Organised labour Wednesday accused state governors of mismanaging the bailout fund from the Federal government and asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately constitute a high powered committee to investigate the mismanagement of the fund by state governors.
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba who made the call while addressing the striking members of the Congress in Lokoja said it was the bailout fund was a loan to the states which must be laid back, adding that if not properly utilized, future generations of the state will be made to bear the brunt.
Wabba also frown at the action of officers and men of the Kogi state command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp for attempting to disperse the workers who were gathered at the Secretariat of the Medical and Health Workers Union, threatening that picket the headquarters of the NSCDC in Abuja if its men repeat such action in future.
Wabba commended the doggedness of the workers who accused the state governor, Yahaya Bello of employing divide and rule tactics in dealing with the workers and gave the governor four weeks within which to address the grievances of the workers or engage them in constructive dialogue.
He said: “I want to use this medium to call on the President to investigate the issue of bailout mismanagement. This is an administration that believes in the rule of law and we are also fighting corruption.
“Therefore, Mr President must gather the will and courage to ensure that no arm of government under his watch will be allowed to undergo this process especially the mismanagement of bailout fund. ICPC has come up with a report which clearly stated that many states have misappropriated the bailout. The purpose for which it was intended has been jeopardised.
“Therefore, we call on the federal government to institute a very high power committee to investigate the utilisation of the bailout fund because the bailout is a loan. If it is wrongly applied, it also means that in years to come, those states will also be in a difficult predicament. This is what we are calling Mr. President to do.”
The NLC President told the workers that “the price for liberty is internal vigilance. We have heard your predicament. But we thought we cannot have the comfort of sitting in Abuja without coming to see you and confirm the information we heard and chat the way forward. If it means bringing the entire workforce in Nigeria to Kogi like we did in Imo.
“No strength on earth is stronger than the combine strength of all of us. They can bring all the forces on earth, the combine strength of all of us will match them. So, let me say that is this issue is not addressed within the next four weeks, the entire working people of Nigeria will match on Kogi.
“We have six million members of NLC. I assure you that two million will be here. If they think because you are few in number, they can intimidate and divide you, we can declare a national action on the issue of Kogi.
“It is the height of ungodliness for anybody to work for seven months and is not paid. Even God almighty says before your sweat dry on your body, you must be paid. I am aware that most of you are fasting because you have not been paid and because God answer the prayers of the desperate, I want you to raise your hand and ask God for whatever you want.
“It will amount to cruelty for any worker to work for seven months and is not paid. It will amount to cruelty for a pensioner to put into service the better part of his life in service and not paid. It will amount to cruelty to pass false information just to incriminate people.
“Let us not forget that the reason why we are in this predicament is because our leaders have not been very responsible. Leaders are appointed by God and so, they should know that they will account to God. You accumulate whatever you want to accumulate, but one day you must account to God. That is why this particular issue deserves our attention.
“We will continue to engage the process. Before we came, we were told that process of discussion has commenced and that there is no reason for us to come, but we insisted that having made the commitment to be here, we need to see the workers and hear from them and assure them that in unity, we shall overcome this.
“What Nigeria workers are passing through is a predicament that we have not seen before. We have never imagined that people will work for seven months and not paid.
“When the bail out of Kogi was withheld, NLC intervened and wrote a formal letter to government and appealed that the bailout of Kogi be released and the money was released. How then that the bailout has been recieved and not utilised? That is a sad commentary. In many states, when they collected the bailout, they put a committee in place and the money transparently utilised. Why is the case of Kogi different?
“Don’t be intimidated, don’t be discouraged because there is no situation that can discourage all of us because in unity lies our strength. They will use all tactics. If it is the burden of one worker today, tomorrow it will be another worker.
“Even if you are paid through the process of divide and rule, you should remember that in unity lies our strength. I want to assure you that this is a struggle we are committed to and we will be ready to bring the entire workers of Nigeria here.
“We will put all of them on notice including the governor and the President because this is the worst case situation I have seen in Nigeria. There is no state where the governor has forced all the workers to open their account in two banks. It is against your fundamental human right because you have a right to open an account where ever you want and with BVN, it is easy to access.
“So, forcing workers to use two banks is an act of cruelty and an act of corruption because workers have a right to open account in any bank they want for employers to pay their salaries. It is also against our laws because the law envisage that a person must have personal freedom, personal liberty to choose.
“Therefore this act of cruelty of forcing workers to go to only two banks is also serving the interest of some of them. This is condemnable. No state in Nigeria has done this and so, this should be condemned. Before now, we have not written on any specific case to the President.
“But a personal letter will be written to the President on the case in Kogi because it is quite different from other states. We will put him on notice because we will come back here to make sure that no worker is threat in a manner that is against our laws. No worker should be treated as a slave in our country.
“It is really unfortunate because under democracy, people must respect the rule of law and do what is right because democracy is for the people. Workers should not been seen as liability because we are not a liability. How can a health worker, teacher be seen as a liability?
“We provide services and ought to be paid. I was told that the 27.5 percent enjoyed by teachers have been removed, leave grand denied, while regular payment of pension has become a mirage. We cannot hide under any pretense to perpetuate evil against workers on the excuse that the economy is bad.
“Most of the states paying salaries constantly today receive the least allocation. It is not a product of the revenue, but the will as well as your priorities. Here we have a state that has not paid salaries in spite of the allocation and the bailout received.
“Even Borno that has been under insurgency for about eight years is paying salaries. So, there is no reason for anybody not to pay salaries. Even if you cannot pay, what is the difficulty in engaging the unions? Why must you bring divide and rule and not allow the union work with you to arrive at a solution.
We are a people destined by God to protect one another. Even though we dont carry arms, what will come out of our mouth is more than arms”.
The state NLC chairman, Comrade Onuh Edoka said he was declared a ghost worker by the state government alongside 70 percent of workers who are still living and working, while the government has employed divide and rule policy in dealing with the workers.
He said workers in the state are owed salaries ranging from three to, seven month, adding that the screening exercise conducted by the state government which had the blessing of organised labour in the stage was bungled by the same government because it discovered that those cleared workers were more than what it wanted.
It was however observed that the planned match to the government house had to be aborted and rescheduled because of the inability of the state chapters of the NLC and TUC to mobilize enough members apparently due to intimidation from security forces.
A patrol team me heavily armed military men in six truck constantly patrolled the city installing fear in the mind of the workers while efforts were made to prevent the NLC President and his team from entering Lokoja take address the workers.Share on Facebook