THIRTEEN YEARS OF CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA: STATE OF THE NATION, QUESTIONABLE REVENUE ALLOCATION FORMULA AND URGENT LABOUR ISSUES
On May 29, 2012, Nigeria will be celebrating thirteen (13) solid years of uninterrupted constitutional democracy.The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) Rivers State heartily joins other well meaning organizations in wishing Nigerians a wonderful democracy day. We are indeed grateful to God Almighty that for the first time in the post colonial history of Nigeria, we are experiencing thirteen (13) solid years of uninterrupted constitutional democracy. As we celebrate, we urge Nigerians to use the opportunity to reflect on how to grow our democracy and make our country great again.
1. STATE OF THE NATION
1.1 POVERTY, CORRUPTION AND INSECURITY:
As we celebrate, we should remember that there are millions of Nigerians who cannot take part in the celebration because they have been enveloped in the heinous web of poverty, unemployment and insecurity, which are largely the outcomes of many years of misrule and the unacceptable level of corruption in our country. We therefore urge the Federal Government to demonstrate its determination, capacity and willingness to fight corruption which is at the root of the unacceptable level of poverty and security crises currently facing our Nation. We are confident that it is in the best interest of our country and the administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR that all those indicted by the Subsidy probe are prosecuted. Accordingly we appeal to the Federal government to swing into full action by demonstrating the seriousness and capacity to bring to book all those who were indicted by the Subsidy probe. We also call on the Federal Government to go beyond rhetoric in the fight against poverty and insecurity.
1.2 ARBITRARY AND UNJUSTIFIABLE INCREASE IN ELECTRICITY TARIFF
We reject in its entirety the proposed plan by the Federal government to increase the electricity tariff. We expect the Federal government to justify the huge expenditures in the power sector since the advent of this democracy by first giving Nigerians power before talking about increasing electricity tariff. It is rather sad and unfortunate that the Federal Government is planning to increase electricity tariff at a time when Nigerians are expecting to see dividends of the various power sector investments. This is unacceptable to us and we will, in partnership with our civil society partners, resist the proposed change in electricity tariff.
1.3 STRENGTHENING OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
As the government at the grass root, the local government should be strengthened to deliver dividends of democracy to the people. The people need to feel the positive impact of local government Councils. We are deeply worried that most local governments in Nigeria despite receiving huge sums of money every month do not have anything to show for them. This is very disturbing and unacceptable. At 13 years, our democracy should no longer tolerate the waste going on in many local government councils across the country.
2. QUESTIONABLE FEDERALISM AND LOPSIDED REVENUE ALLOCATION FORMULA
It is common knowledge that here in Nigeria we operate a federal system of government which has three levels namely, Federal, State and Local Governments. Each of these tiers has its own constitutional responsibilities which they are expected to discharge. To enable them discharge these responsibilities, they are given tax powers and entitled to a certain share of the Federal allocation. This has created huge imbalance in the allocation of tax powers amongst the stakeholders, necessitating the need for an arrangement to allocate centrally-collected revenue so that revenue and development could spread evenly throughout the country.
Unfortunately the many years of Military rule has led to the unfair and unjust relationship among the tiers of government, where more lucrative taxes are controlled by the Federal Government and a lopsided Revenue Allocation Formula where the Federal Government takes more than half of the Federal allocation, while the 36 States of the Federation and the 774 Local government Councils get 24% and 20% respectively. This is very unfair and unjust!
You will recall that the Federal Government lion share is to enable the Federal Government discharge her various responsibilities under the constitution. Unfortunately the reality is that the Federal Government being very far from the people is unable to effectively discharge many of these responsibilities which the then Armed Forces Ruling Council placed on it and for which it still collects the lion share of the revenue. Consequently the various State Governments are forced by their proximity to the people to take care of these responsibilities from their meager 24%.
For instance, the Federal Government is in charge of security and police. However, every day we read about how virtually all the State Governments in Nigeria fund police and security operations in their respective states. Similarly, the State Governments often, as is usually the case, subsidies the many Federal Government agencies and parastatals in their states. Even the Federal Roads are now maintained and reconstructed by the State Governments. Painfully, the Federal Government continues to abdicate her responsibilities under the law while still collecting more than half of the federal allocation.
