2023 tested our strength, resilience -NLC

The  Labour Congress, NLC, described 2023 as  year that tested the collective strength and resilience on Nigerian workers.
NLC in a statement by its President, Joe Ajero, on Sunday, said:

“As we bid farewell to the challenges and triumphs of the past year, the NLC, extends warm wishes to you and your loved ones.

“The year 2023 has undoubtedly been a test of our collective strength and resilience.

“We have faced uncertainties, overcome obstacles, and witnessed moments that may have left us feeling disheartened.

“In 2023, we witnessed two major agreements signed between the federal government and NLC and TUC.

“The June 5 and October 2 Agreements. Whether these have been faithfully implemented or not is open for every discerning Nigerian to see.

“Nigerians will judge that by our actions thus far, we have demonstrated enormous patience with this government and has been accused and labelled as having been settled by the government but we recognize that this is part of the burden of leadership which we are prepared to bear to ensure that we do not only take the right actions but that they yield the expected results keeping our nation surviving as an entity and avoiding fifth columnists from taking advantage of the situation to destroy our nation.

“In all of these, this government has shown enormous unfaithfulness in keeping to agreements; the N35,000 Wage Award has not been faithfully implemented, the PH refinery has not come on stream as projected while the National Minimum Wage Negotiation Council has not been inaugurated as agreed, the CNG has been distorted by agents of government for the benefit of a few.

“Divisions along our various primordial fault lines rather than heal became exacerbated this year mainly as a result of the unfortunate activities of Politicians who played them up in their bid to win elections.

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“Our nation has therefore become more divided than ever with growing suspicion and increasing trust deficits along those lines.

“Citizens’ confidence in the government is therefore deeply wounded causing further disconnect between the people and governments as government continues with policies that negate the welfare of citizens.

“We observe only few pockets of progress in governance in some states but largely, the instruments of governance are mainly deployed for the sole benefits of those who believe they have captured the instruments of governance thus use them for their sole benefit.

“2023 is also a year where we have seen the increasing use of violence and unrivaled propaganda as tools of engagement in the nation’s industrial relations sphere.

“The boundary between the tools used in electioneering and in actual governance seems to have been ruptured as the same mindless violence and crudity witnessed during the last election cycle is now being used by those in government as a weapon in managing workplace relations in Nigeria.

“We have witnessed government’s interference in the internal affairs of trade unions all in a bid to capture the levers of power in these unions and use them to seek to hold the civic space in our nation hostage and thwart citizens efforts at holding the government accountable.

“It is in furtherance of these efforts by the government that the November 1st bestial abduction and brutalization of the President of Congress;  Joe Ajaero and others by the Government and the Police in Owerri Imo state happened.

“NLC is surprised if there is an uncanny link between the attack on the President of the Congress and the stoppage of the implementation of the Wage Award as agreed in the October, 2nd MOU between the federal government and Organised Labour.

“Such coincidence is ominous and raises a lot of questions in our hearts further justifying strongly our belief that the conspiracies to mete out violence against trade union leaders including the President of Congress in Owerri goes to the very top.

“We believe that Nigerians need to be reminded that Imo state Government under Hope Uzodimma remains an ongoing haven for the abuse and violation of the rights and interests of workers.

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“Many workers are still being owed years in arrears of salaries, Gratuities are in arrears, Pension are in arrears, thousands of workers are still being declared as ghost workers while the NLC secretariat vandalized and stripped by the state government remains desolate.

“Some of those hitherto declared ghost workers whose names were re-inserted into the payroll as at November 2023 in an effort by the state government to cover its sins are still being owed huge arrears in salaries.

“It was in our effort at liberating the workers in the state from the pernicious hands of the state that the National Executive Council (NEC) of our Congress decided that we converge on Owerri to demand that the government obeys agreements that it had reached with us in an engagement that started from 2021 and continued at the beginning of this year until November.

” As usual, the propaganda machinery of the government oiled by the hijack of our collective resources was deployed in trying to hoodwink and mislead members of the public as to the reason for the Imo state protest.

“Thankfully, Nigerians refused to be misled.

