Friday, June 4, 2021

#Asaba#NASS-HR-PH#Day1&2: NLC Leadership Backs Local Govt., Judicial, Legislative Autonomy, Others

....As House Of Reps (NASS) Committee On Constitutional Review, Wase, Elumelu, Others Today, Concludes Public Hearing In Asaba.

......As  NLC Leadership In a 71-page memorandum Make Recommendations, Seeks Amendment to the "Feeding-Bottle Nigeria's 1999 Constitution".

By Victor Bieni, Asaba

The Leadership of Nigerian Labour Congress led by Comrade Ayuba Wabba has said that the Union is in full support of devolution of powers, Gender mainstreaming, removal of immunity for public office holders, full support of pension, Local Government autonomy, Independence of the Judiciary and Legislative arms of Government, electoral reform to allow for electronic voting, State Creation, fiscal federalism, national security that gives room for the establishment of State Police, Socio-economic and Cultural rights of Nigerians, National minimum wage, , review of revenue allocation formula and others.

The media learnt this in a 71-page Memorandum presented to the NASS, House of Representatives Committee on Review of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Federal House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Idris Wase, and Minority Leader, Federal House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Ndudi Godwin Elumelu and other members of the Committee during a two-day Public Hearing that took place on Thursday 3rd - Friday 4th of June, 2021 held at Delta State Event Centre, Okpanam Road, State capital Asaba, Delta State as the leadership of Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, stated that their positions on the issues were informed by the traditional values of patriotism, equity, fairness, Inclusive national development and Justice for all.
Presentation of the Summary of the Memorandum by the Nigeria Labour Congress at the Zonal Public Hearing for the Review of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as presented by the Union's, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Director of Research, Dr. Onoho'Omhen Ebhohimhen, a seasoned Unionist who represented the NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba reads in parts: "Protocol: The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is a pan Nigerian organization with a history that transcends Nigeria’s independence. As a pan Nigerian and pro-people organization, the views and positions of Organized Labour in Nigeria are divorced from partisan, ethnic, religious or any other sectional consideration. The Nigeria Labour Congress, as part of its contribution as a social partner in nation building has been involved in all the constitution review processes in Nigeria including the last National Constitutional Conference in 2014. The submissions of the NLC at the different constitution review engagements are anchored on promoting inclusive socio-economic development, decent work, gender equality, respect for labour standards, good governance and strengthening of institutions".
"We have categorized our presentation into two broad areas: Core Labour Issues and Socio-economic, Cultural and Political Issues. For the core labour issues, we have advanced our arguments on the following concerns: the federal structure and devolution of powers particularly with regards to retaining Labour and the National Minimum Wage on the Exclusive Legislative List. Also, on the Core Labour issues are matters of Pension and Industrial Relations.
On the devolution of powers and socio-economic, cultural and political issues, we have also advanced our arguments on other matters of national importance. These issues include Local Government Autonomy, Legislative Autonomy, and Judicial Autonomy, comprehensive judicial reform, electoral reform, gender equality, public revenue allocation, strengthening independence of oversight institutions, residency and indigene provisions, the immunity clause and state creation".

"Retention of Labour on the Exclusive Legislative List: Globally, labour matters are governed by international standards as prescribed by the International Labour Organization (ILO). These international labour standards are adopted by the ILO as Conventions, Recommendations, Protocols and Declarations. Once the ILO adopts any international labour standard especially its Conventions and Protocols, it is demanded of ILO member states through their National Parliaments to ratify and domesticate such standards in their national laws, not sub-national or state laws.
The rationale for this global approach to labour issues is to achieve uniformity of labour laws all over the world. The overarching reason for this derives from the lessons from the First and Second World Wars and efforts by world leaders to foster harmonious industrial standards and operations for sustainability of industrial production, inclusive socio-economic development, social justice, and world peace".

"Nigeria has been a member of the International Labour Organization since October 17, 1960. So far, Nigeria has ratified and domesticated through the National Assembly twenty-six ILO Conventions including all eight ILO fundamental Conventions. The eight fundamental ILO Conventions include: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No 87)
Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98)
Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)
Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No 105)
Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)
Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)
Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100)
Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111)".

