Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Sunday Aborisade, Udora Orizu in Abuja and Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark International Workers’ Day today, organised labour and the civil society coalition, under the aegis of Citizens’ Democratic Movement, have urged the country’s judiciary, especially judges of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, to help safeguard democracy by doing justice to all the election petitions brought before them.
The movement, comprising several civil society and youth organisations, insisted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had seriously damaged the country’s democracy with its poor showing at the elections. They also vowed to name and shame corrupt leaders.
Co-conveners of the movement included Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, Comrade Shehu Sanni, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo, Professor Udenta Udenta, Salisu Mohammed, and Olawale Okunniyi.
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was represented by its president, Joseph Ajaero, and Trade Union Congress (TUC) had its General Secretary, Nuhu Toro, in attendance.
Nigerian workers joined their counterparts worldwide to commemorate the historic struggles and gains made by workers and the labour movement.
Prominent Nigerian leaders participated in the May Day celebration by sending felicitations to the country’s workers for their courage, commitment, and patriotism.
Ajaero, who joined a meeting of the Citizens’ Democratic Movement midway, appealed to the judiciary to use the opportunity of adjudicating in the petitions from the 2023 general election to redeem its fast waning image.
He said the labour movement and its allies were prepared this time to monitor the operations of the judiciary.
The NLC president said labour and its allies would not hesitate to name and shame judges known to have compromised objectivity in an effort to undermine the wishes and interest of Nigerians.
Ajaero said the judiciary had through its many flops attracted many questions from Nigerians, adding, “If they fail to answer those questions within a short time, we would create a hall of shame for those judges that come up with judgements, for those judges that create such problems, that would happen soon.”
He further said there was need for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and all arms of the judiciary to speak out on happenings in the judiciary and frankly ponder whether the judiciary was still the last hope of the common man.
Urging members of the judiciary to remember that the destiny of the country was in their hands, Ajaero said, “It is either they fulfil it or they betray it once again. When they tell you go to the court, they’re telling you that, that is the end of the matter. Somebody will steal yam and say go to the court. On what basis are those statements being used?
“That’s the level of ridicule that the judiciary has been brought and as Nigerians, we all need to come out to rescue the judiciary, else there’ll be no need to continue go to court.”
Ajaero noted that NLC identified with the movement not necessarily on political basis, but in order to rescue the country.
In a statement titled, “The Threatening Decomposition of Democracy in Nigeria and the Urgent Need for Citizens’ Intervention,” Citizens’ Democratic Movement said despite the trust Nigerians had that INEC would deliver a free and fair general election, the commission failed woefully and, instead, allowed the process to be hijacked by corrupt and discredited politicians.
Addressing journalists at the end of their meeting at Labour House, in Abuja, yesterday, spokesperson of the group, Toyo, accused INEC of attempting to destroy democracy by failing to uphold the provisions of the Electoral Act and even their own set rules.
Toyo stated, “This 2023 general election became an anti-climax, dashing the hopes of Nigerians for credible elections and denying citizens the emergence of qualitative political leadership across Nigeria.
“Clearly, INEC in cahoots with some members of our political class has driven a death nail into the democratic experience of most Nigerians, thus, leaving the electorate despondent to resort to self-help in their effort to salvage whatever is left of their vibrant political engagement with the 2023 elections.
“Unfortunately, majority of Nigerians, especially the youths, who fought with patriotism to reset their country through the ballot box, are now wondering if elections have not become the tool for legitimising the corrupt takeover of Nigeria.”
Toyo further said the group’s collaboration with NLC, TUC, human rights organisations, citizens and youth movements and allies in like-minded political organisations was an alert mechanism for the conscience of Nigerians and defenders of Nigeria’s democracy.
She said they would engage key national institutions, especially INEC, the judiciary, legislature, and the security services squarely to resist the vicious and corruptive pressure from state operators and the political class, who insisted on a total takeover and control of relevant state organs.
Toyo said, “As vanguards of Nigeria’s democratic heritage, we are calling for a return to rules-based democracy in which Nigerians can remain hopeful that their sacrifices of participating in elections will ultimately count.
“Therefore, as affected individuals and parties resort to the court as the main conflict resolving mechanism, we hope that the judiciary, as the final arbiter, will ensure that the malfeasances of those powerful individuals and their corrupt allies will not be rewarded but, rather, they will be discredited and punished.
“It is in the light of this hope that we are calling on all Nigerians to believe again (not in INEC, not in the executive, but in the judiciary) and give the judiciary the benefit of the doubt.
“In the same vein, we are calling on the Justices of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court to rise up to the occasion by restoring the people’s confidence in the processes that were abused by INEC and also stem the deep decline of our democracy.
“We are, therefore, soliciting the cooperation of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and lawyers for democratic justice, to partner us to re-awaken the consciousness of the judiciary to its constitutional responsibility of defending our frail democracy through the enthronement of justice.”
Gbajabiamila: Workers’ Sacrifices Won’t Go in Vain
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, lauded the efforts of the Nigerian workers on the occasion of this year’s International Workers’ Day.
Gbajabiamila said the Nigerian workers had paid their dues over the years and, therefore, deserved to be celebrated always, not just on workers’ day.
Recalling the sacrifices of the Nigerian workers, he said such would not go in vain, noting that they would continue to reap from their good works.
According to the speaker, Nigeria would not have been what it is today without the diligence, dedication and commitment of workers at various levels.
Gbajabiamila saluted the workers for their invaluable contributions to the development of Nigeria, and urged them to do more for the betterment of the country.
