Labour Unions Pass Vote Of Confidence On Kwara Assembly

The Kwara State House of Assembly has been described as peoples Assembly, whose focus is to ensure quality representation, to make democracy more meaningful to the down trodden.
The National President of the National Union of Local Government Employees, (NULGE), Comrade Khaleed Gangama, made this observation in Ilorin during a rally for Local Government Autonomy to the House by the Union.
Comrade Gangama represented by NULGE’s National Vice President South East, Comrade Patrick Igwe, noted with delight that the 8th legislature under the leadership of the Speaker, Dr. Ali Ahmad had demonstrated that the Parliament was the conscience of the people and urged the House to sustain the tempo.
He noted with delight that the parliament had played significant roles, in providing immediately and enduring solutions to salary crisis, in the Local Government Councils and for making NULGE members, had a fair share of the recent Paris refund to the state.
The State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Yekini Agunbiade, in his remark, applauded the Legislature for its commitment towards protecting the interest of workers in the state and enjoined it not to relent in providing voice for the voiceless in the state.
Responding, the Speaker, Dr. Ali Ahmad who restated the commitment of the House towards making the Parliament responsive to the yearnings of the people, pointed out  that the House, was at the forefront of ensuring autonomy for the Local Government Councils in the ongoing Constitutional Amendment in the Country.
 The Speaker, represented by his Deputy, Elder Mattew Okedare, disclosed that 19 states House of Assembly in the Northern part of the Country, had indicated interest in supporting autonomy for Local Government Councils in the Country.
 Also speaking, the chairman House Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Judiciary, Barrister Kamaldeen Fagbemi,  disclosed that the State House of Assembly was in total support of administrative, political and financial autonomy for Councils in the Country, pointing out that the Speaker was at the forefront of championing autonomy for Councils among Conference of Speakers in the country.
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Strike Looms In Kogi As Labour Unions Issue Seven-Day Ultimatum To Yahaya Bello

The Kogi State Chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and Trade Union Congress (TUC), have issued a a seven-day ultimatum to Governor Yahaya Bello, to pay the July salary in full on or before September 12.

In a meeting presided over by the joint leadership of the trade unions in Lokoja on Wednesday, the workers resolved to reject the half salary policy of the state government.

The labour unions faulted the claim of the government that its wage bill was N3.1 billion as presented during its meeting with the leadership of the workers.

According to the organised labour, which also includes the Public Service Joint Negotiating Council, the state government later brought down the figure to N2.6 billion after the issue was raised with it.

The part statement reads: “If the N2.6 billion being quoted now by the state government as July 2017 wage bill is sacrosanct, and if the monthly allocation that accrued to the state from the federation account without the IGR shared in the month of August 2017 stands at N2.6 billion as presented to the organised labour, we wish to ask: why the percentage of salary?

“We wish to assure all workers that the organised labour still maintains its stance on ‘no percentage/half salary as proposed by government’.

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ASUU Meets FG Today Over Lingering Strike

President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Biodun Ogunyemi, will today, lead a delegation of lecturers to a meeting with the federal government over ways of resolving the ongoing national strike by the lecturers.

Government delegation at the meeting would include the Ministers of Education and Finance; Chairman, National Income Salaries, and Wages Commission; and the Executive Secretary, National Universities, Commission.

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress is also expected at the meeting.

The meeting will be coming after the ASUU leadership held a meeting at the University of Abuja on Friday and Saturday where all its branch chairmen were present to discuss how best to resolve the strike.

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NLC Urges FG To Intervene In Kogi Political Crisis

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), has appealed to the federal government to urgently put an end to the crisis in Kogi State House of Assembly.

The call was made in a statement issued by the NLC National Leadership signed by the President Ayuba Wabba.

“We are appalled by the developments in the Kogi State House of Assembly in particular, and Kogi State in general.

“For those who may not have been in the know, last week, the speaker, Honourable Alfa Imam was forced out and a more pliant one installed.

“The offence of the former Speaker was that he had initiated a legislative process to look into the disbursements of the Paris Club refund following non-payment of salaries and pensions and the industrial tensions in its aftermath.