"The eight core conventions of the International Labour Organization regulate pension, industrial relation and labour generally. It would, therefore, be anomalous, incongruous and contemptible of global standards and order to even contemplate removing labour from the Exclusive Legislative List. That would be tantamount to renouncing Nigeria’s ratification of extant ILO Conventions and repudiating Nigeria’s membership of the ILO. We are sure such is not the agenda of this noble engagement".

"The National Minimum Wage: In line with our argument on retaining labour on the Exclusive Legislative List, it also follows that any contemplation to remove the National Minimum Wage from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List would only expose Nigeria to international ridicule and opprobrium. Just as we had argued in the foregoing, the reasons are very clear and compelling. We wish to restate these reasons as follows:
The National Minimum Wage is a matter of Global Standards

The National Minimum Wage is derived from ILO International Labour Standards especially the ILO Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery Convention 026 of 1928 which is reinforced by the ILO Minimum Wage Fixing Convention 131 of 1970. Distinguished members of this Committee, Nigeria through the National Parliament ratified Convention 026 since 16th June 1961 and has domesticated its provisions in our national constitution and extant labour laws".

"Pursuant to this ratification and domestication, the National Assembly apart from listing the National Minimum in the Exclusive Legislative List also captured provisions of Convention 026 in Chapter 2 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy which expressly demands that the Nigerian State shall direct its policy towards ensuring the provision of reasonable national minimum living wage and pensions.
Currently, more than 90 per cent of ILO Countries have the National Minimum Wage in their national laws. The issue of true federalism is out of the question. Twenty-six countries of the “old democracy bloc” that retain the National Minimum Wage in their national laws including the United States of America and Germany practise “true federalism”. Some of these countries have practised federalism for more than two hundred years".

"Distinguished lawmakers, from the events of the recent past few weeks especially the struggle of Nigerian workers in a number of states, it is clear even to the blind that the attempt to remove labour and the national minimum wage from the Exclusive to the Concurrent Legislative List is borne out of the desire by a few state Governors to trample on the rights of workers and pay them slave wages.
2. The National Minimum Wage as a Binding International Law
Upon the ratification of ILO Convention 026, Nigeria transmitted the ratification to the Director General of the ILO in line with Article 20 of the ILO Constitution. The ILO Director General also in tandem with the provisions of Article 102 of the United Nations Charter transmitted Nigeria’s ratification of the Convention 026 to the Secretary General of the United Nations".

"This makes the National Minimum Wage a binding international law ratified and domesticated by the action of the National Assembly and which sanctity can only be preserved by its retention in the Exclusive Legislative List. Therefore, it is mandatory for Nigeria to meet and comply with its Public International Law Obligations under the International Labour Organizations (ILO).
3. The National Minimum Wage as a Model Tool for Social Inclusion and Poverty Eradication
Contrary to the false information on the exclusion of states from the determination of the National Minimum Wage, the process of determining the National Minimum Wage is the most inclusive social dialogue tool available today which also serves as a wedge from the dungeon of the community of the working poor".

"All the states in Nigeria are represented in the National Minimum Wage Review Committee. And the states make their submissions based on the economic realities in their states and what each state could afford to pay. Relevant agencies of government such as the National Bureau of Statistics also make very cogent inputs based on prevailing economic indices such as inflation rate, purchasing power parity, poverty thresholds etc. Labour and employers of labour also make their own input. The final determination of the National Minimum Wage is informed by consensus building on the aggregate submissions made by all the social partners – the Federal Government, States, Employers and Workers Representative Organizations".

"The argument for a centralized determination of the National Minimum Wage had been strongly canvassed by Nigeria’s founding fathers even before Nigeria’s independence. In a press statement by Honourable Chief Obafemi Awolowo, then Premier of the Western Region, on Thursday, 4th June 1959, he submitted: ....the refusal of the Federal Government to introduce a policy of 5 pounds Minimum Wage has led to anomalies which must be most depressing and shattering to those concerned".

