15 Feb 2007
Nigeria’s Labor Leader Lauds Anti-Corruption Agency
The outgoing president of the Nigeria Labor Congress Adams Oshiomhole has publicly and vigorously defended the actions so far taken by Nuhu Ribadu of the Economic and Financial Crimes’ Commission (EFCC). The head of the EFCC has been in the limelight in recent times in Nigeria for publishing a list of 134 political aspirants whom the commission deems are corrupt and thus unfit to rule. Prominent among the list is president Obasanjo’s estranged deputy Atiku Abubakar who is the presidential candidate of the opposition Action Congress (AC) party. The publication of the list has generated a political storm and polarized opinions in Nigeria with some accusing Ribadu of using EFCC to victimize Obasanjo’s opponents. The election of Nigeria’s president and state governors will take place in April.
“It is up to you to decide whether a governor that has built 172 houses in four years” should run for public office. Oshiomhole told a gathering of 1800 NLC delegates in Abuja Thursday. “We must encourage the EFCC to remain ruthless [because] many of the corrupt cannot be reformed. The challenge of fighting corruption is not a tea party”. Turning to Ribadu that was seated in the hall amongst other civil society invitees Oshiomhole said; “We acknowledge the risk you are taking just to make sure that our children do not inherit the burden placed on our shoulders.” Trying not to appear as taking a pro-Obasanjo stance, Oshiomhole said that the publication of the list was intended “to put Nigeria on notice” and not to be used by the government as a pretext to ban some people from contesting elections. “The government has no right to determine who has to contest.” He said, insisting that it is up to the Nigerian people to decide.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (created in 1975) is the leading trade Union umbrella organization in Nigeria with 37 affiliates in all the states of the federation. The NLC is holding its 9th delegates’ conference to elect new leaders to replace the current ones whose term of office has come to a close. The trade union movement in Nigeria is vibrant and its militancy has always been a source of headache for those governing the country. The NLC in conjunction with other three union centers led a crippling strike in June 2004 against hikes in fuel prices. The bitter experience has deterred the Federal government from gambling with petroleum prices. “Last year we had a completely strike-free year because we were also free from the continuous adjustment on petroleum prices.” Oshiomhole said in apparent reference to the victory the Unions have achieved on this issue.
Adams Oshiomhole used his lengthy speech to tackle almost all issues affecting Nigeria and beyond. Despite visible efforts by the government to confront the problem of electricity crisis in the country, the trade unionist said “power supply remains a national embarrassment” that negatively affects the economy. He praised reforms in the banking sector that have led to the near parity in Naira exchange in the banks and on the black market. He called on Nigerians to “put election riggers out of business” and said the burden rests on Obansanjo to ensure a smooth political transition. He blamed “distributive imperfections” for the Niger Delta Crisis and condemned the taking of foreign hostages by militants in the area.
Oshiomhole devoted considerable time to pay tribute to his predecessors, civil society and human rights activists like Gani Fawihimi and departed comrades like Ubani Chima and Dr Beko Ransom Kuti. He called on the Federal government to do something about the situation in Guinea saying, “When a government starts turning the gun on its people, it means the end is in sight”. “We have been through this before”.
Njei Moses Timah