“But the former Speaker was lucky to have gotten off “lightly” as the House Member who moved the motion for this process ended up in Plaster of Paris (POP) courtesy of the thugs dispatched to disrupt the House proceedings.” The statement said.

The statement described the Kogi crisis as a mess that represents the height of intolerance, insensitivity and impunity, and a precursor to dictatorship and anarchy.

The NLC called on all well-meaning Nigerians to condemn the act and that the situation should be apprehended by the Federal Government before it spins out of control.

The statement said: “Accordingly, we call on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, commence investigations into the disbursements of bail-out funds (50% percent of which it had directed should be applied to payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities); continuous non-payment of salaries and pensions; endless staff audit which has become a convenient alibi for owing salaries and pensions.

“We also believe that the Federal Government should be concerned that the state-contrived industrial disharmony in the state is slowly but steadily degenerating into a political crisis as exemplified by the clamp down on ASUU and the State-sponsored violence in the House of Assembly and other acts of witch-hunt in the State’s socio-political space.”

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Osun Cancels Workers’ Day To Honour Adeleke

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Osun state on Monday said it  had canceled the Workers Day celebration in honour of   Sen. Isiaka Adeleke who died on April, 23.

The State NLC chairman,  Mr Jacob Adekomi  told the  News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Osogbo, that the body took the decision to honour Adeleke who was the state’s first civilian governor. Adeleke was the governor between 1992 and 1993, before the coup by General Sani Abacha on 17 November 1993.

Adekomi  said the Fidau (prayer) for Adeleke also falls on Workers’ Day.

He said that in line with the  call by the national body of the NLC for better welfare for civil servants, “Osun NLC is also pressing home and making demands for the payments of all outstandings from the state government.

“We are demanding from the government the payment of outstanding balance of over 20 months half salaries the workers are being paid.

“We are also asking the government to pay workers their leave allowances and other benefits that is due to them,” he said

Adekomi said that their demands were always contained in letters which they had been forwarding to the government as a follow up to meetings they had been holding.

He said in two weeks time, NLC would be organising a workshop.

He said during the workshop, other issues that affect the workers and their welfare  would be discussed.

NAN reports that Sen. Isiaka Adeleke, representing Osun West Senatorial District died on Sunday, April, 23.

The sudden death had thrown up suspicions and speculations about the cause. The report of an autopsy ordered by the family has not been released

(NAN)

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Minimum Wage: NLC To Stage Protest Against Governors, Lawmakers

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has on Sunday, threatened to mobilise Nigerians against governors and some National Assembly members. This is in a reaction to governors and lawmakers pushing the bill which seeks to remove the National Minimum Wage from the exclusive to the concurrent legislative list.

The bill which scaled through first reading before the House,is set for second reading on the floor of the House where members will debate on it.

In a report in The Nation newspaper, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, accused some members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum of sponsoring such an anti-workers’ legislation. He stressed that labour would explore every legitimate legal means to protect workers. “We have done in the past and we are going to deplore it,” said Wabba.

“All over the world, minimum wage is on the exclusive list. We are talking about protecting the most vulnerable group, that is the principle and philosophy. It is an ILO core issue under decent work agenda. It is a core ILO issue that all countries are conformed to.

“So, first is that it is the level of ignorance because he thinks that it is only for the state. No. It is for the self-employed for those that are from the private sector to protect the most vulnerable people from being exploited from false labour and slavery. That is why minimum wage law is there.

“It is a core ILO convention and in many countries of the world, including capitalist economy. As capitalist as the United Stated (U.S.) is, they have a minimum wage law.

“So, we must first understand the concept. It is not the state government. It is all employers of labour generally, both private and public. So, for public sector, who fixes their own? That is why it is a tripartite issue. I think that there is a level of ignorance he has demonstrated in this without even knowing what minimum wage law is all about.

“First, we condemn it in its entirety. We are going to respond immediately and effectively. Two, let him also go back to the archives. This issue was introduced even by some cabals within the Governors’ Forum at the last constitution amendment and it was defeated.

