Chris Steven, Abuja
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) says Nigeria may soon overtake India as the poverty capital of the world if the rate of poverty in the country continues unchecked.
Ayuba Wabba, President of NLC stated this on Tuesday while addressing Nigerian workers during the celebration of this year Workers’ Day, held at Eagle Square, Abuja.
“More than 70% of our population lives below the poverty line. In fact, a number of international economic reports forecast that despite the significant difference in our population size, Nigeria may soon overtake India as the poverty capital of the world.
“The reasons for endemic poverty in Nigeria are not far-fetched. Our economic structure does not provide the enabling space for mass industrialization imbued with the capacity for sustainable jobs. Our public policies and consumption pattern still encourage the export of jobs and the import of poverty.” He said
Wabba said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has performed below expectation in the areas of job creation, industrialization, power supply and other economic index.
“The crisis of widening unemployment in Nigeria has been exacerbated by indiscriminate sack and retrenchment of workers by some public and private employers.
“Unfortunately, the different levels of government that should be more concerned about protecting our people are the ones leading the campaign to push more Nigerians into the unemployment market.” Wabba said
Speaking on the failure of the government to industrialise the country, the NLC President said Nigeria must copy China’s industrialization drive.
“We must industrialize! We must copy China’s industrialization drive which has within 20 years moved over 250 million people out of poverty through manufacturing and industrialization.
“We must stop exporting raw cottons, crude oil, mineral resources only to be importing finished textile, petroleum products from China, Europe and America. Nigeria must make what it consumes, otherwise it will be consumed by the rest of the world.”
In his address, Bobboi Kaigama, TUC President said it was regrettable that politics and corruption have become intertwined to the detriment of the masses.
“Politics and corruption are like Siamese twins in our country. Politics is the highest paying job today and you do not really need all the degrees in the world to earn your millions. It has become a do-or-die affair and a lot of corruption embedded,” he said
He noted that the continued neglect of the health sector has opened a floodgate of brain drain in the health sector and medical tourism among others just as he took on state governors some of whom he alleged are still owing workers’ salaries because they diverted part of the bailouts given to them.
“Despite the enormous contribution of Nigerian workers and the labour movement to national development, the issue of improved conditions of service, standard of living and welfare has always been through demand and struggle.
“Our economy remains largely import driven and dependent, though described as mixed, our economy is essentially rent seeking and suffers from systemic distortions.”
Speaking at the event, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo disclosed that states have shared N1.9trillion Paris Club refund. In spite of this, Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) declared that some states’ debts have exceeded their revenue by over 480%.” He said
Osinbajo who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the event, said no reasonable person can ignore the relevance of workers in nation building, but that previous administrations cannot be exonerated from the dire situation which the country has found itself.
He said from the inception of Buhari administration about N1.91trillion went into providing bailouts for states to pay workers as a result of the badly beaten economy.