(Being Text Of 2013 May Day Speech Presented By Comrade Agdulwaheed Ibrahim Omar, President Of Nigeria Labour Congress In Abuja)
is with pleasure and a deep sense of history that I welcome you to this
historic May Day celebration. This is the last Workers' Day before our nation
marks the Centenary of the Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern
Protectorates to create what is today Nigeria. It is in recognition of this
that we have chosen the theme of this year's May Day as "One Hundred Years
of Nationhood: The Challenges of National Development".
course, critical historians will argue that long before the amalgamation, and
indeed,long before the colonial powers
set foot on our shores, powerful and vibrant nations existed in the
geographical space that is today Nigeria. Nationhood was not therefore the
creation of the colonial experience. But in the history of the world, nations
wither and nations are born.What we are
starting is the process of marking the centenary of the emergence of Nigeria as
a nation, as it is today.
it is important to note that the role of organized labour in the process of our
nation-building predates 1914, as the Nigeria Civil Service Union was formed in
August, 1912, being the first trade union in Nigeria. Even before this years'
pockets of trade unions had existed without special recognition.
excellencies, Comrades, ladies and gentlemen, May Day is a day of symbolic
reflection on the sacrifice made by the global working class in the historic
fight for decent working hours which culminated in the execution of four
unionists in Chicago Illinois in November 11 1887. This was the historic origin
of May Day.In Nigeria, May Day flagged off in 1981, following its declaration the
previous year by the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) government of late Governor
Abubakar Rimi of Kano State. The Workers Day celebrates work, service and
sacrifices: values that the May Day symbolizes.
Working Class Contribution To Nation Building:
The sacrifices made by the Nigerian
working class since the amalgamation of 1914 were enormous, especially anchored
in the stiff resistance against obnoxious colonial policies such as poor wages
in the wake of global depression that resulted in the general strike of 1945
over the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA). Another key sacrifice made by the
Nigerian working class in the process of our nation building was the tragic,
callous and unforgivable massacre of innocent miners at the Enugu colliery in
1949 in what has become known as the Iva valley Massacre.
Apart from strikes aimed at better
working conditions in the colonial era, workers' leaders played pivotal roles
in the national anti-colonial movement. Pa Imoudu and other labour leaders were
actively involved in the nationalist politics that guided the anti-colonial
struggle alongside politicians like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo,
In the post-colonial era, labour
played significant roles in nation- building and national development. In the
most trying period for national unity, culminating in the unfortunate civil war
of 1967 - 70, organized labour remained one of the few truly pan national
institutions calling for national unity, justice and peace. In truth, in the
chequered history of threats to national unity, characterized by ethnic,
regional and religious assertism and jingoism, organized labour has remained
one national organization that has remained truly national and truly united and
truly a unifying factor.
Organized labour played a pivotal
role in galvanizing the nation to adopt its progressive anti-colonial and
anti-apartheid policies. Indeed, on numerous occasions, organized labour, along
with the student movement and other progressive organizations organized rallies
and protests which over the years helped to shape and elevate the national
anti-apartheid consciousness and commitment. The landmark 'Thatcher must go'
protest of January 1988 in Lagos and Kano against the then British Prime
Minister given her support for Apartheid in South Africa, is a case in point.
With the incursion of the military
into national politics, labour was at the forefront of the struggles to end
military rule. The struggle for democracy and de-militarization of our national
politics resulted at times in the harassment and incarceration of labour
leaders. In the course of these struggles, many workers paid the supreme
sacrifice. The heroic role of the labour movement in this period was
underscored by the oil workers' strike to actualize June 12, and the historic
campaign against the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) starting from the
middle 1980's, which culminated into the current mass protest against
deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry.
Since 1999, labour has played
significant roles in seeking to develop and deepen democracy in our nation. The
various contestations over policies and governance which organised labour has
led have helped to ensure that democracy is not seen just as the substitution
of civilian rule for military, but as a system where citizens can influence the
direction of national policies. Organized labour has remained active along with
other progressive organisations and forces in resisting anti-people policies
particularly in this era of neo-liberalism, in highlighting and fighting
corruption and in seeking to hold governments accountable.
