NLC President in Turkey,Vows Never to Allow Military Rule In Nigeria Again



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President of Nigeria Labour Congress,NLC Abdulwahed Omar has said that NLC will never allow military dictatorship or any other kind of dictatorship in Nigeria again.He made this declaration in his speech at the 37th Foundation Anniversary Of HAKS-IS, the second largest Trade Union Centre in Turkey on Sunday 21st October 2012.

As a labour centre, we have decided since the exit of the military from government in Nigeria that we must do everything possible to deepen democracy in our country. When we look back at our country’s history, we found the military guilty of contributing largely to our underdevelopment. And we have resolved never to allow military dictatorship or any form of dictatorship in our country. The people must count if we must make progress as a country and the Nigeria Labour Congress will do everything possible to tirelessly mobilize the entire populace to consistently promote and defend democracy. No country in the world has an option yet to democratic rule and we have tasted the worst of military dictatorship in contemporary history. Dictatorship in every form whether under military government or civilian breeds corruption; infrastructural decay; economic retardation; socio political instability and abuse of fundamental human rights. We will resist all these in our country” Omar said.

Speaking on the progress being made by the labour movement Omar said “Beyond building alliances at home, we have also extended our alliances abroad starting with the West African region. We have engaged our counterparts in the Ghana Trade Union Congress on several issues of common interests using the platform provided by our bilateral agreement. We also have a bilateral agreement with the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU. And now, we have succeeded in having a trilateral agreement with COSATU, GTUC and the NLC. This has strengthened our collective voice in the African continent.”

Read the full text of his speech below:

SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS, COMRADE ABDULWAHED IBRAHIM OMAR AT THE 37TH FOUNDATION ANNIVERSARY OF HAKS-IS, THE SECOND LARGEST TRADE UNION CENTRE IN TURKEY ON SUNDAY 21ST OCTOBER 2012

Protocols

On behalf of Nigerian workers, it is my pleasure to be present here to celebrate the 37th anniversary of your confederation with you and also share ideas on the development of independent trade union movement and the struggle for a society where justice and fairness is guaranteed across the world of work and among the general populace.

The Nigeria Labour Congress was formed on 28th day of February 1978, independently by over 900 unions that voluntarily came together and restructured the unions. Though the independent effort of the unions were eventually given legal backing and authority by the Federal Government of Nigeria in an attempt to exert state control but the unions have always resisted such controls by ensuring cohesion in policy and actions, which have so far made state control impossible.

We started with 42 industrial unions affiliated to the NLC, which was eventually reduced when government infringed on the right of custom and excise workers to belong to trade unions and their union had to de-affiliate from the NLC. The Academic Staff Union of Universities was also de-affiliated following vicious attacks by the then military government of General Ibrahim Babangida. However, the union has voluntarily re-affiliated with the NLC.

We have been able to sustain our independence through capacity strengthening, which we have consistently done through workers education, research, media outreach and organizing. We have also refused to run our centre with state funding at all levels as we run all our education, organizing, research, collective bargaining and even administrative programmes and projects with funds provided through membership subscriptions as well as funds from friendly Non-Governmental Organizations that we share common beliefs and aspirations. Our total membership strength is about six million.

The history of Nigeria can never be complete without acknowledging the important roles played by the Nigerian trade union movement. The movement was a leading force in the anti colonial struggles of the Nigerian people. From 1912, when Nigeria had her first trade union until independence in 1960, the trade unions mobilized workers and their allies to consistently battle the colonialists out of power.

As you may be aware, Nigeria groaned under prolonged military dictatorship, which thrice truncated civil rule until 1999 when democratic governance was returned through the consistent struggles of the Nigerian people who fought side by side with the unions to chase the military out of power.

We were able to do these because we have a long history of a robust relationship with our allies in the civil society groups. Beyond economic struggles on wages and defence of workers’ rights, we have consistently engaged the state in popular struggles on policy issues.

For instance, we have never hidden our opposition to neo liberal socio economic policies, which are designed by the Breton Woods institutions and forced down the throat of their stooges in under-developed and developing countries. Since the early 80s, we have consistently opposed these policies, particularly the so called Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, which we fought against alongside students, artisans, women and the teaming unemployed populace. We are able to do these because of the strong alliance between us and conscious organizations among civil society groups. Recently, in 2004 we collectively agreed with the pro people section of civil society groups to form the Labour and Civil Society Coalition, LASCO. There are three arms of LASCO – the trade union side includes the NLC and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, while the civil society arm is the Joint Action Front, which has over 100 organisations spread across Nigeria. Though we are yet to formalize the structure, but since its formation, LASCO has always been in the forefront of all our national protests, particularly on deregulation of the petroleum sector, electoral reforms, anti corruption etc.

We believe historically, that we have common issues with our allies and together we must fight against our collective deprivations and infringements. This way, we will make state attacks difficult.

As a labour centre, we have decided since the exit of the military from government in Nigeria that we must do everything possible to deepen democracy in our country. When we look back at our country’s history, we found the military guilty of contributing largely to our underdevelopment. And we have resolved never to allow military dictatorship or any form of dictatorship in our country. The people must count if we must make progress as a country and the Nigeria Labour Congress will do everything possible to tirelessly mobilize the entire populace to consistently promote and defend democracy. No country in the world has an option yet to democratic rule and we have tasted the worst of military dictatorship in contemporary history. Dictatorship in every form whether under military government or civilian breeds corruption; infrastructural decay; economic retardation; socio political instability and abuse of fundamental human rights. We will resist all these in our country.

Beyond building alliances at home, we have also extended our alliances abroad starting with the West African region. We have engaged our counterparts in the Ghana Trade Union Congress on several issues of common interests using the platform provided by our bilateral agreement. We also have a bilateral agreement with the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU. And now, we have succeeded in having a trilateral agreement with COSATU, GTUC and the NLC. This has strengthened our collective voice in the African continent.

We decided to have these agreements because it has become very obvious that capital has formidable multinational focus and interest. With the advent of globalization, big business has developed transnational networks to attack trade union rights coupled with the overbearing influence they exert on our various governments.

We must also, as trade unions, be able to use these bilateral relationships to collectively mobilize progressive voices in continental and regional bodies such as the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, and the European Union to take positive decisions on decent work, trade union rights as well as all other issues relating to workers rights especially at Export Processing Zones, which is a major component of globalization.

Comrades, we need to intensify our alliances, beyond the global trade union federations if we must succeed in confronting the challenges of globalization and the threat to trade union and workers’ rights across the globe.

We are prepared to work with our comrades in HAK-IS, your labour centre, to share experiences and break our common obstacles in our countries and across the globe. We are indeed prepared to have a formal bilateral agreement with you to ensure the success of our partnership, an offer you made and which we have genuinely accepted. Both centres can commence the bilateral process immediately.

Once again, on behalf of Nigerian workers I congratulate you on the 37th foundation anniversary of HAK-IS, the second largest labour centre in Turkey.

Thank you for your attention.



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