Communique of the Nigeria Labour Congress
The inaugural meeting of the National Administrative Council (NAC) of the Nigeria Labour Congress in the year 2020 held on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 at Paschal Bafyau Labour House, Abuja. The meeting deliberated on urgent national issues such as national security, borrowing pension fund to develop infrastructure, casualisation of labour and implementation of the national minimum wage. The meeting also discussed core labour issues and matters of interest to workers.
Consideration and Resolutions:
After an exhaustive deliberation, the meeting considered and resolved as follows:
The NAC recalled that in keeping with his campaign promise to restore security to a strife-torn nation, President Muhammadu Buhari in his first term took measures, decisions and necessary actions that ensured the technical defeat of Boko Haram as they were flushed out of swathes of Nigerian territory hitherto occupied by them. Mr President also ensured that the indiscriminate bombing of targets across cities came to an end.
Similarly, the NAC noted that acts of banditry and cattle rustling were curtailed in the North West, especially, Zamfara and Katsina where there was a prevalence of cattle rustling and banditry.
In the same vein, militancy in the South-South (where critical oil assets were targets); secessionist agitations in the South-East (championed by IPOB); herder-crop framer clashes in the North Central were brought under control through Mr President’s unmistakable fervour, enthusiasm, unrelenting and unassailable commitment. Nigeria got its life back.
The NAC however noted that with the recent regular hitting of military and civilian targets in the North East, the taking over of major access roads to Maiduguri which leads to frequent abductions and slaughter of commuters, the disconnection of Maiduguri and its environs from the national grid, the gradual loss of territory and morale by troops, the country seems to have come full circle in its fight against Boko Haram.
The NAC observed that the resurgence of herder-crop farmer clashes in the North Central, especially Plateau, Benue, and Kogi states; frequent abductions and killings in the South-West; and renewed offensives by bandits and rustlers in Zamfara and Katsina necessitating aerial bombardment, the initial gains seem to have been wiped out creating fresh anxiety.
The NAC noted the new wave of abductions for ransom across the country including Abuja city centre, which it described as disturbing.
The NAC said the prescriptions by various segments of society on how to end the crippling state of insecurity are not only a reflection of their concerns but the degree of the severity of the situation.
The NAC also said without security there could be no viable economic activity.
Accordingly, the NAC resolved that President Muhammadu Buhari should do all that is necessary to restore security and confidence to every nook and cranny of the country. NAC said this would, among other things require new thinking, tough decisions, a holistic approach, broader briefing processes, increased reliance on technology, more citizen participation and enhanced vigilance at the borders.
As part of its contribution to the restoration of security in the land, the NAC approved that the Nigeria Labour Congress convene a peace and security summit.
The NAC warned against politicization of security, and instead called for its prioritisation.
2. Borrowing Pension Fund to Develop Infrastructure
The NAC expressed surprise at the approval given by the National Economic Council (NEC) to the Federal Government of Nigeria to borrow N2 trillion from the pension funds (estimated at N10 trillion) to develop national infrastructure.
The NAC said while it acknowledges the parlous state of national infrastructure and the need to fix them, the approval given by NEC to the FGN was done in breach of extant provisions of the Pension Reform Act 2004 (as amended) (as the Act only provides for investing the funds in safe and secure instruments and not lend or borrow), and without consultation with a core stake holder like organized labour.
The NAC said the pension funds are not government money to be taken at pleasure but are contributions in favour of workers, warehoused in the private individual retirement savings accounts of contributors who are workers and beneficiaries and for the payment of their pensions as when due.
The NAC observed that five years down the line in clear violation of the Pension Reform Act 2004 (as amended), the board of the Pension Commission, a very critical market institution, is yet to be constituted.
The NAC said the guidelines on investing pension funds which benefitted from the insights of the organized labour and the Pensions Union, have the primary objective of adequate return on investment and safety of the funds, adding that investment by Pension Fund Administrators is contingent on their risk and reward appetite and not based on coercion or cajoling.
NAC further said its concern is deepened by government’s indebtedness to pensions of about N400 billion in accrued rights, pension differentials or harmonization, minimum pension guaranty, pension increase, etc, and about which it has made no effort to offset.
NAC disclaimed the view that direct borrowing from pension funds is consistent with practices in Chile, pointing out that in Chile, government accesses pension funds through the money market and such investments are fully guaranteed by government, both the principal and return on investment.
In light of this, the NAC resolved that the Federal Government should immediately shelve the idea of borrowing N2 trillion pension funds to fund the restoration of its infrastructure as it has the potential for undermining the integrity of the Contributory Pension Scheme or set the stage for bringing it at par with the Defined Benefit Scheme whose failure necessitated the introduction of the Contributory Scheme.
The NAC also resolved to urge the government to reconstitute the board of Pension Commission in line with the provisions of the Act setting it up.
The NAC further resolved to be vigilant as well as watch over the pension funds in order for their safety and interest of workers.
3. Casualisation of Labour
The NAC observed that in spite of the provisions of the Labour Act S. 7 (1) that, “not later than three months after the beginning of a worker’s period of employment, the employer shall give to the worker a written statement specifying…the name of the employer or group of employers, the undertaking by which the worker is employed” and other terms of employment, the practice in some sectors of the economy is to employ in violation of the provisions of the law.
