Don’t use 2023 elections to unleash more insecurity, labour warns governors

Ayuba Wabba, president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has warned state governors to desist from inflammatory remarks capable of further heightening the level of insecurity in the country.

Wabba gave the warning on Wednesday during a Roundtable discussion on Social Protection Cover where he cautioned governors agitating for the 2023 presidency to focus on solving the current insecurity situation in the country rather than fight over which region will produce the next President of the country.

The labour leader attributed the current insecurity to a lack of social protection for poor and unemployed Nigerians saying bullets and bombs will not resolve the ongoing war against terrorism, armed insurgency and violent crimes in Nigeria.

His words “The children of the poor that we failed to educate yesterday and even today have become and will become the nightmare of the children we are training. The frustrations of our fellow compatriots who are illiterate, unskilled, jobless, and devoid of the shock absorber of social protection will ultimately be the graveyard of not only peace in our country but also civilization as we know it today. This is not alarmist!

“It is indeed sad and unfortunate that our politicians find the time and nerve to discuss 2023 when 2021 presents a foreboding cloud of insecurity, social tensions and general despondency manifest in our empty kitchens, unsafe streets and overflowing IDP Camps. We warn that such statements show utter disregard for the cruel predicament and sufferings of ordinary Nigerians and workers struggling with the pains of broken politics and governance dysfunction in our country.

“The 2023 elections must not be used as an excuse to unleash fresh dimensions of intractable and internecine security crises in Nigeria. Therefore, it is important that the political class must mind what they say. Suffice it to say that visionary leaders think of the next generation while dysfunctional leaders think of the next elections.”

Wabba described social protection as a fundamental human right intended to set a minimum social security floor, alleviate poverty and provide economic security for all. According to him, there was the need to build social protection coverage to avert more people going into robbery, banditry, prostitution and kidnapping for ransom.

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“Tragically, most of the unemployed and under-employed in Nigeria are caught in the web of perpetual misery as they lack the basic skills and training to break forth from the stranglehold of poverty. In the absence of any modicum of sustained social protection cover, the only available alternative is to resort to a life of crime. This is the reason many of young people are being attracted to terrorism, kidnap-for-ransom, rural cum urban banditry, armed robbery, militancy, prostitution, thuggery, and other forms of violent crime,” he said.

Wabba called on the Federal government to establish new universal social protection coverage in the country as a targeted effort to closing the widening inequality gap and ameliorate the excruciating suffering of Nigerians. He noted that social protection coverage was essential for human security and social justice, and was the foundation for peaceful societies.

He further decried the issue of housing deficit, inadequate health care services and lack of public confidence in the Contributory Pension Scheme, advising the political class to be cautious of their utterances, especially using the 2023 election to cause crisis in the country.

Femi Gbajabimila the speaker of the House of Representatives, in his remarks expressed concern on how the political class would provide the needed social protection. He said; “Social protection is one of the most important responsibilities of the government. It is how we live up to the constitutional obligations to ensure that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, a reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and the unemployment, sick persons and welfare of the disabled are provided for.

“It is how we ensure that the people born in the territory of Nigeria can live a life of accomplishments and contribute to the society meaningfully all through their life.

“When we gather together to think together, brainstorm together about the ways to improve the social protection cover in our country we are engaged in the fundamental act of nation-building. We are making sure there is a collective agreement on what it will take to achieve our best vision for Nigeria and the welfare of our nation’s people. I expect that having secured agreement on what needs to be done, we will then do what is required.

“I want to assure you that in the House of Representatives, we are committed to using the tools of legislative authority to advance solutions and implement policies that will help achieve the promise of the more perfect union.

“These are challenging times for our country, that much we can all agree. However, an abundance of historical evidence leads me to believe that at this moment of crisis, there is an opportunity for us to make choices and take actions that can open up our country and measurably improve the lives of Nigerians.

“These choices will not come easy and the actions we have to take require sacrifice. We have it in our power to build a country where every citizen has the opportunity to rise to the height of their ability and we will, through our joint effort and by the grace of God.”

Hajiya Aisha Dahiru-Umar, Director-General, Pension Commission (PENCOM) who also remarked said that Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) promotes social protection in Nigeria,

According to her, CPS promotes accountability, transparency and sustainability but that the major challenge in establishing its coverage is constitutional.

She further noted that many states are not adopting CPS and some private employers are not remitting funds which had contributed to the challenges faced by the scheme.

”This is why the Bureau of Public Enterprises made it compulsory for contractors to present a CPS certificate before getting a job. So far, PENCOM has recovered N72 billion and this has helped us,” she said.

She urged the government to avoid policy somersault and also settle outstanding liabilities of pension.

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