“It went to a referendum and it was defeated. So, we should start from where we stopped and not to take us back to areas we have actually advanced on.”

Wabba said that millions of Nigerians who are self-employed and those working in the private sector will be subjected to undue exploitation if the national minimum wage is removed from the exclusive list to the concurrent list.

“Who will regulate the case of the self-employed; for instance now, you are self-employed, you are not working under either the state or the federal government where you can even negotiate.

“So, the implication is that once you remove that from the exclusive list, workers will be exploited. We are not even talking of the maximum, we are talking about the minimum.

“Assuming the alteration bill sells through in the National Assembly, what will organised labour, especially the leadership of the NLC, do? It will not said through because we will stop it at all cost. Nigerian workers will not accept this.

“The proponent of the bill, Ayeola Abayomi Abdulkadir (APC-Lagos), seeks to alter the Second Schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by deleting item 34 from the exclusive legislative list and renumbering the existing item 35 as item 34 and subsequent items accordingly.”

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NLC Suspends Strike, Resolve To Dialogue With FG

The Nigeria Labour Congress has suspended the indefinite strike it called to protest the increase in the pump price of petrol from N86 and N86.50k to N145.

The decision to suspend the strike was taken at an emergency meeting of the NLC National Executive Committee in Abuja on Sunday.

The NEC also resolved to resume negotiation with the government on the issue of the increase in electricity tariff and the 45 per cent increase in the pump price of petrol.

The President of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, who read the communique of the meeting to the newsmen in Abuja on Sunday, did not give a specific date for the expected talks with the government on the two contentious issues.

The communique he jointly signed with the General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, was silent on the date for the commencement of the negotiation.

Wabba said the NLC had to suspend the strike because of the intervention of prominent Nigerians, especially the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and others.

The NLC President told journalists that it was not possible for the NLC to ignore the intervention of prominent Nigerians who were also concerned about the issue at stake.

He stated that the suspension of the strike was not informed by the comment of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, that the Federal Government could only resume talks with the NLC when the strike was suspended.

Wabba added, “We said we have suspended due to the intervention of those who had intervened. It is left for them to invite and create a platform to discuss that.

“It is not the Minister of Labour we are talking about, my friend; we are talking about the leaders of the party who came to the NLC secretariat.

“Or do you think we should just sweep that under the carpet; we cannot sweep all that under the carpet. So, when we are talking about people who intervened, we should look at the fact that they have also shown concern on the issue.”

While reading from the communique, Wabba said the action was suspended with immediate effect after due consultations with the various constituents of the congress.

He stated that the NLC was committed to dialogue in accordance with standard principles of representation.

The NLC president added, “In consideration of the above, NEC after due consultation with its constituents, resolved to suspend, with immediate effect, the action it commenced on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. The action is thus hereby suspended.

“Congress will resume negotiations with government on the twin issues of the hike in electricity tariff and an increase in the pump price of petroleum products and any other issue that may arise thereof.

“The Congress will continue to resist wrong legislation, policies and programmes and will always act in the best interest of Nigerians as it remains the only pan-Nigerian organisation not affected by religion, region, creed, partisanship or primordial sentiments.

“The Congress urges the government to play by the rules in its engagement with its constituent parts, stakeholders and non-state actors as proof of its commitment to deepening our democracy and also in acknowledgment of the well-worn credo that what goes around, comes around.”

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Why We Pulled Out Of Strike —NLC Faction, NUPENG

The Joe Ajaero-led faction of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) yesterday said they refused to join the nationwide strike called by the Ayuba Wabba-led NLC because the Federal Government responded to their demand to convene a meeting with stakeholders.

At a press conference in Lagos addressed by Ajaero and NUPENG President Achese Igwe, the labour leaders said strike would have been the last option if talks with the government had failed.

Ajaero said his faction of the NLC held productive talks with the government, including the agreement to set up a panel on palliatives to cushion the effect of the petrol price increase.