“We therefore while once again condemning in strong terms that cowardly and brutal action by the Police and Imo state government, appreciate all Nigerian workers and masses including our civil society allies who trooped out in their numbers across the nation to take part in the ensuing nationwide strike that shutdown the nation to protest the primitive use of violence and brigandage by the government against mass-based organisations and their leadership.

“The success of that strike demonstrated the determination of Nigerians and workers to continue to act together to hold government accountable at all times.

“We are encouraged and salute you all and assure you that we remain committed to our pledge to work for a better Nigeria where the interests of Nigerians especially the workforce will be projected and protected always.

“Generally, it has been a turbulent year both for workers and Nigerian people as the negative Economic policies of Government begin to bite harder on poor Nigerians as predicted.

“Workers continue to grapple with the worst forms of deprivations thus unable to meet their basic needs while transportation to work continues to be a nightmare.

“Nigerian masses have experienced the worst form or angst and suffering as access to basic nutrition has become more difficult while Education and basic social utilities have become the sole purview of the rich.

” This year’s festive season has been made so difficult for the masses that the usual joy associated with the season was replaced with worries and anxiety all over the nation.

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“Government’s half-hearted attempts at providing succor was largely mere propaganda and never had any impact on the high cost of transportation across the nation.

‘Our Naira continues in its free fall in all markets while Governments both federal and states continue in their reckless borrowing and spending in the name of governance.

“We are worried at the haste with which those in government rush to eat the future of Nigerians by borrowing and frittering them away putting the future of our unborn generation in jeopardy.

“As it stands today, Nigeria needs about 12% more than our annual revenue to service our debt stock meaning that we have to borrow to ever be able to service our debts.

“Another debt trap has been unleashed on the population. Governments should act more responsibly in its debt activities.

“We are witnessing once again, Cash scarcity in our Economy. This time, the CBN tells us that it is because we are hoarding cash – very sad excuse.

“We know that with our meagre incomes, we don’t have any leftover cash to hoard and so, if by any stretch of imagination CBN’s excuse is real, we know those who are hoarding cash.

“However, we do not see any sensible person who will hoard the Naira as a store of value at this time when the Naira is receiving its greatest bashing.

” The CBN should immediately inject cash into the economy to stop the exploitation of Nigerian masses thus reduce the hardship.

“If CBN does not realize it, Nigerians as it stands today pay at least 5% of their money to free their money which it has held hostage.

“The wanton destruction of lives and properties continues unabated in 2023. The recent killings in Plateau and Taraba states during this yuletide is heart rending and mindboggling.

“That the blood of Nigerians flowed in the streets without any outrage across the nation shows that we may have lost our collective feeling of revulsion.

“That our leaders chose this occasion to clink glasses and junket to pay homages instead of being in sober mood to reflect on the degree of their failure to protect the lives of those who elected them into offices is utterly repugnant and smacks of the highest level of insensitivity. We are aghast at whether our leaders understand what their responsibilities are at all?

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“It is these combined forces of negative government policies that have created the worst form of social anomie in our nation. Nigerians have become more fearful of the future now more than ever before and are truly having their expectations dashed and their hopes betrayed by the ruling elite.

” It is in this dire mood that we end the year 2023 and in this condition that we move into the new year 2024.

“However, in the face of these adversities, it is crucial to recognize that it may have seemed hopeless at times, but we firmly believe that together, we can make 2024 better.

“The spirit of unity and solidarity that defines our great nation has seen us through numerous trials in the past, and it will undoubtedly guide us towards a brighter future.

“That future can only come with our resolve to act together as we reposition ourselves to act better and more creatively to grapple with the forces that are holding our nations down in a cesspool of underdevelopment and misery.

“The Nigeria Labour Congress is committed to providing the necessary leadership as we move into the new year to ensure that we responsibly hold the government accountable and nudge it towards working for the benefit of the majority.

“To this end, NLC will be committed in 2024 towards ensuring that a living wage becomes possible for all Nigerian workers by working with others to secure a National Minimum Wage that approximates to the dictates of the various parameters that make incomes humane and grants access to basic necessities of life for the average worker.

“We will recommit to building workplaces that guarantees the rights and privileges of workers while building the basis for continuous wealth creation for our nation.

“All actions that will therefore ensure that Decent work gaps are reduced to their barest minimum will be encouraged.

