The Nigeria Labour Congress has condemned the “unwarranted attack” launched against members of organised labour by members of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption following the former’s suggestion that its members be incorporated in the Committee’s work.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Labour leadership said the committee members’ portrayal of organised labour as a corrupt bunch was an unnecessary display of arrogance and self-righteousness.
“Due to our respect for his record of support for popular struggles before he took the current appointment as chairman of the Advisory committee, we had refrained from responding to an earlier unwarranted attack on Organised labour by Prof. Sagay,” Ayuba Wabba, the NLC President, said in the statement.
Last Tuesday, the Acting Secretary-General of the Trade Union Congress, Simeso Amachree, angered members of the Itse Sagay-led Committee when he suggested that members of the TUC, NLC, and the civil society be incorporated into the committee.
Femi Odekunle, a member of the Committee, had fired the first salvo, declaring that “labour leaders are corrupt” and therefore can’t be part of them.
Bolaji Owasanoye, the Committee’s Executive Secretary followed suit, arguing that the workers’ union’s inability to protest to the alleged corruption in the National Assembly was evidence that they had been compromised.
“For Prof. Odekunle, we know his records from ABU Zaria,” Mr. Wabba replied.
“It appears his recent trademark is his penchant for flippant and unguarded attacks against Organised labour to draw attention of people in authority for political appointment.
“The secretary of the advisory committee, Prof. Bolaji Owasanonye in his comments exhibited a total ignorance of our struggles against bad governance and corruption which was shocking.”
Mr. Wabba said organised labour had been in the forefront of supporting President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign.
“We organized a nation-wide anti-corruption rally earlier in the life of the administration, and wrote President Buhari and the leadership of the national assembly to strengthen the advisory committee so that it could deliver on its mandate, and likened the significance of the committee to that of president Yar’Adua setting up of the Electoral Reform Committee, which was also the first major committee of his presidency.
“Our actions were informed by our conviction that corruption was at the heart of our underdevelopment as a nation. This informed our call for capital punishment for some category of graft during our protest, a call that many of our civil society allies and sections of the NBA were uncomfortable with.
Mr. Wabba went ahead to chronicle the NLC’s contribution to the anti-corruption fight starting from 1999.
“At the beginning of this republic in February 1999, at a presidential parley the NLC Organised at Ladi Kwali hall in Sheraton Hotel Abuja, in which over 1000 workers attended, our panelist Prof. Attahiru Jega asked the PDP candidate, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo what he would do to tackle the issue of corruption in Nigeria.
“He said he was looking at the example of two countries, India and South Africa. That he would establish an agency to fight corrupt. This was what gave birth to the ICPC.
“When the national assembly was foot dragging on passing the executive bill, we mobilized to put pressure for the speedy passage.
“The NLC did a number of other protests against the national assembly, from the furniture allowance of legislators to Etteh must go to cite a few.
“In the current 8th assembly, we have robustly engaged them and urged urgent disclosures in the opaque remuneration of the national assembly, cut in the expensive wages to meet the realities of our ruined economy etc.”
Mr. Wabba wondered how anyone could accuse organised labour of turning a blind eye to corrupt acts when two of its members had been shot in Nasarawa State during a protest for non-payment of workers’ salaries.
“The NLC Central Working Committee planned follow up action in Lafia had to be scaled down to avert organised carnage against workers. Perhaps the Bolajis would have preferred a further showdown and the resultant mayhem that was promised.”
Mr. Wabba further said the NLC had no intention of joining the presidential committee in, adding that Mr. Amachree’s suggestion was made in good faith and intended to broaden the fight against corruption.
“And if PACAC members feel that that being appointed into the committee confers on them the status of sainthood, we beg to differ,” he added.