The absence of the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, at Onikan Stadium on Sunday annoyed workers who had turned out in their hundreds for the May Day rally.
Dozens of affiliates of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress marched round the stadium before Olabowale Ademola, the Lagos State Head of Service, who stood in for Mr. Ambode.
Idowu Adelakun, the NLC Chairman, Lagos State, said he felt “very bad” at the governor’s absence.
“This government promised us a government of inclusiveness, but for the governor not to be here today, I don’t think it’s inclusive,” Mr. Adelakun told journalists after reading from his prepared speech.
It was to be Mr. Ambode’s first May Day rally since he was sworn in as governor on May 29 last year. He was also absent at last year’s Independence Day rally.
In contrast, Mr. Ambode’s predecessor, Babatunde Fashola, never failed to attend the workers’ rally during his eight year rule, even when it coincided with his wedding anniversary.
“So it’s unfortunate and it’s unexpected of a person of Akinwunmi Ambode,” Mr. Adelakun said.
“The relationship (between the governor and the workers) has been very cordial. As you are aware, the governor too had been a worker, he’s the former Accountant General of Lagos State.
“So we have been working together. He’s not a new man to us. For him not to come here today, he did that for the best reason known to him, which is not the best for him.”
The workers, however, admitted that Mr. Ambode had not defaulted in the payment of salaries as well as other workers’ entitlements.
In his address, Mr. Adelakun said the labour movement reject any planned privatization of water supply in Lagos State.
“Past experience has shown that all public corporations and enterprises purportedly privatized by the federal government had not yielded any positive fruit,” said Mr. Adelakun.
“Consequently, we as labour movement say an unequivocal No to privatization of water in Lagos.”
Mr. Adelakun commended the state government for the payment of pension from 2009 – 2013 to “the mainstream of the civil service” and urged the payment of gratuities of parastatals and agency workers from 2005 – 2010.
“In addition, we also demand that the government look into the payment of pensions of retired workers of agencies and parastatals from 2009 to date. This will serve as motivation to serving officials who will be sure that their livelihood will be secured after retirement.”
The theme for the 2016 Workers’ Day is ‘The Working Class and The Quest for Socio-Economic Revival.’
Akeem Kazeem, the Chairman of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, Lagos State Council, said Lagos is among the states that show “visible signs of development.”
“Without mincing words, I am saying this authoritatively that most of the linkages to (siphon) money in Lagos State have been blocked simply because we have a governor who was once an effective and efficient public servant,” said Mr. Kazeem.
“Before now, we are talking of multiple taxation in Lagos State; but now if you pay your Land Use Charge in time, you are entitled to 15 per cent rebate.
“The then palliative inner roads are now witnessing tremendous changes even with street lights, almost 140 roads every three months.”
Mr. Ambode said the Lagos “success story” has been due to dedication and commitment of its workforce.
“All over the world, the worker is recognized as the most important factor of production,” said the governor, whose speech was read by Mrs. Ademola.
“As a government, we appreciate workers and make bold to declare that they are the makers of history. Every day we say Lagos is working but I am here to tell you that Lagos is working because the workers are doing the right things at the right time.”