Has Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Become a Toothless Bulldog?

By Auwal Ahmed Ibrahim Goronyo

The Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC has slowed in its activities and become sedative in its pressure of protecting Nigerian workers’ and pensioners’ interests.

For many times NLC has become less active like what Nigerians know it in its responsibility of protecting the welfare and the conditions of workers and pensioners.

In many cases the Union made promises to Nigerians but become sluggish and inactive to its mandate.

I could remember, during the reign of PDP, NLC strike was very common, very vibrant and NLC was very committed to its responsibilities of protecting the interest of Nigerian workers and pensioners, because for every fuel increment NLC bite fingers.

Unlike before, so much water has passed under the bridge, but nothing was done to save it for the dry season. In the past six years, NLC has performed below expectations of Nigerian workers and at many times stood as mediator between government and its workers to settle strike in the room. In this time of inflation and economic hardship NLC only barks when its people are touched but afraid to bite.

Some of the aims and objectives of the Nigerian Labour Congress include:

  • ‘To promote, defend and advance the economic, political and social rights and wellbeing of Nigerian workers and pensioners;
  • To continually enhance the quality of life and improve the income and other working conditions of workers;
  • To promote and sustain the unity of Nigerian Trade Unions, ensure total unionization of all workers irrespective of their creed, state of origin, gender and political beliefs;
  • To work for the industrialization and prosperity of the Nigerian nation and ensure protection of jobs, full employment and a humane working environment;
  • To establish relationship and cooperation with Labour Movements the world over; and in particular the African region, and play cardinal roles in the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), and Organization of Trade Unions in West Africa (OTUWA);
  • To print and publish literature for the purpose of enhancing and achieving the aims and objectives of Congress and its affiliates.
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But, looking at the above aims of the Labour Union, one will ask what happened to the 20,000 Kaduna state primary school teachers that were ejected from the civil service payroll? Though, the state chapter of the NLC and the National body joined forces to give remedy to the entrenched workers but I must tell NLC that the ejected workers are still in the woods and another round of workers were retrenched.

Till date, there are 16 states that are yet to commence the payment of the new minimum wage, states like Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Ogun face huge remittance on deductions, while Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Taraba, Kano, and Zamfara are on huge remittance of deductions and Benue, Cross River, Ekiti only implemented levels one to six with backlogs of arrears on promotion.

Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) had barred governors from interfering with statutory allocation account of their local governments, but nothing has changed in this regard. State governors have continued to tap and empty the treasuries of local governments and making them idle and stranded financially, and NLC has a key role to play in this law to protects its workers.

In 2015, 23 Nigerian states owed local government workers’ salaries of up to 14 months, the states were given bail-out by President Muhammadu Buhari, but many of the states diverted the Paris Loan Refund money given to them on unfounded projects, and up to date, some of the staff are still victims of that misappropriation.

Pump price has been increased three times in Nigeria since 2015 and NLC has been planning protests against the pump price. On the May 12, 2016 Nigerian government had increased the fuel pump price from N86 and N86.50k to N145 per litre and it went up again, despite the rage of NLC.

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In 2020 another increment in the pump price was made from from N148 to N161 per litre and NLC as usual promised to find ways to reduce the hike to a bearable level, but it also went ahead like the first increment. And another increment is coming on May, 2021 and NLC has lock horns with the authorities to stop the increment as they said it is not the right time to increase the price because the economy is harsh and Nigerians cannot bear the burden but only time will reveal the messiah.

According to Trading Economic, “Nigeria inflation rate had jumped to 17.33 percent in February of 2021, the highest reading since February of 2017, from 16.47 in January and compared to market forecasts of 17.27 percent. It marks the 18th consecutive month of rising inflation as the coronavirus crisis led to a plunge in oil price and a weaker naira, raising food and transportation costs. Food inflation topped 21.79 percent, the highest since October of 2005 and transportation surged 14.1 percent, namely air transport.” These are some of the reasons given by NLC to stop the pump price of 230 to take effect in May.

Another problem that NLC should look into and provide panacea to is early compulsory retirement of workers. This has done many damages to our progress than good. Many Nigerian governments do this on their favour, to satisfy their objectives of governance while sabotaging the civil service rules. Meanwhile, those entitled for pension suffer before payment.

NLC as a constitutional body saddled with the responsibilities of protecting workers and pensioners in the country should up for all and sundry without compromise of its obligations. Nigerian workers should enjoy all privileges and rights attached to their work and NLC should support the course of the two parties it serves; the government and the workers.

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Now that two strong unions are on strike; the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria [JUSUN] NLC should play an important role in resolving this, and Nigerian workers hoping for amicable settlement.

Auwal Ahmed Ibrahim Goronyo writes from Kaduna. He can be reached through auwalgoronyo@gmail.com

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