ActionAid Nigeria has called on the Federal Government to fulfil its primary purpose of ensuring the security and welfare of the people, adding that the government must ensure multinationals and big companies pay their fair share of tax.
In a statement issued by the organisation to commemorate the 2016 Worker’s Day, the anti-poverty agency observed that, “It is no longer news to Nigerians that the country’s economy is in dire straits and previous administrations did not do enough to put it on a firm footing. The people’s expectation of the current administration is to revamp it. And one way it can do so is to ensure that the country runs a fair tax regime, especially with the revelations brought to the fore by the Panama Papers.”
According to the secretary of the organisation’s Board, Ojobo Ode Atuluku, “This year’s Workers’ Day comes at a time when Nigerians are grappling with multiple issues that have visited immense hardship on the citizenry. In particular, workers at both the Federal and States levels are being owed arrears of salaries and pensions, and due to the interconnectedness and dependencies of our family systems, this has further aggravated poverty across the land.”
Ms. Atuluku, who is also the Country Director of the organisation, further observed that, “To make matters worse, epileptic and often non-existent electric power supply has combined with the continuing petrol scarcity to introduce a dimension of suffering to the lives of Nigerians that defies easy description. And perhaps the worst of all is the now frequent incidents of attacks by herdsmen that have led to the loss of many souls.”
Moreover, she added: “Without mincing words, it must be said that the country is ailing and many citizens have the impression that the Government of the day has not got its priorities right.”
In the light of the foregoing, Ms. Atuluku said ActionAid Nigeria is calling on the Federal Government to take cognisance of Section 14(1) (b) of the Constitution, which states: “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of Government.”
She explained that, “ActionAid Nigeria’s Board is concerned that while the citizens have been patient with the Government on the time it needs to fix the economy, the length of time people will make sacrifices, and the time they would wait before such sacrifices begin to yield dividends is beginning to look indeterminable.
“The period of grace for the Government to set things right with the economy is enough. It is time that the Federal Government make public its plan to fix the economy.”
She also said that the “poverty rate in the country is unacceptably high and that the rate of inequality in the country is not only high but also a triggering factor for the state of conflict and insecurity being experienced in different parts of the country,” the pro-poor agency called on the government to “prioritise tackling of inequality and discrimination within the polity.”
The organisation’s Board further stated: “Regardless of whatever electioneering campaign promises were made prior to the emergence of the current operators of Government, it is incumbent upon them to fulfil the primary purpose of Government as defined by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which they swore to uphold. No other activity should have supremacy over the ‘security and welfare of the people.’ As such, issues such as security of lives, the prompt and timely payment of workers’ salaries and pensions must be given priority as failure to do so will have ripple effects across the country.”
Addressing the administration’s approach to tackling the menace of corruption, the Board of ActionAid called for “a holistic approach to the fight against corruption that would include reform in strategic sectors including the judiciary.”
The Board observed that, “There is need for a deep judicial reform to stop criminals and corrupt persons taking advantage of the system. In addition, we must caution that a proper anti-corruption action cannot be haphazard and unstructured. It must be systematic, process-driven, and above all based on the rule of law. In this regard, we urge the Government to carry along organised Labour, who are well-placed to offer useful guidance in exposing where processes, especially in the civil service, may have gone wrong.”
According to the Board, “While the fight against corruption has been intensive, it must begin to have meaning to people in the reinvestment of recovered funds for development purposes.”
The organisation added that, “In addition to ensuring that Ministries, Departments, and Agencies fully comply with the Freedom of Information Act 2011, ActionAid further calls on the Government to work with organised Labour and Civil Society Organisations to provide necessary protection for whistle-blowers who may wish to come forward with sensitive information that can be helpful in anti-corruption cases.”
Lastly, on the occasion of this year’s Workers’ Day, ActionAid reiterated its position that, “if Nigeria is serious about national development, women must be fairly represented at all political levels; they must have legislation-backed access to own and use land, and there must be improved funding for safe girl-child education.”