By Ismaila Chafe
Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration will partner with the organized labour to ensure that the country remains peaceful, prosperous and corruption-free.
The president stated this when he received leadership of the organized labour led by the national chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Ayuba Wabba, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday.
The labour leaders were in the presidential villa to felicitate with the president on his electoral victory.
President Buhari reiterated the determination of his administration to remain focused in its core pillars of securing the country, transforming the economy and fighting against corruption.
“We cannot afford to go back to the days of violence and mayhem.
“By the grace of God, majority of Nigerians have given me another four-year tenure to continue pushing our Change Agenda.
“We will remain focus in our core pillars of reform – security, economy and fight against corruption.
“I want to assure you, we as government will partner with all of you to ensure the next four years will be peaceful, prosperous and corruption-free.
“I therefore look forward to receiving all your written proposals and submissions on how we can partner together to achieve these goals,’’ he said.
The president stated that the current administration met a country with dilapidated infrastructure all round in 2015.
According to him, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) still owes Nigerians explanation on how it expended the humongous resources that accrued to the country from oil sales between 1999 and 2014.
While recalling the negotiations that led to the approval of the N30,000 minimum wage, President Buhari said he had to ask the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, to remind the workers what his administration met on ground and what it has been able to achieve with minimal resources.
“During your negotiation with the minister of labour and when he briefed us in council (Federal Executive Council) on N30,000 minimum wage. I gave an analogy of a mad woman, who went to fetch firewood but then she realized it was too heavy for her to carry, instead of reducing it, she added more.
“I said, we are struggling to survive as a nation. You (workers) knew what this country was earnings between 2009 and 2015, you knew the state of infrastructure when we came in, God gave them (PDP) 16 years of unprecedented earnings.
“Multiply 2.1 million by 100 dollars by 16 years. I don’t think the PDP has been able to successfully explain to Nigerians what they did with that money. Because some of the roads especially the main ones, from here to Onitsha, to Port Harcourt since PTF days not to talk of new ones…monies they earned from petroleum in 16 years.
“You know the rail was virtually gone and power, I asked where is the power? They spent $16 billion on power and Nigerians are asking, where is the power? It was unprecedented, irresponsible expenditure.
“Most of you are unanswerable to Nigerians, I appealed to you through our mutual friend, the minister of labour to tell you where we found the country, where we are, and what we have been able to do with the resources available to us,’’ he said.
He, therefore, called on the organized labour to show more understanding, and to support his administration’s efforts toward transforming the nation.
The President thanked the organized labour “for the support and patriotism you have shown during the presidential election, especially after the unexpected postponement.
“You and your members stepped in to support willing Nigerians to exercise their civic and patriotic rights to vote. You intervened as patriots, and not for political, religious or tribal purposes. You simply did the right thing during a difficult period for many of us.”
In his remarks, Wabba lauded the President for being workers-friendly, as exemplified in the granting of bailout funds to state governments to pay backlog of salaries and pensions.
He said: “We all remember the special bailout and budget support you introduced to support state governments during the recession.
“Your directive during this intervention was that state governments must offset accumulated arrears of salaries and pension liabilities. I Remember you publicly asked state governors, ‘how do you manage to sleep at night when the salaries of workers in your state are not paid?’
“For us, that was one of the finest moments we have had with any President in this country…I can stand here today and say your intervention was the difference between life and death for many workers.’’
While appealing to the National Assembly to earnestly pass the National Minimum Wage Act, Wabba also enjoined the President to thereafter sign it into law within the shortest possible time.
The labour leader pledged to remain “veritable partner in progress with government’’.
He, therefore, called on the president to continue to “make the Nigerian people, especially the poor, the centre-piece of your policy initiatives and actions.’’
Wabba also urged Buhari to inaugurate the Boards of National pension commission (PENCOM), National Insurance Fund Trust, the Micheal Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies and National Labour Advisory Council.
According to him, these institutes are key pillars in Labour-government relations.
He expressed the hope that the activation of the boards would “surely ensure our successes to date are taken to the Next Level. Please be rest assured we are ready to do our bit.’’(NAN)