Labour, employers assess Buhari’s performance, seek social intervention expansion, others
As President Muhammadu Buhari marks his fifth year in office, labour leaders and employers have scored his leadership abysmally low, even as they maintained that his leadership in the areas of the economy, good governance, human capital development and welfare of the populace, have been a great disappointment.
They argued that the advent of the administration was with great expectation, which instead became a big disappointment in all strata of the nation, except perhaps, for the politicians, who are having a field day looting Nigeria’s treasury without consequences, thereby making a nonsense of Buhari’s much-acclaimed fight against corruption.
According to labour activists, the past five years have increasingly befuddled Nigerians and left them in a state of utter confusion; and a period characterised by deception and propaganda as the major instruments of governance. It was also a period that widened the gap between the government and the people, thereby eroding trust and confidence leading to a growing and massive distancing of the people from the nation.
Specifically, they said the first term of the Buhari administration, which witnessed the introduction of many micro and macro-economic initiatives aimed at building a strong foundation for Nigeria’s economic prosperity and position it to take its place in the comity of thriving economies, have not achieved the desired results.
As a result, they expect a complete turnaround in the remaining three years, and while they also spoke on their expectations for the remaining years of his leadership, in terms of economic prosperity and raising the standard of living of the people, especially workers and the ordinary Nigerians.
President of the United Labour Congress (ULC), Joe Ajaero, said the economy generally became weakened within the period, having sunk into its first recession in a very long time, and has continued to experience recessionary pressures since then.
The consequence, Ajaero said, is that poverty has increased, thereby denying more Nigerians access to good nutrition, public utilities and social infrastructure, and “making our nation the place where you have the largest concentration of poor people in the world. This is a very negative scorecard.
“When we talk of good governance, we also are talking about governance effectiveness, the participation of the citizenry in governance and inclusive actions and policies without prejudice to primordial pleadings.
“This government has failed in treating Nigerians all over the nation equally and has continued to demonstrate that it is not blind to tribe, religion and bloodlines both in action and in words.
“These have had divisive effects on the nation, destroying in the process the remaining bond holding the different strata of the country together. Nigeria, unfortunately, has never been this divided in our history. It may even be worse than the immediate pre-war situation.”
Stating that it is not yet too late for the Buhari government to redeem itself, Ajaero suggested a rethink of Nigeria’s economic policies, and deliberate creation of an economic system that is internally cohesive, and endogenously determined.
He spoke on the need to collectively look into inner selves and rebuild the confidence and trust of the people to move the nation forward.
He urged Buhari to show that he is the President of Nigeria and not of Daura or of a few segments of the nation, and also on the need to work to empower the people and lift the burden of poverty that presently has a stranglehold on the people.
He equally called for a review of the Labour Laws with focus on strengthening collective bargaining and protecting Nigerian workers, who remain the goose that has continued lay the golden egg, as demonstrated especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Similarly, Deputy General Secretary, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ismail Bello, said since the country returned to democratic governance in 1999, workers have continued to strive not just for the improvement of workers’ conditions and welfare, but also the sustained progress in the country and the general wellbeing of the poor and the vulnerable.
He maintained that the Buhari’s presidency has not substantially differed from the previous administration in terms of the high cost of governance, which has weighed negatively on Nigeria’s development.
Under the current administration, he said no dramatic change has happened as such, adding that to achieve a radical change in the nation’s developmental trajectory, the government needs to take measures to address raging unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Bello said this can be achieved through progressive taxation, social investments and focus on labour-intensive activities, and massive development of rural infrastructure.
He said it is time to overcome the perennial energy crisis and free Nigeria’s productive energy while stressing the need to transform and invest massively in the education sector.
He also sought urgent resolution of the lingering crisis with Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and the need to inject a new lease of life into Nigeria’s tertiary institutions.
He acknowledged that under Buhari’s leadership there have been more concerted efforts to moderate the crass corruption of the recent past as well as in economic diversification, particularly in agriculture, mining, and promotion of patronage of made in Nigeria goods.
However, he said a lot still needed to be done by the government to support local manufacturing through fiscal measures and improvement in electricity, revolutionise agriculture and get the young population to work on a massive scale.
Similarly, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), which noted that the initiatives and macro-economic policies initiated by the Buhari-led administration have not achieved the desired results.
With the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying oil price decline, the employers’ group said Nigeria faces a rocky ride, noting that while the government’s swift macroeconomic interventions and scaling up of efforts to deal with the emergency have been timely, the country still remains hugely exposed.
As the government has announced it will be rolling out long-delayed reforms over the coming weeks, NECA maintained that the failure to drive economic diversification more decisively over the longer term will, despite frequent warnings, again come back to bite.
Director-General of NECA, Dr. Timothy Olawale, urged Buhari to focus on grey areas such as sustained diversification of the economy, infrastructure development, social intervention expansion, and insecurity
He said the President should also expand social intervention schemes that directly target the unemployed, the weak, the vulnerable and the elderly, as such steps are capable of alleviating poverty nationwide and reducing social unrest.
He said: “The N-Power employment scheme, the Trader Moni scheme, the school-feeding programme, the cash transfer scheme, among many other direct schemes that target the weakest genre of the population, are laudable innovations of the current administration.
“However, the adoption of monitoring mechanisms cannot be overemphasized. This would promote accountability, transparency, balance and equality. We advise that the schemes should not only be sustained but be expanded to reach as many Nigerians as possible.
“Notwithstanding the numerous monetary and fiscal challenges faced by the country in the past five years, made worse by dwindling revenue, contradictions in monetary and fiscal decisions amongst others, the President continued to affirm his commitment to turning the economic fortunes of the nations around for the better. One of the major concerns is the increasing rate of unemployment.”
Furthermore, despite the increase in female labour participation over the past three decades, women still do not have the same opportunities as men to participate in economic activities in most countries.
Gender equality is also one of the 17 United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that 193 countries, including Nigeria, committed to achieving by 2030.
However, only seven out of 37 ministers appointed by Buhari are women, a measly 16%, compared to the last administration, which had 31% representation.
While campaigning, President Buhari promised to implement the national gender policy, which commits to affirmative action and requires that women filled 35% of appointed positions.
Besides, even the youth feel left out, as the President seems to surround himself with appointees who are mostly in his age bracket.
This development points to a disturbing trend when it comes to Nigerian women in positions of political leadership.
Chairman, Lagos State, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Funmi Sessi, who mentioned Convention 190 of the ILO on the right of women, called for equal rights to vote and be voted for.
She said women should have the right to quality education and the right to contribute to economic development.
She queried President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement at an international forum where he said a woman’s office should be “in the kitchen and the other room,” thereby relegating a woman’s worth.
She said overseas, women have voice more than men, which has made them garner respect on the global scene.
President of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSIBIFI), Oyinkan Olasanoye, argued that the gender equality gap is getting worse in Nigeria.
She noted that before now at the National Assembly, there used to be more women representation, but the gap now is getting wider, thereby making it impossible for Nigeria to achieve gender equality soonest.
“It is at the point of decision making that we need more women, not at the grassroots for us to be able to achieve gender equality. We are appealing that they should give us fairness and equity, give us a level playing ground for us to be able to compete favourably.
“It is still a surprise that our leaders in Nigeria do not realise that when they empower women, they empower development and economic activities.
“I appeal to my fellow women that when it is time to vote, we should vote for more women, encourage ourselves and those at the top should create mentorship for those of us coming behind them,” she said.
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