Given the above unjust scenario, we call on the National Assembly to urgently review the Revenue Allocation Formula in favour of the State governments.It is our considered opinion that the State governments should formally be given more responsibilities and the Revenue Allocation Formula changed to reflect the true reality on ground. To this end, we propose that the State governments should get 40% of the Federal Allocation; the Federal Government should be given 35% and Local Governments 17.5%( if there is still need to keep the 7.5% Special funds going by the Supreme Court ruling against it). If we must develop, revenue must be matched with actual responsibility; and not paper responsibility.
In addition, it is our considered opinion that the National Assembly should immediately review our system of fiscal federalism so that we can practice true federalism. True Federalism as opposed to the current system which is more of a unitary system of government will encourage the various state governments to develop the economy of their state in their areas of comparative advantages.
We appeal to all well meaning Nigerians to join us in this call for the review of current Revenue Allocation Formula and our system of fiscal federalism. This is because Revenue Allocation Formula is not a mere instrument used for determining what segment of the polity gets what percentage of the so-called national cake, rather it is more of a tool used for ensuring fiscal efficiency, social justice and political stability, which will guarantee growth and sustainable development within the context of well defined national objectives.
3. URGENT LABOUR ISSUES
3.1 STRIKING LAGOS DOCTORS:
We are worried by the draconian measures adopted by the Lagos State Government in resolving industrial issues with the striking doctors in Lagos state. We appeal to both parties to go back to the negotiation table so that all the issues can be amicably resolved in the interest of industrial peace and harmony. We however use this opportunity to appeal to the President General of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) Comrade Peter Esele to urgently intervene in the matter in the spirit of solidarity, notwithstanding the fact that the medical doctors are not members of any registered trade union.
3.2 NIGERIAN CONTENT DEVELOPMENT:
It is very disheartening that two years after the passage of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010, the country is yet to notice any positive impact of the Act. The Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) need to wake up and aggressively pursue and deliver dividends to our people, communities and Country. We will not be deceived by stage managed events, adverts and proclamations. The truth is that we will continue to challenge these fictitious statistics with reality. To this end, TUC and her affiliates have resolved to monitor the implementation of Nigerian content in the various companies and organisations in the Nigeria oil and gas industry. We also call on PENGASSAN and NUPENG to immediately direct all their branches to set-up Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Committees which will monitor the compliance with the law and report to the National Secretariats of both Unions. We want to see our people being trained and assigned accountabilities in critical disciplines of the Oil and Gas Sector.
3.3 THE PETROLEUM INDUSTRY BILL (PIB):
We are worried that going by the haph-hazard manner in which the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry content Development Act 2010 have been implemented, that the Petroleum Industry Bill may after all end up as a mere paper work. We therefore appeal that the National assembly when they receive the copy of the bill from the Executive should ensure that National Interest override all other interest. We also appeal that the Senator Udo Udoma Committee on PIB gives adequate consideration to the positions canvassed by major stakeholders including TUC, PENGASSAN and NUPENG.
3.4 US STATE DEPARTMENT COMENTS ON CORRUPTION IN NIGERIAN JUDICIARY
We are worried by the recent report of the United States department of State alleging that Nigeria Judiciary is corrupt with impunity. This is because the judiciary which is the last hope of the common man should not be tainted by corruption howsoever. Moreover the role of the Judiciary in maintaining an atmosphere of industrial peace and harmony cannot be overemphasized. For the judiciary to discharge this role creditably it needs the confidence of all stakeholders including the organized labour. Accordingly we call on the Chief Justice of the Federation to undertake a critical review of the performance of the Nigerian Judiciary in the light of the allegations of corruption aforementioned so as to quickly reassure us that, fundamentally, nothing has gone wrong.
3.5 LEADERSHIP TRAINING AND CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT FOR LABOUR LEADERS
We recognize the important roles played by labour leaders in productivity and national development and therefore call on all levels of government and employers of labour to support the training of their respective labour leaders.
For us in TUC Rivers State we will continue to come up with meaningful training Programme. To this end we have put in place a workshop in collaboration with Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS) with the theme- Trade Union leadership, Enterprise effectiveness and National Development scheduled for 11th -12th July 2012 at Sasun Hotels and Towers , off Ordinance Road, Trans- Amadi Industrial Layout, Port Harcourt.
Aluta Continua! Victoria Acerta!!
Forward ever!!! Backward never!!!!
For: TRADE UNION CONGRESS OF NIGERIA (TUC)
RIVERS STATE COUNCIL
Comrade Hyginus Chika Onuegbu JP, FCA