According to him, both factions of the NLC could have worked together on the strike, but, according to him, the Wabba faction walked out of a meeting with the government, insisting that the Ajaero faction must not be part of it.

“If not for the unfortunate incident that happened that day, maybe we would have been together. Maybe it’s an ego thing,” Ajaero said.

Besides, he said before a strike action is declared, a 21-day ultimatum ought to be given, not three days.

He called for transparency in the management of the palliatives, saying the refineries should be fixed or new ones built while more jobs must be created.

He said: “The whole essence of negotiation is to implement a workable agreement. Then when the agreement fails, there are other options.

“I will not lead a strike that will not enjoy mass support. We need to differentiate between strike and protests.

“How can strike be called and road workers, banks and others are open? We’ll be making a mockery of ourselves.

“A leader should weigh the mood of members before declaring a strike. It amounts to industrial suicide to call a strike and your members ignore you.

“Such leadership should resign.”

Igwe said as a way of cushioning the effect of the pump price increase, states should endeavour to clear their salary arrears while negotiation for minimum wage increase continues.

“We said we expected the government to engage us, and they did. The era of impunity is over, so the palliatives must be transparent,” he said.

Both union leaders called for urgent inauguration of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPRA) board, which would include representatives of labour unions.

On reconciliation of the two warning NLC factions, Ajaero said: “Nobody has bothered to investigate the election (which caused the division). NLC’s rules were violated and that has not been addressed.

“Reconciliation is not working because the board mediating between the parties does not have the bite to enforce resolutions reached.

“At every point in time, we have subjected ourselves to reconciliation. But the people involved are not ready to concede. So how is it going to work?”

Igwe, who doubles as the vice-president of Ajaero-led NLC, said the affiliate unions within the NLC must “sit down and talk” so as to put their house in order.

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Planned Fuel Price Strike: NLC Splits, TUC Pulls Out

The polarisation in the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress came to bear yesterday as one faction of the union backed out of the its plan to force a reversal of petrol price from N145 per litre to N86.50k.

While the Ayuba Wabba faction of the NLC vowed to go on with the strike today, a faction of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), led by Joe Ajaero, also backed out.

This is even as the The National Industrial Court (NIC) ordered that the labour unions should not go on strike.

The Trade Union Congress also yesterday pulled out of the plan action.

The NLC team led by Wabba last night walked out of a meeting with the government delegation led by Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir David Lawal, claiming that the government failed to agree to a reduction in petrol price.

Wabba’s faction said it was not aware of any court order stopping it.

The government said workers should report for duty and that security was guaranteed.

It warned that anybody who failed to show up at work will have himself to blame.

NIC President Justice Babatude Adejumo, in an ex-parte ruling, also directed the NLC and the TUC to maintain the status quo, pending the determination of the motion on notice filed by Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami (SAN).

Justice Adejumo gave the order after listening to Malami who moved an ex-parte application.

The judge said: “The defendants are hereby restrained from carrying out the threat contained in their communique issued on May 14th, pending the hearing and determination of the ýmotion on notice filed on May 16.

“It is the order of this court that status quo be maintained as at 17th Mayý.”

Listed as plaintiffs are the Federal Government and the AGF. The defendants are the NLC and the TUC.

Justice Adejumo also ordered that the processes in the case be served on the respondents within 24 hours and that proof of service be filed in the court

He added: “It is the order of this court that none of the parties shall engage in any act, conduct, overtly, covertly on this matter pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”

Justice Adejumo however announced the transfer of the case to another judge of the court for further hearing on the grounds that he would be engaged at the National Judicial Council and would not be able to take further proceeding on the matter.

The judge said he would prefer that the dispute be resolved amicably but that he was constrained to issue the order exparte because the respondents were not yet before him.

He also said that he granted the order to make sure that people were not subjected to avoidable hardship.

“I decided to take this case this morning because it is on an issue that will affect everybody. I don’t want people to be subjected to hardship. There will be scarcity of food, people may die, students will engage in all sorts of activities. This is why I have to grant this order,” he said.