Your excellencies, Comrades, Ladies
and Gentlemen, we could go on ad
infinitum cataloguing our various roles and contributions. However, despite
our struggles and the struggles and sacrifices of the Nigerian people to
develop and nurture a nation of our dreams, a careful stock-taking as we
approach one hundred years of nationhood will show that our nation remains
faced with very grave challenges.
Challenges Of National Development:
Today, we have chosen to focus
specifically on three key challenges which, if not dealt with decisively and in
a timely manner, could very well undermine the survival of our nation. These
are the challenges of unemployment, insecurity and corruption.
Comrades, you will agree with me that today, the country is
faced by a monumental unemployment problem. Official statistics put the
national unemployment rate at approximately 24%. As high as this rate is, it
nevertheless camouflages the enormity of the unemployment crisis in the
country. If underemployment and disguised unemployment were to be added to the
figure, the monumental crisis will become more glaring.
importantly, an analysis of the disaggregated unemployment data shows that the
youths bear the greatest brunt of the unemployment problem. The unemployment
rate among the youths has been put at 37.7%. Some estimates actually suggest
that the figure is over 50%! Whichever way we look at it, it is obvious that we
are facing an unemployment time bomb in our nation. The International Labour Organization(ILO) estimates that 197 million are unemployed worldwide in 2012.
Of these, 74 million are young people between 15 and 24 years of age.
an estimated 80 million youths in the total population, 30 to 40 million
unemployed youths constitutes a veritable army of the hungry, disillusioned and
angry that can undermine the stability, security and peace of any nation if
is an urgent need for decisive intervention to rein in the unemployment
problem. The signals of strife and insecurity today are warning banners we
cannot afford to ignore.
overcome the problem of unemployment, Nigeria must promote strong industrial
policies that recognize manufacturing as a key engine of growth and decent mass
employment for the national economy.
The Federal government must urgently initiate a range of measures to revive and
protect labour-intensive industries like textile, food and beverages,
construction, iron and steel sectors etc. it is commendable that the Federal
government had initiated the textile revival funds. The mid-term assessment of
the impact of this long term fund at single digit interest rate has been
positive. For instance, UNTL Kaduna, the largest textile mill that hitherto
closed down in 2007 had reopened with direct jobs of 1,500 workers with
prospect of further expansion.
demand that the Bank of Industry (BOI) should be further recapitalized to
enable it address the problem of financing of industries. In addition, there
cannot be sustainable industrialization without uninterrupted power supply.
Government must also stop the ongoing dumping of sub-standard and fake imported
goods into the country. To continue to do so is to continue to export job
prospects, dwindle our foreign reserve and foreign exchange earnings and
continued importation of unemployment.
must move away from a container economy in which almost every good is imported
to a productive economy through an aggressive pursuit of industrialization
Government must Support transfers of skills and technologies to accelerate
industrialization and the creation of good quality jobs while safeguarding the
environment. This can be done through a renewed commitment to meeting the UNESCO's
prescription of 26% of National budget to funding of education.
our part, as a way to enhance the welfare of workers, the NLC has concluded
arrangement with funding partners and housing developers to build over 600,000
units of houses across the country for sale at affordable prices and moderate
interest rates to Nigerian workers.
the over 40,000,000 housing deficit in Nigeria, this modest effort by the NLC
should be complimented by the Federal Government and other levels of government
to give Nigerians a sense of belonging. As we speak to you today, the websites
to access the requisite information regarding the mass housing Programme have
been activated and will be officially launched tomorrow May 2nd
in the area of easing workers transportation, the NLC through the Federal
Government Mass Transit Programme has obtained a loan to procure vehicles.
Already, a total of 133 buses were been procured, and will soon be rolled
out.Discussions on another batch of the
same number of buses have been concluded, and will be made available to
Nigerian workers. We call on the private sector and governments to continue to
invest in social infrastructure especially transportation for Nigerian workers
and the Nigerian people. While we commend the Federal Government in the
initiative to revive the rail system, much has to be done to ensure a
comprehensive coverage in the country.
Today Nigeria faces severe, comprehensive and total security
challenges that threaten its survival. In other words, we have on our hands a
clear and present danger that needs an urgent and well thought-out
solution if we must continue to remain as a nation. From the north to the south
and from the east to the west, the nation is gripped in the throes of unprecedented violence.