The NAC ascribed the frequent violations of the law to the disdain of some employers for the Labour Law, penchant for denying responsibility by some employers , conspiracy, lack of capacity to enforce the law by the appropriate regulatory body, and fawning over foreign direct investment by authorities which sometimes cede away the rights of workers at the point of investment.
The NAC noted that casualisation of work or workers, flexibility of some types work notwithstanding, is a violation of the law as well as runs counter to the principles of decent work.
The NAC said casual workers are highly vulnerable as they cannot belong to unions, neither can they benefit from collective agreements nor other workplace benefits including job security, social protection, promotions, leave, safety and health, etc.
The NAC said casualisation is short-sighted and counterproductive, as in the long run, it creates work-place hostility, industrial disharmony and threat to economic development.
The NAC cited for condemnation UBA which recently sacked workers without meeting the statutory terminal benefit obligations to the retrenched workers.
NAC commended the Honourable Minister of Labour for convening a meeting to address the challenge.
In consideration of this, the NAC resolved to continue fighting casualisation where ever it rears its head, adding that it’s Committee on Organising is already mobilised.
The NAC resolved to picket all the branches of the First Bank and UBA across the nation for days on end until they do the right and proper thing.
4. Implementation of the National Minimum Wage
The NAC commended the Federal Government for keeping faith with its promises to implement the new national minimum wage including payment of arrears. It also commended the governors of the thirteen states where implementation of the new national minimum wage has begun. NAC noted that the foremost significance of the example of the thirteen states is that, wherever or whenever there is a will, there will always be a way.
The NAC said it placed high premium on the implementation of the new national minimum wage in states complete with consequential adjustments.
The NAC observed a relatively high level of compliance with agreements signed in 16 states, negotiations on-going in others, with only about three states where no significant process is yet to take place.
It said it had given the go ahead to state councils to embark on appropriate industrial action where government ‘s compliance or co-operation is in the breach.
The NAC commended states where successes have been recorded and expressed support for those on strike in furtherance of minimum wage.
In view of the importance Congress attaches to the issue of minimum wage, the NAC resolved to send national officers to states where there are challenges to strengthen their hand or action.
The NAC expressed its outrage at the locking up of the secretariat of the Congress in Port Harcourt by the state government and other measures to muscle Labour.
It described the reason adduced by the government (carrying out integrity test) as dubious and untenable as the building was constructed by the state government, commissioned only last year and given to the state council.
NAC said the real reason for shutting down the secretariat with staff inside was because of minor disagreements over the final document on the minimum wage which was yet to be signed.
The NAC, while describing the secretariat as a Greek gift, said the action of the state government was undemocratic, uncalled for, illegal, reprehensible, abominable and a violation of Conventions 87 and 98 of ILO, and the constitutional rights of the workers and a breach of the workers personal right to freedom.
The NAC resolved that the government should reopen the secretariat without further delay as well as conclude negotiations with workers in good faith.
The NAC resolved to advise the state government never again to employ these tactics as they could invite the wrath of the entire labour movement.
5. Review of the Salaries/ Emoluments of Political Office Holders
The NAC took notice of the statement credited to the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to the effect that it would or is in the process of reviewing upward the salaries/emoluments of political office holders.
The NAC expressed dismay at the initiative of the Commission, and said that the earnings of political office holders are already humongous and that if there is need for a review, it should be downward.
The NAC observed that the disparity between the earnings of political office holders and workers is huge and yet, they go to the same market. The NAC said that not satisfied by this huge disparity, political office holders often pad their earnings further widening the chasm between the have and the have-nots.
The NAC further noted that Nigeria remains in a class of its own in the world in the context of its state of economy and the earnings of political office holders via-a-vis the earnings of workers.
Accordingly, we demand that the review of the salaries or emoluments of political office holders be downward and not upward.
The NAC also resolved to engage the process in the event the Commission goes ahead with its proposed review.
6. Annual Report of the Auditor-General of the Federation
The NAC observed that in compliance with the statutory authority vested in him, the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF) religiously renders an annual report in which it raises queries or questions on the propriety of some expenditures or expenses of MDAs.
The NAC observed that these queries or observations are treated with levity if not totally ignored.
The NAC observed that the non-enforcement of the AGF’s queries is an act of impunity and a violation of the extant code of governance.
The NAC further observed that it encourages abuse, and corruption in the system.
In light of this, the NAC resolved to call on MDAs to henceforth, implement the observations of the AGF as part of the process of fighting corruption and inculcating the culture of transparency.
The NAC also resolved to urge the National Assembly to strengthen the hand of the AGF if necessary.
The NAC similarly resolved to appeal to President Muhammadu to throw his weight behind this initiative.
7. State Secretaries
The NAC resolved to commence the process of employing state secretaries in all the states in order to strengthen the work of Congress as well as promote the culture of accountability or internal governance.
8. Bi-monthly Dialogue
The NAC approved the commencement of a round table bimonthly dialogue (beginning from February 5, 2020), a forum for reviewing policies, discussing issues of national importance, formulating strategies as well as offering alternative views or models when necessary.
9. May Day
The NAC approved the composition of the May Day Committee charged with working on modalities, processes and arrangements for the commemoration of May Day on May 1.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni
Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja