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12th NLC Congress: Long march for decent work

NLC’s 12th National Qurdirall Delegates Conference started yesterday Monday 4th February, 2019 in Abuja with the pre-Conference Central Working Committee (CWC) National Executive Council (NEC) meeting. The opening Ceremony of the Congress takes place today Tuesday, 5th February scheduled to hold  from Tuesday 5 to Thursday 7 February 2019 at the International Conference Centre  ( ICC) Abuja.

The conference theme is: Towards a Decade of Activism for the Promotion of Labour Unity, National Re-birth and Development. An   estimated number of delegates is 675 drawn from 43 industrial unions affiliated to the NLC compared to as many as 3119 delegates from 42 affiliate industrial unions that attended the 11th Congress in 2015.  Increasing unemployment and factory closures seem to have impacted negatively on union memberships. This notwithstanding, with estimated 6-million organized work-force NLC remains the largest labour centre in Africa followed by  Egypt (after  Arab springs which allowed for independent free unions). The highpoint of the 12th National Delegates’ Conference is election of new National Executive Officers that will run the affairs of Congress in the next four years. In attendance at today’s congress would be notable living veteran unionists such as the founding and past NLC Presidents, 77 year old Alhaji Hassan Sunmonu (1978-1984), 87- year old Alhaji Ali Chiroma (1984-1988) and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, (1999-2007).  Scores of representatives of fraternal global unions that include Ghana Trade Union Congress (Ghana TUC), Congress of Southern Africa Trade Unions (COSATU), Organisation of Africa Trade Unions Unity (OATUU), International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) are expected to attend the historic conference to be declared open by President Muhammed Buhari. A successful conclusion of NLC conference raises, once again, greater hope of democratic process in Nigeria and indeed Africa as a whole. Nigeria and (indeed Africa) had produced strong democratic institutions one of which is Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

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The ultimate assessment of NLC at 40 is how it has improved on salaries and wages of workers. NLC motto is: Labour Creates Wealth. Sadly labour’s  wealth created is denied the working men and women as looted public funds by few ruling elite turned workers to working beggars amidst income poverty. When shares and stock prices go down as we witnessed during the 2008 global financial crisis, the whole world including the media was in frenzy. Yet with massive Naira devaluation, spiral inflation, salaries diversion, delayed and wage thefts, wages have almost collapsed in Nigeria. Can we imagine that for four months there are no capital gains on the floor of Nigeria Stock Exchange? It is Economicide, (an economic equivalent of political genocide) to systematically deny workers adequate pay.  It is commendable that organized labour closed ranks to fight for the new minimum wage of N30,000 despite some surmountable organizational differences. The challenge in the coming years is to deepen its organizing efforts of unorganized workers, especially women and youths in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

Issa Aremu, Abuja

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