The plaintiffs, in the exparte application, sought an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the respondents from embarking on an industrial action pending the determination of the originating summons.

They also asked for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the respondents from engaging in any act that may disrupt the economic activities of the nation pending the determination of the originating summons.

Malami had, while moving an exparte application, argued that it was in the national interest to stop the organised labour from shutting down the nation over last week’s increase in price of fuel.

He cited Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, to justify his application to stop the strike.

Ajaero said his faction would not be part of the action because it was called at the wrong time and with the wrong motives.

He also accused the Wabba faction of coming to ask the government to write off a N2 billion loan collected in 2012 to buy buses which has not been paid back.

He said: “When you are coming to say that the loan that was given to you in 2012, which you have not paid back, should be written off, we see it as if the action has already been sold out before it takes off.

“So, we will wait for our group to meet. But, definitely, it appears that by ideology and every other thing, we can no longer meet. We thought we should have managed this in the interest of Nigerians but from the look of things, it appears we have to go our different ways.

“We have condemned the increase and called for negotiation and reversal and it was on the basis of our calls that this meeting was summoned for us to meet and find the way forward.”

Ajaero added: “If we wanted to be serious about an action, you can’t call for an action on Wednesday. It is only an action that is sold out that is called for Wednesday so that by Friday, you say you have strike lethargy and you call it off.

“Popular Trade union actions commence on Mondays and by the time you drag it for five days, it would have had an impact. In fact, you would have taken one week to mobilise and sensitise.

“As of today, apart from holding a NEC meeting and calling an action for two or three days, remember that the people you are mobilising have not been paid for about six months. Will it take a newspaper mobilisation for them to come out? We need to do a serious work if the action is to work. The action is called at the wrong time and with the wrong motive.”

Speaking at a meeting with the government delegation, Ajaero frowned at the government for not recognising his faction of the NLC, but simply as officers of Electricity Workers, Petroleum workers, Railways and Banks.

He said: “I want to correct an impression. We are not here as individual unions, but as a faction of the NLC. Unions make up the NLC. The NLC is not a union in itself. By our own historical accident, we found ourselves operating in two groups.

“The issue of deregulation is not something that is new. In fact, I was shocked when I saw Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on the other side. I am wondering what he will say now since we learnt a lot from him. I will listen to him carefully and see whether we now have another school of thought.

“We want to understand whether it is deregulation that took place or price fixing or whether government has regulated price in a deregulated market. On the issue of shortfall in foreign exchange, whether what has happened now will not worsen the market because if you are importing when the currency was N320 to the dollar and now, it has moved to N365.

“With the same amount of money, you will import less; if you import less, we will face scarcity and if you face scarcity, there will be distrust. We should also look at the issue of having local refineries because this issue has been on the front burner. You also talk about palliatives and we would also want to know whether this will be before or after deregulation.”

The President of NUPENG, who is also the deputy president of the Ajaero faction, Igwe Achese, lamented the division within labour, but pointed out that the ultimate issue is that the Nigerian worker must not be allowed to suffer.

He said his union was not surprised about deregulation, adding: “More often, you are faced with non performance of refineries, subsidy issue and many more. For us, it is not  surprising news that we need to deregulate.

“These are issues that NUPENG and PENGASSAN have been on for several years to see how NNPC can bounce back and become a world class company, think globally and be able to put back into the economy. But here we are faced with so many different policies.

“It is unfortunate that we have moved from sixth to eighth position in the extractive industry, but I believe that at the end of the day, Nigerians will understand while we pursue this issue. I hope that government will be able to have that political will and the enablement to put smile on the faces of Nigerians and bring the necessary palliatives.”

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Reverse Pump Price In 3 Days Or Face Indefinite Strike, NLC Tells Buhari

The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has ordered the federal government to revert to the original price of petrol by Tuesday next week or face indefinite strike from workers.

Addressing the press after it’s National Working Committee meeting in Abuja today, NLC leaders also urged asks Nigerians to stockpile food ahead of protest against fuel subsidy removal.

NLC said it will join hands with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to lead Nigerian workers and their civil society allies to shut down the country if the federal government failed to reverse the price increase.

