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NLC to Akume: Treasury looters guilty of treasonable felony not labour leaders

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has condemned the statement credited to Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume, that the organized labour committed a treasonable felony for shutting down the national grid during the strike.

The NLC in a statement signed by the head, of Information and Public Affairs of the NLC, Benson Upah, viewed the comment of the SGF, as a negation to the tradition and principles of democracy.

The statement read: “The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) expresses its profound disappointment and strong condemnation of the recent comments made by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) regarding the nationwide strike embarked upon by the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

“The SGF’s characterization of our legitimate and constitutionally protected industrial action as a “treasonable felony” and “economic sabotage” is not only deeply troubling but also undermines the spirit of constructive dialogue necessary for resolving the ongoing issues. The demands of the NLC and TUC are clear and just.

“We seek the conclusion and signing into law of a new national minimum wage that is in sync with the realities of the cost of living, a reversal of the hike in electricity tariff to N65/kWh and an end to the discriminatory classification of electricity consumers into bands.

“These demands are grounded in the need for economic justice and fairness for all Nigerian workers and citizens. The SGF we are sure knows those whose actions are treasonable and sabotage our economy.

“Those who loot our treasury around the country, those who divert public resources meant for hospitals and schools; those who are involved in foreign exchange round-tripping; padding of budgets and inflating contracts including those who steal trillions of Naira in the name of subsidy are the real economic saboteurs who commit a treasonable felony.

“These people are in costly Agbada and drive in convoys all around the nation occupying the corridors of power and not innocent workers who are not slaves but chose to withdraw their services because of the inhuman treatment meted on them by the Government.

“It is particularly disheartening that the SGF, a high-ranking government official, would make statements that trivialize the genuine grievances of Nigerian workers. His assertion that he cannot afford to pay each of his four drivers N100,000 monthly is a stark reminder of the disconnect between the government and the realities faced by ordinary Nigerians.

“We may have to remind him that a 50kg bag of rice is N88,000 which leaves the worker with just N12,000 if he is to pay the paltry sum, he claims that he is unable to pay.

Anyway, one wonders what the SGF does with four drivers alone. We would also want to know what work justifies the huge salaries and allowances the SGF takes home all the time. Do we need to wonder too far why we are here as a nation when you have individuals with this mindset occupying sensitive positions in the corridors of power?

“It is unfortunate that the SGF who presides over the Administration of the Executive arm of government which is one of the basic pillars of democracy and is supposed to be a protector and defender of democracy, its various institutions and practices would be seen making statements that negate these traditions and principles.

“We believe that through the office of the SGF, the citizens will feel the pulse of the President at all times, occupiers of such sensitive offices should therefore show more understanding in their utterances and actions at all times. We reject completely the unfortunate insinuations around the SGF’s remarks because strikes are not only legal but also a civic duty.

”We are surprised that the SGF will demonstrate such a glaring sense of unawareness to the understanding of the fact that when workers withdraw their services which is their right, machines cannot operate themselves so, they grind to a halt.

“We expect a highly placed official of the government to understand this basic fact and act or speak within its confines. It is a recognised instrument historically and worldwide available to the citizenry and indeed workers to hold governance accountable thus press home their interests. It is therefore a positive socioeconomic tool that is natural to the democratic process which allows nation-states to continue to adjust, prevent and protect the prevalence of dictatorship and social implosion.”

The NLC reminded the SGF that respectful and productive negotiations cannot occur under duress, adding that the events of last week, where labour leaders were surrounded by military personnel during a negotiation exercise in the SGF’s office, were a clear violation of their rights and an intimidation tactic that has no place in a democratic society.

“We cannot and will not negotiate under such conditions which is what the SGF’s comments portend,” it said.

The NLC called on the SGF to retract his “regrettable statements” and to approach the ongoing negotiation with the seriousness and respect it deserves.

“The path to resolving these issues lies in genuine dialogue and a commitment to addressing the legitimate concerns of Nigerian workers. We urge the government to engage with us in good faith, free from threats and intimidation.

“We truly fear for the safety of the lives of our leaders and would want to be reassured to the contrary if we are to continue with this round of negotiation especially when the government has not offered Nigerian workers anything tangible since after relaxing the nationwide strike.

“The NLC remains committed to advocating for the rights and welfare of all Nigerian workers. We stand firm in our demands and will continue to pursue them through all legitimate means available to us.

“We will not surrender the trust and confidence Nigerian workers and people have bestowed on us to blackmail by the SGF or any other official. Our commitment is to Nigeria, Nigerian workers and peoples and this will continue driving our engagement.”

The article was originally published on Politics Nigeria.

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