians what they did with that money. Because some of the roads, especially the main ones, from here to Onitsha, to Port Harcourt have been there since PTF days. You know the rail was virtually gone and power, I asked where is the power? They spent $16 billion on power and Nigerians are asking, where is the power? It was unprecedented, irresponsible expenditure.
” Most of you are unanswerable to Nigerians, I appealed to you through our mutual friend, the minister of labour to tell you where we found the country, where we are, and what we have been able to do with the resources available to us.
“Oil production from 2.1 million barrels per day went down to half a million. The militants were unleashed on this administration, and yet as confirmed by your leader, we had to ensure pensioners who were dying to collect their entitlements. So really, there were terrible management of this country in last 16 years and we are just trying to make up.
“We cannot succeed without your cooperation. I appreciate the pressure you are under from your respective constituencies, most especially if you have to submit yourself for elections, you have to prove to your members that you are with them rather than with the government and we understand.”
President Buhari also commended the labour unions for their patriotism during the Presidential and National Assembly elections that assisted many Nigerians travel to their constituencies to vote.
According to the NLC President, these institutes are key pillars in Labour-government relations. “The activation of the boards will surely ensure our successes to date are taken to the Next Level. Please be rest assured we are ready to do our bit.”