In the life of any individual or organisation, a time comes for stock taking ofÂ events and trends that define its existence. On such occasion, truth is spokenÂ to issues and solutions to seeming problems and difficulties proffered.Â
For the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the 10th Triennial National DelegatesÂ Conference provided its delegates with such opportunity and the President,
Bobboi Bala Kaigama used the occasion of the conference to dissect theÂ problems plaguing the country, particularly, the workers.
The one and half hour long speech delivered to members at the event touched Â on all aspects of the nationâ€™s life. Flanked by other members of the executive Â council, Kaigama not only identified the problems, he also proffered solutions Â to them.
Addressing delegates from the affiliate unions who were present at theÂ conference whose theme was â€œLabour and National Re-orientation: The Â Change we wantâ€, he lamented the sorry state of the Nigerian economy, saying Â at the end, he was hopeful that appropriate signals would have been sent to allÂ quarters that the country was on course.
Appraising the prevailing economy, Kaigama stated, â€œPresently the economy of Â the country is in a very bad shape. We are in a period of stagflation with its Â attendant slow economic growth, high unemployment and rising prices. TheÂ countryâ€™s currency, the Naira is in a free fall.â€
He stated that the problems are even more compounded by the problem ofÂ insecurity across the country. â€œThere is insecurity posed by Boko HaramÂ insurgents, problem of herdsmen and Niger Delta militants, and a host of other Â ills bedevilling the Country.â€
Waxing optimistic, he stated that â€œIn spite of all these challenges, however, weÂ cannot afford to give up the struggle. Fortunately what I see in your eyes isÂ hope coupled with signals of a brighter future for our unborn generations. WeÂ will surely get there.â€
Kaigama further revved the patriot zeal of members when he urged them toÂ follow the heroic examples left behind by the activists and trade unionists thatÂ utilised the platform provide by the TUC to champion the cause of theÂ downtrodden.
â€œWe must note that the quality of leaders we choose today will either make or Â mar the lofty structure that icons and comrades like the Engr. Femi Kilas, S.A.O. Sowemimos, Aliyu Ohindases, Shina Luwoyes, Peace Obiajulus and Peter Eseles Â of this world had built. I therefore charge you all to shun personal interest andÂ vote wisely.â€ He said.
He stated that though the problem of protecting members has always metÂ with bottlenecks posed by the over-bearing attitudes of some employers andÂ failure of successive regimes in the Labour Ministry, he said, â€œWe nonethelessÂ hope the clogs in the wheels of industrial harmony will be eradicated by theÂ government of the day in the overall interest of the Country.â€
The problems notwithstanding, he said, the congress is engaged in a number of Â things to bring smiles to the faces of Nigerians. â€œBetween the last Delegatesâ€™
Conference and now, we have fought and won a number of battles with someÂ recalcitrant employers. These successes have led to an increase in the numberÂ of affiliates of TUC.â€
Some of the achievements he said he had recorded was joining forces with the Â NLC and civil society allies to force the immediate past government to reduceÂ the price of PMS from N141 to N97/litre.
â€œWe also kicked against the imposition of electricity tariff by the DISCOs, Â GENCOs and their collaborators. We equally protested the undue delay in theÂ passage of 2016 National Budget.
â€œThe recent hike in price of PMS from N86.50 to N145 per litre was vehementlyÂ opposed by the congress before the government agreed to set up a committeeÂ to introduce needed palliatives to cushion the effect of the increase.â€ He said.
He later went into the nitty gritty of the speech to do a comprehensiveÂ appraisal of the state of the nation.
On the state of the nation, he said, â€œThe country has all it takes to be great and Â even make neighbouring countries fantastically great. It is however bad thatÂ only few people are enjoying the Countryâ€™s bounties. Our politics to say the Â least is very strange, crude, and full of vendetta.
â€œNo wonder it has been producing insecurity, poverty, money laundering and aÂ host of other societal ills. Our economic indicators are in a sorry state and theÂ economy upside down because the system has not allowed the right kind of Â people to emerge. Our political elites use our collective wealth to build privateÂ universities and other academic institutions while the public ones are under-funded.â€
While canvassing for the setting up of a vibrant and experienced economicÂ team made up of technocrats to analyse our economic challenges and profferÂ lasting solutions, he lamented that several countries that were at par withÂ Nigeria in terms of developmental indices have left it behind.
â€œBut for inept leadership and unbridled quest for the mundane we would haveÂ been at par with these countries.â€ He said.
According to Kaigama the country has never witnessed the current level insecurity which not only threatens the developmental projections of theÂ country, he said Nigerians now sleep with one eye open leading to increase inÂ high blood pressure and thousands of untimely deaths.
â€œNo one really feels safe anymore in our once peaceful country,â€ he lamented,Â saying the scourge is further accentuated by growing youth involvement inÂ crime and criminality.
Commenting on the situation in the civil service, Kaigama said there are someÂ outstanding labour issues yet to be resolved in the federal ministries,Â departments, and agencies (MDAs). â€œWe want the Federal Government to critically look at these issues and resolve them quickly in the interest of Â Industrial peace and harmony in the public service.â€
While canvassing for staff welfare in the various laments illegal recruitmentÂ into the civil service, he stated that it was becoming worrisome, the increasing Â cases of illegal recruitment in the Public Service.
â€œAll manners of people are being brought into the service without followingÂ the due process. The Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) is the chiefÂ culprit in this regard as it has lost touch with its oversight functions.â€ He said.
Turning his attention to the banking sector, Kaigama minced no words whenÂ he talked about sharp practices, saying â€œWe are worried that most banks are still cutting corners in spite of the myriads of reforms that have taken place in Â that sector. We blame the regulatory agencies for not doing enough to checkÂ these un-ethical practices.
â€œThe trend has been that of trading blames and sacking workers at theÂ slightest excuse without observing due process and adhering to regulationsÂ governing such act.â€
Reviewing developments in the energy sector, he said, â€œThere appears to be aÂ gang up in the power sector to further bring untold hardship to the massesÂ even without providing us with power.â€
He went further to warn â€œThe DISCOs and GENCOs and some unseen forcesÂ should be very careful not to incur the wrath of Nigerians because of theirÂ crazy bills and unilaterally increased tariff without any corresponding Â improvement in power supply.â€
Kaigama stated that perhaps the sector most affected by the collapse of theÂ economy is textile sector. â€œFrom over five hundred thousand direct jobs andÂ over a million indirect jobs in the 80s, it can hardly boast of twenty thousandÂ jobs today. Apart from the infrastructure challenge, there is also the challenge Â of influx of foreign fabrics. Nigeria has the market but foreigners are the onesÂ enjoying the benefits.â€
He lamented that â€œDuring the 1999 to 2007 tenure of President OlusegunÂ Obasanjo, a bail-out programme was initiated for the textile sector.
Unfortunately the programme did not achieve much because of a number ofÂ factors.â€Â He rounded his speech by saying that the TUC would always champion theÂ welfare of its members as well as Nigerians