The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) celebrates with the Working People, their families and all Nigerians, particularly our senior citizens, on this special occasion of the 2023 New Year Day celebration, and acknowledge indeed, your numerous contributions to the Nigerian project.
The year 2022 was quite challenging in virtually all fronts including security, politics, economy, health and social life, but there is hope for a glorious 2023 if we are ready to birth the necessary change and hold our leaders accountable as the Nigeria we earnestly desire can only be achieved through collective struggle.
Our country, Nigeria is undoubtedly blessed with human and material resources but constrained with competent leadership who will create the right environment for the enormous resources to thrive. Life was made unbearable in 2022, as there were mass killings in the North West, North East and South East, worsened by floods in which over 600 of our compatriots lost their lives, and a climate of fear induced by banditry.
The life of the Nigerian mases was made more difficult by hyper- inflation which notched above 20 per-cent, misery index which soared to all time high, hydra-headed unemployment and numerous unfulfilled promises.
Sadly, Nigerians ended the year with another unnecessary death; that of Mrs Omobolanle Raheem, a pregnant lawyer whose promising life was eclipsed on Christmas Day by a trigger-happy police officer.
On a personal level, the over six (6) million dynamic members of the TUC lost its former Secretary General Comrade Musa-Lawal Ozigi and our Kwara State Chairman, Comrade Akin Akinsola to the March 28, 2022 bandits train attack. It is to the resilience of Nigerians in restarting the Abuja-Kaduna train services on December 5, 2022 that our 2023 New Year Message is directed.
We wish to enumerate some of the key issues that are agitating the mind of Nigerian workers and the need for government to act decisively.
Life is the most basic of all rights and must not be compromised under any circumstance. The war against banditry, terrorism and sectarian violence must be total and uncompromising. There should also be a general mobilization of the populace in this war that must be won for our country to survive. We warn against attempts in some quarters to rebrand criminals and terrorist as freedom fighters or treat them with kid gloves.
We therefore demand that insecurity be tackled by all means including mobilizing the citizenry to defend themselves against bandits and terrorists.
Inflation has eroded the purchasing power of Nigeria workers; the minimum wage has been further depleted and the value of Naira has become worthless. There can be no excuses for the continuous impoverishment of the Nigerian people because the basic reason for the existence of government is to cater for the welfare of the people. It makes no sense making excuses that inflation is global when within the same African community, countries like Togo, Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso, Seychelles and war-torn Libya, the inflation rate is less than 1 per-cent while that of Nigeria is above 20 per-cent.
While the TUC fully endorses the acceleration towards a cashless economy, we condemn the inability of the banking system to run a seamless electronic banking platforms. This has led to huge loss of money by customers whose transfers are not effected even when they are debited and whose withdrawals at the Automated Teller Machine, (ATM) are not perfected. Heavy fines on banks in favour of the customers will go a long way in bringing sanity to the system.
The TUC rejects the clamour by some politicians and political office holders to continue the importation of petroleum products at prohibitive costs while simultaneously, campaigning and making moves to stop fuel subsidy. Politicians who love Nigerians would first return the country to local refining thereby creating mass jobs and making the products cheap, accessible and available before contemplating removal of fuel subsidy.
We also demand that the Buhari government ensures that PMS is available and sold at the official pump price in fuel stations. The emergent culture of selling such highly inflammable commodity in jerry cans in street corners and residential houses, must be stopped.
Irrespective of the nomenclature given or the deceptive garb of efficiency, our experience as a people, show that privatization is the mere transfer of public wealth into private hands. The example of the electricity sector, clearly indicates also that the private sector can be even less efficient than the public sector. Therefore, we not only demand the review of the entire privatisation exercise and a transparent accountability of its proceeds, but also call for the reversal of privatized entities where, like the electricity sector, the new ‘owners’ have failed abysmally, or merely engaged in asset-stripping. Anybody or group pushing for further privatisation of our national assets do not mean well for Nigeria.
It is tragic that after 65 years of oil production, Nigeria is still unable to verify its daily oil production or add value to its crude oil that would have vastly increased its oil revenues. The same calamity is visited on the country which flares its gas, damaging its environment and losing money while its rural populace relies on firewood for domestic cooking.