Daily, innocent and ordinary people are
slaughtered in numbers either in incidents of armed robbery, assassinations,
kidnappings, arson, communal clashes or bombings, sectarian skirmishes
and related acts of violence with a telling effect in every facet of our life
as a nation.
The bonds that hold us together are being
weakened. Our productive capacity is similarly diminishing. There is a
feeling of loss of identity. We are scared and disfigured. As the nation lies
prostrate, we are all shell-shocked. But much more worrying than all of this,
is our inexorable loss of humanity, both the murderers and their victims.
ordinary times and with lesser population, Nigeria was unable to feed itself,
and accordingly, had to rely on food imports. The country's capacity to feed
itself has been further undermined by a combination of increasing population,
less arable land, serial conflicts and displacements.
situation has been compounded by last year's massive floods. And if meteorological
predictions are anything to go by, there is no guarantee that the years ahead
may not be worse.
conflicts, armed robberies, kidnappings, assassinations, arson, insurgencies
and food insufficiency or insecurity or other forms of threat, do not occur
by accident. Usually, they are products of years of poor leadership, bad
governance, weak institutions, lack of accountability, corrosive corruption,
political impunity, poor planning and privatization, socio-economic injustices
we have stated earlier, the effects of insecurity on us as a people and as a
nation are multi-dimensional and grave. Slowly but surely the nation is
being shut down, infrastructure destroyed, and lives wasted. There is
resurgence of ethnic and regional fervor, displacements, capital flight,
increase in expenditure on security at the expense of other more pressing
needs, loss of jobs and income and many more.
However, we at the Congress have an
unshakeable faith in the indivisibility and sovereignty of Nigeria. We believe
it has enough space and resources for the expression of our individual and
collective dreams and endeavors.
the light of the foregoing, we call on the government to muster the necessary
will and wisdom to tackle these security challenges. In furtherance of
this, we throw our weight behind the on-going efforts to work out an amnesty
Programme with the Boko Haram sect. For such a Programme to be successful,
however, members of the sect must first and foremost embrace dialogue and
therefore, call on members of Boko Haram to lay down their arms and step out
for reconciliation talks. Nigeria is their country and its dismemberment or
destruction, in our view, offers no way forward for any of us.
security remains germane to national prosperity and survival. Even if we have
the best arsenal in the world, no army fights on an empty stomach. In spite of
this common knowledge, very little has been done to ensure food security for
our teeming population. Thus, there is a growing danger exacerbated by floods
Corruption:Underlying the problems of unemployment, insecurity and the
general problem of underdevelopment is the monumental corruption that continues
to define our national life. Comrades, God has blessed our nation with ample
resources and wealth which, if judiciously exploited and administered, can
engender a national economy that is vibrant, dynamic and balanced where there
will be no poverty, unemployment and avoidable strife. The crisis of
underdevelopment which continues to engulf the nation is fuelled mainly by
we today in good conscience say how many barrels of oil are actually pumped
from our reserves? Many fear that a huge number of barrels are unaccounted for
or "privatized" daily. The Minister of Finance only recently declared
that ₦155 billion worth of crude oil is stolen every month! Huge allocations,
running into billions and trillions of naira, are made to power development,
roads, agriculture, and other sectors annually without measurable corresponding
we must urge government to take the fight against corruption more seriously.
Over the past ten years, there has been a catalogue of corruption allegations,
against highly placed government officials, announced with fanfare, in some
cases charged to court, but which have since vanished from national view
without diligent prosecution. Many are beginning to fear that the more recent
cases of oil subsidy sleaze will follow in the same unsavory path.
Of particular pain to us is the monumental corruption of those charged with
administering pensions which has now come to limelight. The looting of pension
funds while pensioners wait and die is a crime against humanity which must be
made to attract the severest punishment possible.
revelations on various pension scams have indicated the extent of the
vulnerability of workers' welfare funds in Nigeria. In brazen day light,
workers' pension entitlements are stolen with impunity. While Labour
acknowledges the efforts being made to deal with these scams, it will
undoubtedly continue to fight to ensure that all pensioners receive their
entitlements as and when due. In this regard, Labour will be on the lookout to
preserve the interest of existing pensioners, and that of workers in the new
furtherance of this, we call for legislation and policy that will not only
safeguard the over three trillion naira contributed so far, but will severely
deal with those who tamper with these contributions.
the ease with which these funds are stolen and the reluctance of government to
deal with the criminals decisively, organized labour wishes to demand a bigger
role in the administration of these funds. We also call for the strengthening
of the internal governance of the pension regime.
this regard, government should without further delay, appoint the board and
management of PENCOM, as only the full compliments of seasoned, and dedicated
board and qualified management that has integrity could moderate or even stop
these incidence of scams.
