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Published On: Mon, Jan 1st, 2018

2017 worst year for Nigerians, says NLC

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Buhari vows to deal with oil sector saboteurs, prioritises infrastructure, security in 2018

By Lawrence Olaoye and Femi Oyelola Kaduna

The Nigeria Labour Congress yesterday drew the attention of the Federal Government to the hardship being faced by Nigerians, stating that 2017 was one of the most difficult years for Nigerians in the history of the country.
This is just as President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to investigate and get to the root of the activities of oil marketers whom he described as saboteurs for making life uncomfortable for Nigerians by making fuel unavailable by the yuletide.
The NLC which stated this in its New Year message to Nigerians by its president Ayuba Wabba listed the various challenges and successes of the Nigerian government in 2017 as they affect workers.
This is even as labour called on the Federal Government to immediately take steps to end the ongoing fuel scarcity of face mass action.
The NLC specifically, said if the intervention steps taken by legislature fails to put an end to fuel shortages, labour may compel all Nigerians to return to street protests like in the past “to force the ruling elite to face up to the challenges of governance of the most populous promising but badly governed country in the continent”.
“The one month long fuel shortage has further worsened poverty, puts productivity on hold. We dare not enter 2018, new year with this recurring old mess, ” Labour said.
“In the last three weeks, Nigerians have witnessed one of the worst shortages in the supply of petrol in the history of the country. This is in spite of Federal Government’s repeated claim that with the complete removal of subsidy on petroleum products, scarcity of petroleum products would become a thing of the past.”
NLC said 2017 “proved to be one of the most difficult for most Nigerians in recent history.”
The congress listed some of the challenges as non-payment of workers and pensioners’ entitlements, fuel scarcity, and absence of a reviewed minimum wage.
“We call on the federal government to therefore take further bold measures to address the above mentioned challenges to enhance an improved situation in these areas in 2018,” Mr. Wabba said
Labour noted that the deplorable economic situation in the outgone year is aptly captured by the statistics recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which indicated that over 4 million Nigerians lost their jobs in 2017.
“Against the background of the campaign promise of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government to create three million jobs annually, this statistics from the NBS underscores the grave and depressing situation of the Nigerian economic landscape in 2017.
“Rather than work to create jobs and improve the condition of Nigerian working people and Nigerians in general, leading elements in the ruling APC government, like Governor Nasir el-Rufai, have been taking measures to further chastise and ruin “Nigerians by throwing tens of thousands of workers into the already saturated unemployment market and wretchedness.
“In the same vein, despite the huge revenue that the states have received through the Federal Government intervention funds to clear arrears of unpaid salaries and pensions in many states of the federation, coupled with additional payment of three tranches of windfall, (Paris Club debt refunds), states like Kogi, Osun, Benue, Ekiti, Bayelsa and several others entered 2018 with huge arrears spanning up to ten (10) or more months of wages and pensions.
“Under these conditions, Nigerian workers, pensioners and their families remained the most despondent group in an economy that even the well-to-do are groaning and struggling to survive. No wonder, our country is one of the worst, known for having many hungry people in the world according to the World Hunger Index report 2017,” NLC stated.
Aremu, however, hailed the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, for directing the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) to cut short its recess and immediately convene industry stakeholders meeting in a bid to end the ongoing fuel crisis which has imposed hardship on the citizens.
According to him, the protracted fuel crisis was a reflection of “crisis of corporate governance in the petroleum sector”. He disclosed that the bane of downstream sector was “abysmal absence of accountability, transparency and openness in the administration of the petroleum resources of Nigeria, adding that only the parliament can make a difference in “exposing the rot” in the sector.”
Comrade Aremu said the Senate leadership by urging relevant committee members to resume duty has shown that the legislature is truly “a vent for public grievances, a “useful organ of public opinion” adding that legislators cannot be in recess when those who elected them are groaning in filling stations.
The labour leader urged the legislators to demand for “consequences for the actions and inactions of petroleum sector operators in the product shortage scam”.
Buhari in his national broadcast heralding the new year this morning also said that his government in 2018 will place premium on infrastructure: road, rail and power as well as security.
The President equally warned politicians to desist from playing politics with ethnicity and religion ahead of the 2019 general election just as he assured that he would do everything within his powers to reduce the cost of governance.
He however stressed that the problem facing the country was not of structure but of process hinting that those clamouring for restructuring should rather seek for means of perfecting the existing structure to suit the circumstances in the country
Buhari said “This year promises to be pivotal in our quest for change.
“Unfortunately, I am saddened to acknowledge that for many this Christmas and New Year holidays have been anything but merry and happy. Instead of showing love, companionship and charity, some of our compatriots chose this period to inflict severe hardship on us all by creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country.
“The consequence was that not many could travel and the few who did had to pay exorbitant transport fares. This is unacceptable given that NNPC had taken measures to ensure availability at all depots. I am determined to get to the root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again.
“Such unpatriotism will not divert the Administration from the course we have set ourselves. Our government’s watch word and policy thrust is CHANGE. We must change our way of doing things or we will stagnate and be left behind in the race to lift our people out of poverty and into prosperity.
“My address to fellow Nigerians this morning is devoted mainly to informing you about the intense efforts this Administration is putting to address our country’s huge infrastructural deficit.
“We are going to make significant in-roads in advancing road, rail and power projects across the country.
“The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is one of the drivers of this Government’s commitment to renew and increase Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure in order to achieve global economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
“With regards to Railways, we have set ourselves ambitious targets. Already in construction stage is the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Railway.
“The line should reach Ibadan from Lagos by the end of 2019 and will carry two million passengers per year and five million tons of cargo will be transported every year giving a substantial boost to the country’s economy.
“Construction of the Kano – Kaduna segment is expected to commence this year and reach Kaduna by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021 the two ends will be joined so that we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route.
“The Abuja – Kaduna route will be boosted by additional rolling stock next Thursday and will be able to handle one million commuters annually.
“At the same time I have approved and negotiations will be concluded in the first part of this year for the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri line covering Aba, Owerri, Umuahia, Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and Damaturu. The Abuja to Itakpe line will go through Baro and terminate in Warri with construction of a new seaport at Warri.
Cont. on page 31

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