The total Public Debt Stock of the country as at June 30, 2022 was N42.84 trillion (USD103.31) The country’s external debt stood at USD40.06B. These grim statistics released by the Federal Government’s Debt Management Office show that future generations of Nigerians may be enslaved in a debt peonage. The TUC demands a stop to further loans by the out-going Buhari administration which has in the main, incurred these debts part of which was used in building an economically unviable railway to a neighboring country while internally, the country is in need of railways.
We commend all the anti-corruption agencies of government for the successes recorded so far. However, beyond the recoveries of looted funds and properties, we expect that there must be serious consequences for engaging in corruption. Except there is serious deterrence, the looting will not end. Defecting from a particular political party to the ruling party should not stop a thief from bearing the consequences of his or her action.
The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) declared few weeks ago that the agency has recovered N134.3bn and $121m, among others in 10 months. We have also seen videos of decayed naira notes brought out likely due to the recent policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on redesigning the Nigeria. The culprits did not deposit the money in the bank which could have been used for productive purposes, but for insatiable greed.
It is tragic that monies meant for infrastructure and creation of jobs ended up in private pockets, but more tragic is it that some people view such criminals through the prism of ethnicity and religion. No serious country does that.
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria will continue to partner with the anti-corruption agencies to increase public awareness and expose fraudulent deals and characters anywhere they are identified.
SANITY IN THE EDUCATION SECTOR
No country develops more than her education system. Unfortunately, at all levels – primary, secondary and tertiary, the sector is ailing. The eight months strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in 2022 was caused by the frequent breaches of Collective Agreements by the Federal Government. ASUU’s demands centered on the welfare of teachers, better work environment and the basic funding of the system. The education system has become so chaotic that on the average, a four-year programme now takes six or seven years.
The politicians can afford to send their children for studies abroad so most of them do not care whether schools are in session or not. Their level of insensitivity is so high that some of them attend their children’s graduation abroad and flaunt their pictures on social media.
Some of them chorus that “Nigerian graduates are not employable” without considering the negative effect of this on employers and the psychological trauma it would have on the graduate job-seekers. Our joy is that these same graduates that are not “employable” in Nigeria are heavily sought after in countries like Britain and other western countries as teachers, doctors, nurses, etc.
All over the world, Nigerians are breaking new grounds in all sectors and contributing meaningfully to the economies of their host countries while also sending remittances back home. Many of them were those who ‘japa’ (Yoruba word to run swiftly away) some years ago.
Nigeria is losing her best to other countries. The brain drain challenge has enormous consequences and the only way to stop it is for government to become responsible. The late sage Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. The Labour Movement is going to further engage all stakeholders in the sector in 2023.
We cannot say that Nigerians have enjoyed good governance since the return of democracy in 1999. Our institutions and public resources have been mismanaged and human rights abused. Growth and development have eluded the country because there is hardly accountability on the part of the leadership. They abuse the system because they believe they do not need our votes to emerge. How wrong they are this time.
Nigerian workers will hold elected government accountable henceforth as good governance is nonnegotiable moving forward.
2023 GENERAL ELECTION
The 2023 general elections are less than eight weeks away. This election will actually determine whether Nigerians learnt any lesson from previous elections and successive administrations. We appeal to Nigerians not to sell their votes, but elect leaders they can trust. This is the only veritable way of putting the country on the part of growth and development.
A NEW NIGERIA IS DESIRABLE IN 2023.
Fellow Compatriots, we can give birth to a New Nigeria if we unite to demand good governance not just from the Buhari government but also from those who may win elections at state and national levels in 2023.
We must demand a new trajectory of governance, assert our sovereignty over all those in government, hold governments at all levels to their constitutional duties and make them accountable to the Nigerian people.
If we unite and are determined, the pains of 2022 can be replaced by gains in 2023. We and our compatriots in the Labour Movement are ready to lead the populace in this charge towards the New Nigeria which we so richly deserve.
The TUC wishes all Nigerians and our well- wishers a Happy New Year in 2023
Comrade (Engr.) Festus Osifo
2nd January, 2023