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Unemployment: Tunisia, Egypt experience possible in Nigeria, NLC warns FG

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has warned that Nigeria may eventually be the next flash point in Africa after Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt if increasing poverty level, high cost of living and mass unemployment are not urgently addressed. In an interactive session with editors in Lagos yesterday, President of the congress, Mr. Ibrahim Omar, noted that the challenges that fuelled recent civil unrest in the African countries were more pronounced in Nigeria, stressing that the country needed to address the challenges to spare the nation from mass revolt.

While commending the 2011 budget plans to initiate a national job creation scheme, the congress stated that it was part of government business to embark on poverty alleviation schemes such as provision of mass housing, water and education for all up to secondary level.

Although the congress said it would not be partisan in forthcoming general elections, it, however, added that “politicians who support these basic programmes will be supported by the labour movement. Conversely, the labour movement and the Nigerian people have the duty to oppose and campaign against politicians who do not accept this minimum programme.”
Continuing, Omar said: “NLC will mobilise against any politician whose programmes negate the basic interests of workers and the populace, especially on issues of available and affordable petroleum products and electricity tariff, mass employment, protection of local industries and the welfare and general wellbeing of the people.”

The NLC president said the congress would not hesitate to lead Nigerians in mass protest against politicians who subverted the will of voters, adding that the campaign of “one man one vote, one woman one vote, should not just be a slogan, but a creed.”
According to him, the slogan should not be only a campaign but a movement, insisting that the country must develop a culture where electoral crimes were punishable rather than rewarding by allowing perpetrators to re-contest as was done in recent rerun elections.

Omar expressed worries about the large-scale fraud that characterised the 2007 general elections, pointing out that it was an embarrassment that about “one third of the governorship elections conducted could not withstand the scrutiny of the judiciary.”
He said this unpleasant development had serious implications for governance and the future of democracy.
On the planned national job creation scheme, the congress warned that the new scheme should not be reduced to another bureaucracy where money would be allocated to solve a problem and there would be little or no positive result.

“The 2011 budget contains plans to initiate a national job creation scheme, with emphasis on labour-intensive public works. While this is a commendable step, it does not fundamentally address the problem, which includes the policy focus of government. Congress warns that the new scheme should not be reduced to another bureaucracy where money is thrown at a problem with little positive results.”

He expressed displeasure at the cost of running government, saying that there was the need to cut the jumbo pay of legislators and wastage in government.
“The high cost of government, like the Central Bank Nigeria governor has revealed, is not the stipends paid to keep workers alive or the number of employees in the public service, but the highly disproportionate amount that goes into servicing the voracious appetite of the lawmakers, political office holders and other government appointees, and of course, the endemic corruption in the system.”

He said NLC was dedicated to a peaceful industrial relations system, but would fight employers who sought to trample the rights of workers.
Setting agenda for the NLC, Omar said: “Some of the primary goals of the congress in the next four years is to fight the evils of casualisation of workers, contract staff, expatriate quota abuse, non-payment of salaries and denial of workers’ fundamental human rights.”

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