Editorial: NLC’s loud silence on burning national issues

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Nigeria is passing through one of its worst nightmares in its history and the government appears unconcerned. They are taking the issue with levity while Nigerians die in their numbers under avoidable circumstances and those alive sleep with one eye closed.

Various Civil Society Organisations and individuals have expressed concern over this insecurity and the current economic woes in the country. However we are surprised that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have not deemed it fit to task the government on these burning national issues. Their silence and look away is a default to what they are supposed to stand for. What is welfare if those you agitate welfare and better working conditions for are insecure and are dying under the weight of economic hardship?

At the last International Labour Day celebrated in Abuja, the two unions demanded that the Federal Government increase the salary of civil servants, police officers, armed forces and para-military agencies. The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who presented the demands on behalf of the unions said,  “We commend President Muhammadu Buhari for announcing salary increment for our teachers and police officers last year. We urge relevant agencies of government to translate this presidential declaration from a promise to actual deposits in the bank accounts of the concerned workers.

“In this vein, we demand an upward review of the salary of core civil servants, officers of the Nigeria Police Force, members of our armed forces and paramilitary agencies who make huge sacrifices to keep us safe. We believe it is only just to narrow their emoluments and those of employees in other segments of the public service.”

On the 2023 general elections, the unions vowed to mobilise workers to participate in the 2023 elections and also promised to facilitate the emergence of a progressive pro-Nigerian workers’ political coalition.

“If your political party is truly progressive and worker-friendly, you should be talking to us. The over 16 million block votes of Nigerian workers, pensioners, our families and our other circle of influence will go to political parties and candidates that assure us that the dreams of Nigerian workers and people would no longer be treated as governance addendum or as objects to be trampled under,” the unions said.

As far as we are concerned, the unions are no different from the government they appear to be relating with on behalf of the workforce all over the country. They have unfortunately lost steam and deficient in the act of unionism that the forefathers of labour unions in Nigeria bequeathed to Nigerians.

The union leaders in Nigeria are stereotyped to the extent that they have limited their agitation for workers’ welfare to increment in salary. To them the minimum wage raised to N30,000 is a success but we make bold to say that the increment is everything but increment. The new minimum wage has taken Nigerians down the lane of poverty and the economy is evidential enough to all to see. Nigeria workers are more impoverished than they were before the increment.

Nigeria Labour leaders must come to the reality that what Nigerian workers need is more than wage increment. We expect them to agitate for better roads, affordable healthcare services, mass housing and standard public schools. Workers will be less interested in wage increment when all these essentials are provided.

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