“We will therefore strengthen our collaboration with the federal ministry of Labour, NECA and the TUC using the tripartite process to regulate the Industrial Relations space and ensure that the reviewed labour administration laws are forwarded to the National Assembly for passage into Law.

“From every indication, 2024 will be an interesting year. Interesting because it will witness a period where all that has been taken away from workers will be restored.

“Any Private sector employer or Agency of Government that is therefore owing any Nigerian worker anywhere should be ready to pay up in 2024.

“We will work in collaboration with our civil society partners to generate frameworks that will build stronger and more robust civic space which ensures that our voices are heard at all times and used to check and assist the government to take the right actions that will make governance more effective and beneficial for the majority of the citizenry.

“NLC will seek to work with partners and patriots everywhere to pursue the creation of more effective structures to protect the institutions of democracy in Nigeria.

“We shall to this end join hands with other willing forces to begin work at strengthening our leadership recruitment processes especially the electoral framework in Nigeria.

“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that credibility is restored to our elections which is the foundation for enthroning a more responsive and responsible government that remains accountable thus totally anchored on the people.

“”Much more, we will engage Government to ensure that the agreement it reached with us in our last negotiations especially the October 2nd Agreement are implemented.

“It is highly insensitive of the federal government to allow its citizens to go hungry during this Yuletide season by denying them the benefit of their hard-earned December, 2023 salary. Nigerians are watching the chest thumping and visitations as if in triumphalism against the collective will where food and drinks were lavished by public officials while workers are not paid and are left in starvation over one spurious reason or the other.

“We urge the federal Government to show more compassion in its dealings with Nigerians and Nigerian workers especially in the face of the excruciating poverty which its policies have foisted on hapless Nigerians.

“It is therefore important that as we stand at the threshold of a new year, let us embrace the lessons learned and the wisdom gained from our experiences in 2023.

“Challenges may persist, but our collective resolve to build a stronger, more prosperous Nigeria remains unwavering.

“The Nigeria Labour Congress remains committed to advocating for the rights and well-being of workers across the nation, and we encourage all Nigerians to join hands in the pursuit of a better tomorrow.

“In the coming year, let us foster a culture of inclusivity, understanding, and collaboration.

“By working together, we can address the issues that affect us all and pave the way for positive change.

“Our nation is rich in diversity, and it is this diversity that can be our greatest strength when harnessed for the common good.

“May the dawn of 2024 bring with it the kind of hope that we want, opportunities for growth, and the strength to overcome any challenges that may come our way.

“Let us approach the new year with optimism and a shared commitment to building a Nigeria that we can all be proud of.

“On behalf of the Nigeria Labour Congress, we extend our deepest gratitude to every Nigerian for your hard work, dedication, and resilience.

“Together, let us make 2024 a year of progress, unity, and prosperity. Good things they say don’t just happen. They are worked out.

“We urge Nigerians to work together as a people to create a coalition of the people and refuse to be cowed into submission by the same forces of misery and backwardness.

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“Once again, we want to salute all Nigerians and workers for their demonstration and outpouring of support and solidarity which led to the overall success of the last nationwide strike.

‘Your actions have sent a strong signal to those in government of our collective readiness to protect our nation and ourselves at all times.

“We urge that the same spirit should be multiplied in all of us as we move into 2024 because we are sure that it will be needed as we struggle against the expected increasing imposition and adoption of stifling neo-liberal economic policies by the government.

“We must resist and repudiate all World Bank and IMF’s policies as they increase their onslaught against our nation seeking to mount further toll gates across all facets of our nation with which they seek to exploit our nation for the benefits of global capital and their comprador bourgeoises within our nation.

“We are the sovereign and it is only when we realize that indeed, we hold the power that we can act expeditiously to use it to make our nation better.

“We extend our hands across the nation! We extend our hands across the political divides and across the regions beckoning on all Nigerians to come, let us build our nation.

“Standing helplessly and wringing in our hands in despair will not help us and our dear nation but generating new ideas and taking positive actions together is the only way to reclaim our nation and enthrone our collective interests and aspirations in the heart of the nation’s governance.

“The NLC Wishes you and your families a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year.”

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