Labour holds rallies to back anti-graft crusade
It’s a mere jamboree, says Fayose
A nationwide rally in support of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade was held yesterday, with the supporters urging him to go after past and present leaders found to have looted the treasury, short-changed the nation in one way or the other and made life difficult for majority of the citizens.
In Abuja, leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), who organized the rally, marched to the National Assembly, carrying placards with various inscriptions that expressed their readiness to give the war against corruption total support in order for Buhari to succeed.
The protest rally, which lasted for about eight hours, started at the Fountain Park, by Transcorp Hilton, opposite Millenium Park Abuja, from where the workers walked to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) office at Wuse 2, the National Assembly and the Presidency (Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation).
Prominent Labour leaders, including the President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, Trade Union Congress (TUC) President, Bobboi Kaigama, the textile workers’ Secretary General and former Vice President of NLC, Issa Aremu, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) President, Nasir Fagge, National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) President, Ibrahim Kalheel and former President of NLC, Hassan Sunmonu.
Meanwhile, Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose has described the nationwide anti-corruption protests as mere jamboree, saying no political office holders can steal without the cooperation of the civil servants. President of NLC, Waba, who spoke on behalf of TUC and NLC, said Nigerian workers believe that corruption has caused serious damage to the country, declaring that “if corruption is not killed quickly, it will kill the nation.”
He called on the National Assembly to make laws that will support anti-corruption crusade in order to give the war the necessary teeth to bite. Wabba, who expressed disappointment at the failure of the leadership of the National Assembly to receive them despite prior notice about the protest rally, said Nigerian workers must ensure that the lawmakers enact laws to fight corruption and protect whistle blowers. “This is a struggle for good governance. We are not happy. Generation unborn will suffer from the consequence if we don’t fight corruption.
It is because of corruption that workers’ salaries have not been paid for eight months. The laws must be strengthened. The workers are demanding that lawmakers must not protect the interest of looters.
They must protect the interest of Nigerian workers. And the interest of workers is that looters must be prosecuted. “There are two sides to corruption.
There is the giver and the taker. Workers are on the other side. But with NLC backing the President, the war is won. Nigeria must make it a risky venture for anyone to engage in corrupt practices, and labour must partner government in this regard. We must all fight against corruption.”
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, said the National Assembly has keyed into the fight against corruption in the country and will do everything to ensure its success. Represented by Senator Francis Alimikhena, Saraki said the Senate would complement the efforts of the executive in the fight against corruption through proactive laws and will ensure that those laws already in place are strengthened.
At the EFCC, Wabba said Nigerian workers will support justice, the commission and all other anti-graft agencies. He decried light sentences given to those who looted billion of naira.
He said Congress will lead the fight to ensure that corrupt judges who deliberately stall corruption cases are flushed out of the system. “The congress is ready to take the war to judges who are found wanting in the anti-graft war. “Workers are prepared for the fight against corruption.
If the problem is with the court, we are ready to march to the court, if it is with the National Assembly, we are ready to march there. Bad judges must be flushed out. Nobody is above the law. Workers are prepared for the fight against corruption.”
In his reaction, the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, who was presented a letter said with the support of organized labour, the fight against corruption has been strengthened. “With this, our hands are strengthened.
We will not disappoint you. The cost of business in Nigeria is the most expensive in the world. Nigerians must speak with one voice against cankerworm of corruption.
We have a government that is determined to fight corruption, so it is natural that we align with this vision,” Lamorde said. He assured that the EFCC will take the NLC and TUC along in the quest to rid the country of corruption.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, David Babachir, assured that despite the distractions, President Buhari will not spare anyone who is found to have corruptly enriched himself.
In Lagos, a coalition of civil and rights organisations staged a solidarity walk in support of Buhari’s anti-graft crusade. The coalition, led by the NLC, TUC, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), urged the president not to yield to forces pressuring him to soften in the fight against corrupt public officials.
Instead, they appealed to Buhari to declare total war on corruption, probe past administrations, jail all culpable looters and seize ill-gotten wealth.
Marching in their hundreds around the Alausa secretariat inwards Lagos House, Ikeja, the coalition displayed placards with inscriptions such as “$20 billion spent on electricity (1999 -2014), no light, Buhari must ask”; “Retirees are dying. Is pension fund a scam?”; “Unemployment made worst by corruption”; “Public officers must earn minimum wage”; “Security votes, another means of treasury looting”; “514 days: Chibok girls still missing”; and “Nigerians are not dullards”.
Chairman of the TUC, Lagos State, Hakeem Kasim, said corruption in Nigeria had assumed several dimensions, including embezzlement, bribery, rituals and rigging in elections, all of which are “highly pronounced in the Nigerian political system and public sector.” Kasim said: “The belief is that once a person occupies any position, be it the smallest, they will use corrupt practices to enrich themselves.
Corruption has created a very bad image for the country and its citizens, as Nigerians are viewed as corrupt and dubious people outside.” Explaining other impacts of corrupt practices, he said: “Corruption prevents the provision of basic social amenities for the citizenry. The money meant for development is often pocketed by a few, thereby making good governance impossible.
It has affected all the sectors – health, education, petroleum and others in the country. It has led to the collapse of the power sector and road network. Corruption has led to factory closure, retrenchment and worsening unemployment situation and under development in Nigeria. It engenders mass poverty and thwarts efforts to overcome it,” he said.
It is a jamboree Fayose spoke in Ado Ekiti while receiving the leadership of the trade unions, led by the Chairman of the NLC, Comrade Raymond Ade-Adesanmi, and his TUC counterpart, Comrade Ayodeji Ladeji, who were on ‘Campaign for Good Governance’ visit to his office .
The governor told the labour leaders, predominantly civil servants, to purge themselves of corruption before pointing accusing fingers at politicians.
He said: “No governor, minister or top political office holders can steal a penny from the treasury without the cooperation of the civil servants.
We don’t write papers as politicians, but we only approve whatever the civil servants came up with. “I consider the anti-corruption war of President Buhari as mere propaganda.
If you want to fight corruption, you have to do it by example. President Buhari must start from his party men. He should probe how his campaign was funded because he told Nigerians that he is a poor man. “Whatever I say about Buhari should not be mistaken for hatred, I don’t hate him.
But, he has to desist from fighting corruption with political face. “ I differed seriously to his anti-corruption war because he has been protecting other former heads of State, except Goodluck Jonathan, who contested against him. “What is happening to Halliburton’s scandal and other corruption cases perpetrated before Jonathan’s government? This is what I expected the labour to do.
They should ask questions rather than mere protests”. Fayose alleged that the EFCC, which presides over grafts and other related issues is riddled with corruption. “The Commission has been evading the payment of N10 million it ought to pay to me over Appeal Court judgement when I sued EFCC for harassing my wife.
Is this not corruption. “I stand to be corrected, I am the only governor who calls the labour leaders to JAAC and FAAC to decide how the state allocation should be spent. This is to tell you that I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear”, Fayose said. The rally was also held in Edo, Ogun, Cross River, Delta and Rivers states.