“The Congress gave the government till late night on Tuesday within which to reverse the increased price of petrol and the electricity tariff, or face a total nationwide strike,” a source told Daily Trust.

“The NLC has deliberately delayed their press conference till today in order to liaise with their TUC counterpart, harmonise their positions and jointly address the media”, he added.

The source said the Congress has directed all its affiliate unions to set up a monitoring committee and ensure the success of the strike.

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NLC Threat Of Showdown Over Deregulation: Dialogue Is Better – MURIC

The Federal Government (FG) yesterday announced the deregulation of the oil sector. The price of oil was raised from N85 per litre to N145 and below. A tornado of criticisms has greeted the new price and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has threatened a showdown with FG.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) calls on all stakeholders, particularly NLC, to do a critical analysis of the situation and adopt dialogue instead of open confrontation with the government on the issue.

We call attention to FG’s sober statement in which it described the decision to increase the price of petrol as ‘difficult and painful’. We regard such statement as emanating from a government which has feelings for the citizenry and considers itself as part of the masses.

There is an urgent need to recall the characteristics of good governance so far demonstrated by President Buhari’s administration. It has checked financial recklessness in the public sector. It has also imposed disciplinary measures on public officials.

Exempli gratia, some ministers are still squatting in Abuja because President Muhammadu Buhari refused to approve N200 million for each minister as done in past administrations. A ban has been placed on foreign medical treatment and travelling first class in aircrafts for public officials. Any government which takes these steps deserves the support of civil society and the ordinary citizens, not its antagonism. We should understand the difference between a financially prudent administration and a reckless and an overtly corrupt regime.

We therefore appeal to the NLC and the rest of civil society to adopt dialogue in the present circumstance. Civil society needs responsible leadership at this critical moment. It is true that we are the voice of the voiceless and defenders of the poor and downtrodden. But we are not just there to make noise arbitrarily. Good governance should be complemented with responsible and mature approach on the part of civil society.

Activists should not just make noise for the sake of making their presence felt. Neither should we dissipate energy unnecessarily. It is when we show understanding that we are being reasonable. It is irrational to go all out when government puts all the cards on the table for all to see. We are not enemies of the government. We are here to complement government’s efforts as partners in progress.

Civil society should therefore sit down to objectively appraise the situation. We should try to understand the raison d’etre for the removal of subsidy which includes the subsidy fraud phenomenon and the cabal behind it, the free fall in oil price, etc…

Although critics may argue that Nigerians should rise against the removal of oil subsidy because they resisted same during the Jonathan administration, we contend that the situation is now different and the same parameters cannot be applied. There was no fall in oil price when the ex-President removed oil subsidy. Nigeria was producing 2.4 million barrels of oil daily, selling at $93.61 per barrel, earning $224 million per day and $81 billion per annum.

The scenario has since changed for the worse and Buhari is now neck-deep in crisis management. As at 7th May 2016, Nigeria produced 2.7 million barrels per day and sold at $42.3 per barrel.

Whereas corruption was Nigeria’s middle name during the Jonathan era, the Buhari regime is globally certified as transparent and credible. We all should feel proud that both the Archbishop of Canterbury and Transparency International rose to Nigeria’s defence two days ago when David Cameron derogatorily referred to Nigeria as one of the two most corrupt nations of the world.

Only the tiny cabal would have benefitted from removal of subsidy under Jonathan. This informed the mass demonstrations at that time. But poor Nigerians stand to benefit if subsidy is removed under a transparent leader. That is why we do not need to agitate over the current increase. It is a difficult phase that will pass onto prosperity.

These are the yardsticks which objective critics and members of the civil society should be looking at. Not sentiments, not gallery dancing, not grandstanding. We should not play into the hands of corrupt politicians whose executive agent provocateur cum enfant terrible has already started inciting the NLC against FG.

