By Bassey Udo
The organised labour on Saturday recounted the myriads of challenges Nigerians contended with in 2021 and enjoined the Nigerian workers not to wallowbin despair, as hope is on the way in the New year.
The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, in his Christmas message to workers and Nigerians said the humble birth of Jesus Christ in a manger and his rise to become the saviour of the world should always inspire people to believe in Christmas as a refreshing vista of hope that beats all despair.
“There is nothing as lifting as the truth that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Wabba said in his message.
“Today, we remember that Jesus the Saviour, though born in a manger, rose above His humble background to achieve His divine destiny, which is to become the source of eternal salvation to all those who believe in His name. This is the hope that Christmas rekindles,” he said.
He recounted the many challenges encountered by Nigerians during the year, which cast a pall of despair on the nation.
He said Nigerian workers and people were forced to endure a year inundated with socio-economic downturns, especially as marked by hyper-inflation, widespread hardship, governance reversals, insecurity and persisting prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with the advent and high infection of the Omicron variant.
While commending Nigerian workers and the masses for keeping hope alive and for relentlessly making the required sacrifices for national productivity, growth and development, the NLC President gave the assurance that their hard work, dedication, and commitment would never be in vain.
“2021 would be remembered as the year that Nigerians were confronted with both speculation and the reality of increases in the prices of essential and basic utilities, commodities and services including staple food items, cooking gas, cement and other building materials.
“While we commend government for ensuring stable supply of petrol and a few other refined petroleum products, we are concerned that the proposed petrol price increase do not resonate with the spirit of Christmas.
“Just as the government was able to fix the perennial scarcity of refined petroleum products especially petrol during festive seasons such as Christmas, we are also hopeful that Nigeria’s political leadership would be able to find a lasting panacea to the cycle of increases in the prices of refined petroleum products. With a stable price of refined petroleum products, the prices of other commodities will be stable, ” he said.
On Insecurity, the NLC President identified it as one major headache for Nigerians in 2021, with a spate of unrests, banditry, terrorism and kidnap-for-ransom across the country as source of sleepless nights for many Nigerians.
He said there are genuine concerns of a looming hunger epidermic in 2022, as many farmers were unable to plant, while those who planted were required to pay ‘harvest’ security fees to non-state actors who have now carved out autonomous power bases in different parts of Nigeria.
Noting that Christmas is about solutions, Wabba called on the government to find solutions to the myriads of challenges facing the country.
“Enough of talk! Nigerian workers and people want real solutions to the shame of near one hundred percent fuel importation and attendant perennial price hike for the largest oil producer in Africa.
“Nigerians want our domestic refineries to be fixed and new ones built. This will shift the narrative from petroleum products importation to domestic petroleum refining for local consumption, export for foreign exchange and job creation.
“Nigerians everywhere want to sleep with both eyes closed. We implore government at all levels to take seriously the provisions of Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution, which mandates that the security of lives and property must be the prime duty of government.
“Nigerians do not consider the persistent scourge of kidnap, rural banditry and terrorism as worthy hampers.
“We demand that government should use both kinetic and non-kinetic methods to make insecurity in Nigeria history.
“Nigerians would prefer to have as Christmas presents increased commitment by government at all levels to social development especially in terms of public education, public healthcare, social housing and expanded social protection cover.
“Our expectation as a national labour centre is that by next Christmas, the hopes for affordable and quality education, healthcare and welfare to the poorest of the poor in our midst would no longer reside in the domain of hope but would be the existential reality of our people.
“This is the thrust of the Charter of demands developed by Nigerian working people and our allies as the tool for political engagement as we approach the 2023 election cycle,” the NLC said.
While the government plans to change the political narrative by fully committing the political class to a defined and commonly shared national development agenda, tje NLC expressed the concern that the electoral field to cultivate hopes for a transformed society was still cluttered with weeds and debris from the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment.
Labour challenged the National Assembly to take the gauntlet and do the needful by taking steps ro override the President’s veto on the issue.
“The spirit of Christmas is the celebration of love, care and empathy. We urge all employers of labour, public and private to fully implement the national minimum wage, minimum pension and ensure timeous payment of salaries.
“We feel the pains of Nigerian workers and families likely to spend this Christmas without salaries. We implore employers who turn the joy of Christmas to a jam of pain to cease and desist.
“This is also the season to remember the poor, the destitute, the orphans and widows in their suffering and be a source of hope to them. We urge that care and caution should guide our conduct especially in relation to personal and public health given the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is better to be safe than to be sorry, ” Wabba said.
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