" Federal workers employed in the Western Region, for instance in the Post and Telegraphs and the Moor Planation, who work side by side, live in the same sort of houses and buy from the same markets, with Western Region workers, get less in wages than the latter. And yet they are called upon to expect nothing but “hard work, sweat and blood” after independence. The Action Group and its Allies will terminate this inhuman and uneconomic state of affairs during the first six months in office and in any case, well before the day of independence. All workers employed by the Federal Government Will be paid 5 pounds Minimum Wage with effect from October 1, 1959.At the same time, a law will be enacted by the Federal Parliament stipulating a national Minimum wage not below 5 Pounds, which must be paid by all employers of Labour in Nigeria.”

"Distinguished members of this Committee, we also have positions on a number of other issues of constitutional importance. These issues include pension, local government autonomy, independence for the judiciary and legislative arms of government, socio-economic and cultural rights, comprehensive judicial reform, electoral reform, gender mainstreaming, national security, residency cum indigene provisions, immunity for elected office holders, state creation, public revenue, fiscal federalism and revenue allocation. Our positions on these issues are informed by our traditional values of patriotism, equity, fairness and inclusive national development and justice for all".

"Local Government Autonomy:
We call for the administrative autonomy of local governments in Nigeria. We also call for the uniformity of the tenure of local government councils. Finally, we call for the financial autonomy of local government councils in Nigeria.
Organized Labour demands financial and administrative independence for the Judicial arm of government in Nigeria.

"State Legislature:
We also call for the independence of the legislative arm of government in Nigeria especially in terms of administrative and financial autonomy.
Electoral Reform:
Organized Labour in Nigeria supports the proposal for the democratization of the appointment process for the leadership of INEC with representation from different branches of society. We also demand for an Electoral Offences Commission and support the call for independent candidates, diaspora voting, finite time for the conclusion of election petitions, and other general reforms that would make INEC deliver transparent, credible, free and fair elections".

*Socio-economic and Cultural Rights:
We demand that the rights enshrined in Chapter 2 of 1999 Nigerian Constitution under review be made justiciable.
Gender Mainstreaming:
We also call for gender mainstreaming in all spheres of government in Nigeria. Nigerian women should also be given unfettered access to enjoy rights and privileges provided for in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution and as guaranteed by numerous international conventions and treaties. We also demand proportional representation in Parliament especially for women.
Labour demands that all elected public office holders should not enjoy immunity from prosecution on criminal cases. In order to avoid distraction while in office, elected office holders should enjoy immunity from persecution only on civil cases".

"Indigeneship and Residency:
We call for the ratification and domestication of ILO Convention 169 which demands that indigenous and tribal peoples shall enjoy human rights without discrimination and shall have the rights to decide their own priorities and exercise control over their development.
State Creation:
States should be created by the regions according to their needs and fiscal abilities within their own zonal structures.
Fiscal Federalism:
The revenue allocation formular should be reviewed to the advantage of state and local government areas. Instead of the current attempts on salary re-distribution, we call for wealth re-distribution through the instrumentality of a progressive tax administration system-
evolution of Power".

"State Police:
We call for the strengthening of our existing security architecture but with greater emphasis on a properly structured and overlapping community policing and local intelligence gathering. It is our persuasion that the consideration of our positions will advance the cause of the downtrodden, workers and the generality of Nigerians and engender a more stable polity for the actualization of the Nigeria of our dreams".

"Our Prayers:
That the National Assembly should retain Labour, the National Minimum Wage, on the Exclusive Legislative List as currently listed under the Second Schedule Part 1 (34) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and also retain the general administration of pension as currently captured in Section 173 of the 1999 Constitution and as listed under the Second Schedule Part 1 (34) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria".

"That the National Assembly should favourably consider our demands for the full realization of local government autonomy, legislative autonomy and autonomy for the judiciary arm of government; and
The National Assembly should consider our submissions on strengthening and promoting socio-economic and cultural rights of Nigerians especially as captured under Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution under review".

"With your kind permission, may I proceed to lay before this august committee of the National Assembly this 71-page memorandum of the Nigeria Labour Congress on behalf of all the working people of Nigeria.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Aluta continua… Victoria Ascerta!!!"

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