Finally, we charge FG to set the machinery in motion for dialogue with NLC. We appeal to civil society, the press and all Nigerians to continue to support the central government in its quest to make life more meaningful to all.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

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Don’t Amend CCT Law, NLC, Civil Society Tells Senate

The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and a civil society group, Transition Monitoring Group has called on the Nigerian Senate to jettison its ongoing effort to change the country’s anti-corruption laws.

In separate statements released on Sunday, the groups said even though the National Assembly has the constitutional duty to amend laws, they found it suspicious that lawmakers were trying to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal Act as well as the Administration of Criminal Justice Act at a time the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was facing criminal prosecution.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, in calling on the National Assembly to end further deliberation on the controversial bills, said: “We at the Nigeria Labour Congress hold the view that the noble intention of the Senate notwithstanding, the timing is suspect and fraught with danger.”

“It is quite intriguing that it took the trial of the Senate President for the Senate to discover these flaws in the law(s). Putting it bluntly, in spite of the spirited defences by the Deputy Senate President to the contrary , not a few believe that this legislative move is a desperate attempt to scuttle the trial of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, at CCT,” he said.

The TMG in a statement signed by its chairman, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, called on Nigerians to resist alleged criminalisation of the legislature by Mr. Saraki.

“While it is true that the legislature is empowered by the 1999 Constitution as amended to make laws for the good governance of the nation, it is immoral and unacceptable to deploy legislative powers to further personal ends.

“As far as we are concerned, Saraki’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is his personal business. It is therefore a vexatious affront on the sensibilities of the Nigerian people that the weight of the entire legislature would be brought to bear in this disturbing attempt at giving him political rehabilitation. TMG frowns at this gangster approach to legislative business. While we commend the symbolic gesture of those legislators who have tried to distance themselves from this show of shame, we call on all members of the National Assembly, who still have any iota of credibility and good conscience to step up the pressure by teaming up with all pro-people forces, to end this charade.

“In the face of this desecration of the legislature as an institution by Saraki and his co-travellers, we call on the Nigerian people not to remain ambivalent. This is the time for the long suffering people of Nigeria to raise their voices.”

In its reaction, the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, urged Nigerians to rise and resist attempts by the Senate to scuttle Mr. Saraki’s trial through the current amendment process.

The Executive Director of ANEEJ, David Ugolor, said coming shortly after the recent failed attempt at the Federal High Court and the Supreme Court to stop the trial, the amendment amounted to abuse of court process.

Apart from the false asset declaration, Mr. Ugolor said, Mr. Saraki had also been fingered in the recent Panama Papers leak among Nigerians in high places operating subsidiary companies in tax havens like Panama and Jersey.

“ANEEJ, as well as every Nigerian, calls to question the timing of these Bills, and urges Nigerians to resist these bills. These suspicious and shambolic Bills were procured after Dr Saraki allegedly purchased and distributed 36 Land cruiser V8-Engine SUVs and distributed to senators who facilitated them,” Mr. Ugolor said.

A Lagos-based lawyer, Liborus Oshoma, has also advised the National Assembly to desist from making laws that would rubbish its reputation.

“The intent of this bill may good for the plurality of Nigerians at the long run, but it’s coming at a suspicious moment and I will urge the National Assembly to abandon it for now,” Mr. Oshoma said.

The National Assembly has remained at the receiving end of a renewed public outrage since Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP-Delta State) moved a motion last week to amend the CCT and CCT Act which guides conduct of public office holders.

Many Nigerians argued that the lawmakers are trying to change the law to save one of their own, Mr. Saraki, who has been standing trial for alleged false asset declaration since September 2015.

The Senate has, however, said the amendment was necessary, as it would give all public officers coming before the tribunal a fair hearing, justice and equity, in line with Section 36[2] [a] of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

The amendment, the lawmakers pointed out, would remove the two government agencies, which play a critical role in the administration of criminal justice system in the country, from political control.

Since the commencement of the process, the Senate has fast-tracked the amendment of the Acts through the first and second readings within 48 hours.

While speaking during debate on the Senate floor, Biodun Olujimi (PDP-Ekiti State) said, “If you don’t assist your neighbour when his house is burning, it will extend to yours.”

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