Excellencies, Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen, corruption remains the most
serious factor undermining the realization of our economic potential.
Government must not only make commitments to fighting it, government must
demonstrate this commitment by its actions, by its style and by its body
language. In this regard, we find the pardon granted to a former governor who
was convicted of corruptly enriching himself as unfortunate and a major dent on
the government's commitment to fighting corruption. To reclaim lost ground,
government needs to reassure Nigerians that it is still committed to fighting
corruption by conclusively dealing with all pending cases of corruption.
we belong to a comity of nations. Beside this, Nigeria is a leading voice in
Africa. In line with this, please permit us to comment on the situation in the
Western Sahara and other parts of the world.
Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic is the only country today in Africa under
colonial rule. It is neither under the British nor the French nor the
Portuguese, nor for that matter, under any other imperial European power, but
under the boots of a fellow African country, Morocco, which itself is an
ex-colony of the French.
decades, the Saharawi Republic was recognized by the Organisation of African
Unity, now the African Union, as a separate, independent country entitled to
self-rule. But Morocco in conspiracy with a few countries has held on to this
territory, dehumanizing, pauperizing and traumatizing its people.
the Saharawi leave under the worst conditions known to mankind. We want to use
the occasion of this May Day to call on the Nigerian government and the
civilized international community to intensify pressure on Morocco to withdraw
from this territory. The Saharawi, like other human beings are entitled to
their freedom and deserve to be treated with dignity. Let the world break its
also find it unjustifiable the continued blockade of Cuba and its economy by
the government of the United States. It is condemnable and unnecessary. While
we recognize the inherent ideological differences between the two, it is
incumbent upon the US to recognize the right of sovereign nations to hold
alternative and legitimate views. Accordingly, we call for the easing of
sanctions against Cuba.
find it intriguing that the US does business and even maintains healthy
relations with nations whose citizens or governments conduct themselves in a
manner that runs counter not only to US cherished values but its global
interests. We wonder why Cuba is an exception.
Cuban Five are victims of these frosty relations. Their continued detention is
a violation of their personal rights as well as an affront to human rights. It
also has the potential for denying the US its leadership role in championing
the cause of global human rights. We therefore call on the Obama administration
to make the bold and creative decision to free the Five. It could mark the
flourishing of a mutually beneficial relation, and enhance peaceful
condemns the continuous violation of trade union rights in Swaziland. It is
unacceptable that the only national trade union Centre, Trade Union Congress of
Swaziland (TUCOSWA) continues to be outlawed by government simply because it is
demanding for the enthronement of participatory democracy hinged on multi-party
democracy. We are in complete agreement that human and trade union rights
cannot be fully enjoyed in an environment that is perpetually undemocratic.
African trade unions should not tolerate regimes that violate trade union
rights; the NLC therefore calls on the international labour movement to
continue to queue behind the Swazi workers and peoples' struggle for genuine
Mali, because of the conditions in the country due to the ongoing
conflict including the close down of schools, the exposure of women and
children to all sorts of violence, unemployment among youth, HIV and AIDS etc.
conditions continue to be dire and worsening.
Nigerian government should use both the framework of ECOWAS and AU to evolve
humanitarian campaigns in aid of Malian peoples. Humanitarian crisis is piling,
there are scores of Internally Displaced Persons housed in Refugee camps just
as the fighting rages. The incidence of migration of refugees will yet become a
problem to Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
Chad, we condemn the detention of union leaders and the infringement of trade
union space. Chadian Government has just criminally prosecuted three trade
union leaders for leading a workers' strike to demand the implementation of a
minimum wage agreement. During the trial, one trade union activist was
sentenced to jail term by the presiding judge for contempt. He later died
mysteriously in jail few days later. NLC adds it's voice to the ILO for
sanctions against Chad for violation of Convention 144 dealing with tripartite
is appalled that rape is fast becoming a weapon of war. This is the case in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo where scores of women have been raped and
still being raped by militias and government forces in North and South Kivu
where wars rage. We call on the international community and the Congolese
government to act decisively to protect these women as well as investigate and
prosecute persons culpable in this dastardly act.
