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Not Popularity CONTEST … Checking Strikes That Stink

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President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Mr. John Offia, on an advocacy visit to major political parties in the country was guest of the national leadership of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in Abuja, a forth-night ago. His main message for the political class was to help ensure stability of the university education system.

NANS concern was the bastardisation of the academic calendar, resulting in students spending far longer years in school than they  normally should, on account of incessant strikes. Bottomline: stakeholders, including leadership of political parties, who are also parents, should join hands in preventing not only strikes but those things that prompt such disruptions of the academic calendar.

The students intension was neither to vilify the near frequently, striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), for which students spend as many as seven years for a course that should last for four, nor the Federal and State governments known for their indifference to needs which often occasion strikes and their concommitant untoward  disruptions of the university calendar, but to convey to stakeholders the pains, frustrations and indeed indignation students and parents suffer each time the school system is in chaos.

In the case of ASUU and the Federal and State governments, the facts are clear that some of the strikes were products of long period of frustration by the lecturers on account of government’s reluctance to implement agreements reached with the former. Infact, successive governments paid lip service to the sector without properly weighing the dangers of keeping students away from school and the additional pain it inflicts on parents, particularly, indigent ones who cannot further their wards’ education abroad as would the privileged few.

But not all strikes often meet the basic standards normally set and  observed in civilised societies across the globe. Infact, here, in Nigeria Tanker Drivers, for instance, can decide to embark on a strike next day, if any of its members reports the slightest provocation of say, a brush with a ‘stop and search’ police patrol team.

Seriously, in the past many months, strikes of that kind have brought untold hardship on the citizenry, who have had to pay far far more than they ordinarily should for petroleum products, on account of the deadly scarcity, such avoidable impasse creates.

At other times, strikes are called for the right reasons but management of such protests become a major challenge and often creates security and economic problems which labour is often  ill-equipped to address. Often, such well-intensioned protests are hijacked by hoodlums who exploit the situation to break into places of business, dispossess owners of their lifeline, molest traders and even vandalise public property.

In such instances, the police would not be left with any other option than  to enforce security which often escalates what should have ordinarily been a peaceful demonstration. It is the avoidance of this that labour sometimes insists on a sit-at-home order, which when disobeyed by members also creates violent confrontation between enforcers and willing workers.

In the last nationwide strike called by organised labour, to protest against the removal of fuel subsidy, for instance, some state chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) either stayed at home or went about their normal businesses, while others created rostrums exploited by politicians to vent their disappointment and anger against the administration that denied them the opportunity to form government. What should have been a protest by organised labour against what it considered an anti-people policy was turned into an avenue to unleash unsavoury invectives on the nation’s leadership, in ways never ever conceived, or seen.

Placards like ‘Goodluck has become Badluck,’ ‘Go, Jonathan go’ and ‘Boot Jonathan out of Aso Rock’, graced television screens on daily basis in a manner that held the promise of enshrining anarchy and effect regime change.

The NLC leadership, in calling off the strike, days later, made the same point that its action was necessitated by the need to check the malicious hijacking of the protests by politicians for their own selfish ends, apparently hiding under the cover of being people friendly. While denying that labour was sponsored, in view of the free lunch packs daily provided protesters in Lagos and elsewhere, different forms of T-shirts worn by them and, above all, the jamboree platform created for top musical artistes and comedians to vilify government,  labour said it reached the conclusion to call off the strike in the interest of the people and for the willingness of government to shift ground from the N140 earlier pegged for a litre of petrol to N97. But by that time, many Nigerians were already fed-up with the long strike, which infact, was being  observed in the breach.

The major lesson learnt from that strike was that the decision seemed influenced more by opposition politicians and others with hidden issues to address with the government of the day than Nigerian workers themselves, a point attested to by willingness  of workers to return to work even long before the strike was called off. From all indications, many were virtually coerced into participating, while, few did so willingly, if the number of State chapters that enforced the NLC directive in the breach, were any leads to go by.

Simply put, while workers were not against total removal of subsidy on fuel per se, but for the lack of adequate  education and proper articulation of palliatives,  they did not consider strike as the most appropriate line of action. That reluctance might have stemmed from the appreciation of the prevalent security situation in parts of Northern Nigeria, particularly, at a time when government was at war of sorts with the islamist fundamentalist group Boko Haram. That was why many considered the calling of the strike at the time NLC did, as dangerous and inadvertently gave selfish politicians the avenue to advocate regime change, a fact which labour itself, rejected in its call to end the strike.

It is, for examples of this kind that most notable Nigerians think that strikes should be called, only and only when dialogue fails to achieve the change envisioned by labour. That, no single labour leader, or group of labour leaders should choose strike as an option in place of dialogue without inputs from the workers themselves in view of the huge cost on the nation’s economy, security and well-being of others.

It is true also that successive Nigerian governments have and could be out-rightly insensitive to protests of the people against certain policies, it still behoves labour to insist and place its reasons for protestations before the court of public opinion and properly articulate its position with its members before embarking on a strike.  That way, no worker is taken unawares.

Apparently, it is to avoid politically motivated strikes, the dangers of genuine protest being hijacked by hoodlums and selfish politicians and indeed the need to put first, national security, economy and well-being of Nigeria, higher and above individual needs, that Senator Heineken Lokpobiri (PDP Bayelsa West) Tuesday, March 13, this year, proposed a bill which sought to check reckless strikes in the country.

In proposing the bill, Lokpobiri held that strikes as contemplated by the Trade Union Act do not accommodate strike against the government except where government is the employer. Cited as ‘A bill for an Act to further amend the Trade Unions Act, Cap T14 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004,) the proposed law seeks to make provisions for balloting as a requirement before any strike could be declared by labour unions in the country.

Expectedly, many Senators found, in the introduction of the bill, another opportunity to demonstrate imaginary connect with the poor masses, and without considering properly, the merits and demerits, merely dismissed it as ‘anti-people.” Which people? When were the people consulted on the matter?

Yes, as Senator Chris Ngige rightly said, “these unions have their own constitution which stipulates conditions for going on strike,” it is clear that not in all cases are the ordinary workers of the affected unions given ample chance to appraise issues that could prompt a strike action. Often, it is a monologue by which a circular merely directs workers to stay at home after the leadership might have discussed and agreed upon.

In such instances, the view of a state chapter against the leadership’s position usually proves meaningless because it will be viewed as anti-union. Is this why some workers are often eager to disobey such strike orders as experienced during the last protestations on fuel subsidy removal? Likely or may be not.

Truth, however, is that the incessant strikes need to be checked as is done in other developed economies because the gains of such strikes are often far too paltry when weighed against the huge cost of man-hour loss, security breaches, economic stagnation and public infrastructure vandalisation.

Within the last three months alone Rivers people for instance, have lost count of the number of times Nigerians Tanker Drivers have refused to lift petroleum products for consumer use, over one form of strike or the other. Infact, virtually every scarcity witnessed in recent times, is without further investigation, blamed on yet another strike, a reason that underscores the fact that strikes have become an everyday occurrence without any proper check.

My Agony is, unable to air their views properly through their representatives at the National Assembly, some politicians now consider public protests and strikes as the right fora  to vent their anger against the government of the day, to earn an imaginary connection with the people that never exists.

 

Soye Wilson Jamabo

Senate President, Mark, NLC President, Omar.

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90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”

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We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.

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Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW

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Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.

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