Atiku: Do Not to Despair, Be Hopeful
Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election, Atiku Abubakar, advised Nigerian workers to see this year’s May Day as a moment for sober reflection and stocktaking, in view of the myriad socio-economic tribulations they had faced in the last eight years of the Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.
Atiku, in a message of solidarity to the country’s workers, said the lives and welfare of workers and their families had been reduced to the abyss of mere existence due to the litany of policy errors by the APC government. He accused the government of creating insecurity in all facets of workers’ lives, including food, shelter, health, wealth, and education.
Despite the precarious situation, Atiku enjoined the workers not to despair or be cowed, but to keep their heads above water and stay afloat. He said they should be resilient and hopeful for the sake of the younger generations and the country’s future.
The former vice president stated, “In Nigeria of today, the minimum wage of N30,000 cannot buy a full bag of rice, let alone cloth or pay for a worker’s many utility bills. In fact, hyperinflation in all sectors of our nation has constituted serious socio-economic strangulation to the average Nigerian worker, who’s now poorer than in 2015, when APC came to power.”
Atiku extolled the virtues of hard work, perseverance, and endurance of the working people in the country.
Obi: Keep Promoting Productive Ideals of Nigeria
Presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi, felicitated with Nigerian workers on the occasion of International Workers’ Day, calling on them to hold onto those values that encourage productivity in the country.
In his message to workers, Obi encouraged them to see their jobs as channels for contributing to nation building, explaining that the country would grow and develop more if Nigerians understand that the task of nation building is for everyone.
The former governor said Nigeria was gifted with a hardworking labour force, desirous of the country’s development. He explained that not minding poor workers’ welfare, workers had continued to labour for the country.
Obi encouraged the workers not to be disheartened by the many challenges that, today, pervaded the economic and political space. He urged everyone to remain focused on building a more productive and prosperous nation, which, he said, was part of the offerings of the New Nigeria.
Obi stated, “I want to assure you that the forces of darkness that have held this nation bound for long, will not continue to have their way. We are determined to take back our nation for good and we are not giving up. I urge you all to remain steadfast. The sun of justice, peace and development will soon shine on our nation.”
Lawan Hails Workers’ Patriotism, Resilience
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, commended Nigerian workers for their patriotism and resilience.
In a statement he personally signed, Lawan said, “Throughout our history as a nation, the great Nigerian workers have been remarkable for their patriotism, commitment to nation-building and resilience in the face of serious development challenges. They have contributed in finding solutions to the challenges and supported the efforts of government targeted at meeting the yearnings of the populace.
“This consistent patriotic stance of the Nigerian workers has enhanced peace and industrial harmony and provided a conducive environment for economic growth and development in the country.
“Labour creates wealth; remains valid today as it has ever been. It is in the realisation of this that government must always pay serious attention to labour related matters.
“It is with this understanding that the ninth National Assembly has guarded itself against the introduction of any anti-labour legislation since its inception in 2019. We are happy that this stance has also helped in sustaining industrial peace in the country.
“On this note, I wish the great Nigerian workers a happy May Day celebration.”
Obaseki: We’ve Implemented Institutional Reforms on Welfare
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki said the state government had implemented institutional reforms to sustain the gains made in improving workers’ welfare.
Obaseki, who said this in commemoration of the 2023 Workers’ Day celebration, said some of the reforms included new legislations, capacity enhancement programmes and policy changes that impacted on building a strong and virile workforce.
The governor stated, “We have drastically improved the remuneration and benefit system for workers by making Edo the sub-national with the best salary scheme in Nigeria. We are investing in the health and wellbeing of our workers.
“We have commenced an affordable health insurance scheme that has ensured improved access to quality health care for all workers. We are also implementing a contributory pension scheme that will guarantee regular pension payments for our retired workers.
“Our commitment to workers’ welfare extends beyond just remuneration and benefits. We are investing towards ensuring that our workers have a positive and fulfilling work experience. Our goal is to transform the traditionally mundane and unexciting public sector work environment into an engaging and enjoyable one.
“We are committed to improving the quality of work life for our workers by implementing initiatives that promote employee engagement, job satisfaction, and a sense of purpose in their work.”
NECA: Defend Institutions Created to Advance Industrial Harmony
Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) urged members of the organised labour and, indeed, all stakeholders to ensure that no effort was spared in promoting and defending institutions created to advance industrial harmony and social dialogue in Nigeria.
NECA made the call in its goodwill message to mark the workers’ day titled, “May Day Celebration: NECA Commends Organised Labour, Raises Alarm over Government’s Proposed New Taxes,” signed by NECA Director General, Mr. Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde.
Oyerinde said the theme of this year’s May Day celebration, “Worker’s Rights and Socio-economic Justice,” was quite apt at this time in the country’s national and global engagements.
He said the event was also a time of deep reflection on where “we were years ago, where we are today and where we hope to be few years from now”.
Oyerinde said the reflection was necessary to give workers a clear scorecard of the state of the collective struggle to build a model nation, where rights were protected, including the rights of enterprises; wealth was created and equitably distributed; and social and economic justice was guaranteed.
The NECA Director General stated, “As the global economy continues to witness disruptions, coupled with political upheaval in many regions, the need to continue to protect not only workers’ rights but also human and enterprise rights cannot be over-emphasised.
“Worker’s rights encompass a range of issues, including living wages, decent work, access to medical care, safety and health at work, bridging gender gaps, and freedom from discrimination, among many others. These rights thrive in an environment that promotes socio-economic justice. All these are in the different International Labour Organisations (ILO) fundamental instruments, which Nigeria is a signatory to.”