as we commence the process of stock taking of nation building since the
amalgamation of 1914, let us all commit to building a united, just and
egalitarian nation. While there are achievements which we can celebrate as a
nation, the near one hundred years of our collective development have left many
development deficits which we must seek to obliterate.
me end this address by saluting the dedication and resilience of Nigerian
workers in the task of nation-building over the past hundred years. We salute
the past leaders of our movement and their dedication to our nation. We look
forward to a future that will be brighter for ourselves and our children and a nation
that will be a pride and model to the black race in the future.
in the past, we will continue to fight for the unity of the country, its peace
and democracy. We want to assure you that Labour will rise once again to
provide the needed leadership for the pursuit of these. Thank you
can soon be used to help teachers improve English language literacy skills
among primary school students in Nigeria. The project is being launched by
UNESCO and Nokia, with support from the British Council and the National
Teachers’ Institute of Nigeria.
Participating teachers will sign up for a mobile service called
“English Teacher”, which sends teachers educational content and messages with
pedagogical advice once a day.
messages are organized into thematic modules and include images and exercises.
The service runs on the popular Nokia Life+ platform and is one of the first
attempts to employ mobile technology to improve tools for primary school
May 2 and 3, UNESCO and Nokia will host a training seminar with teachers from
almost 50 different schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria,
where the project is being piloted.
Teacher” leverages a technology that is already owned and used by a majority of
Nigerian educators. Over 90 percent of Nigerians have access to a mobile
network, and mobile phones are fast becoming a major gateway to the internet.
This means that the service is available to most people, including teachers in
difficult areas such as the northern states, where educational needs are most
aim from the beginning was to develop a service that teachers working in
difficult conditions and without a great deal of support could access quickly,”
said Steven Vosloo, the project coordinator for UNESCO. “Mobile technology is a
promising avenue and, in some instances, the only option in terms of
Teacher” is available to anyone in Nigeria without a subscription fee. It is
hosted on the popular Nokia Life+ platform, which offers an extensive menu of
content and covers topics as diverse as education, health, agriculture, and
entrepreneurship. When teachers sign up for the service they receive daily
messages designed to improve and support their instruction.
content was developed by the British Council and draws on the organization’s 75
years of experience building resources for English language teachers.
Thematically-organized and sequential modules, generally broken across one or
two week periods, promote strategies to encourage learner independence,
cultivate different learning preferences, and prompt educators to reflect on
their teaching practice, while providing links to relevant outside
resources. The programme runs for 72 weeks and begins whenever a user
signs up for the service.
“We are delighted to
partner with UNESCO in launching the ‘English Teacher’ service and provide
high-quality professional development services to primary grade English
teachers across Nigeria,” said Jawahar Kanjilal, VP and Global Head of Nokia
teachersusing the service will
benefit from the rich learning experiences presented in an engaging manner
through the Nokia Life+ web app.”
mobile technology project in Nigeria reflects UNESCO and Nokia’s commitment to
enlist technology in the global effort to promote literacy and equitable access
educational challenges facing Nigeria are daunting. Some 42 percent, or
roughly 10.5 million primary age children, are out-of-school, and those girls
and boys who do attend are struggling to learn basic literacy and numeracy.
This has resulted in one of the highest adult illiteracy rates in the world.
in Nigeria because this is where we are most urgently needed,” said Mark West,
a UNESCO project officer involved in the training in Abuja. He added: “While it
would be nice to offer in-person training to teachers, there are 575,000
primary school teachers in the country and more are needed to achieve universal
primary education. We need to enlist all tools at our disposal to confront
serious educational challenges and this absolutely includes technology. Because
a majority of Nigerian teachers own or have access to a mobile device, an
educational service that utilizes these devices has the potential to reach not
just thousands but tens of thousands of teachers. This wasn’t possible
before. The rapid uptake of mobile technology in Africa has made it
realistic to reach teachers who were, practically speaking, unreachable just a
few years ago. It is exciting work, and we hope the project provides a model
others borrow, emulate and improve upon.”