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Poverty Not Nigeria’s Problem — Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday said Nigeria’s problem was not poverty but wealth redistribution.

He spoke on Thursday at the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress 2014 May Day celebration in Abuja.

But the organised labour which accused the government of double-speaking on the nation’s economy, advised him to be wary of ministers and aides who had been deceiving him with different statistics.

It said the recent rebased Gross Domestic Product released by the government was at variance with the earlier claims by some government officials who had earlier said “the country was broke.”

Jonathan said government was interested in wealth creation and had intiiated a lot of programmes to create opportunities for Nigerians to have access to finance.

He promised the workers that his government would continue to collaborate with the organised labour to improve their welfare.

On the insecurity in the nation, Jonathan said government was reviewing its strategies to curtail the threats posed by insurgency and other insecurity challenges.

“We will continue to work hard. We must keep our unity together,” he said.

Jonathan said the National Conference was convoked to solve the problems confronting Nigeria and for the country to evolve a master plan that would promote unity and peaceful coexistence.

He pointed out that the organised labour, the civil society and youth groups were given slots in the conference because they were considered as critical stakeholders in building a better future for the country.

But the President of the Trade Union Congress, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, at the event advised Jonathan to be wary of his ministers and aides who had been deceiving him with statistics.

He said, “Thank God for May Day as it affords us perhaps the best opportunity to let the President know that indeed this is not the best of times in our dear country.

“We can prove it to you, Mr. President that some of your cabinet members and aides have not always told you the truth.

“For instance, some of your cabinet’s members and aides told us not too long ago that our economy was not healthy and that the country was broke. And now they say the economy is in perfect order, one of the leading economies in the world and the most progressive in Africa. We, the organised labour wonder when this double-speak will end.”

Kaigama identified greed and irresponsibility on the part of many successive leaders as factors responsible for the economic woes of the country.

According to him, many politicians parading themselves as progressives today are not genuine and are only deceiving the electorate.

In his speech, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Abdulwaheed Omar, who criticised the economy, lamented that there were two classes of citizens: the super rich and the super poor.

He accused government of skewing the payment of wages and salaries against workers, adding that the time had come to link the remuneration of political office holders to the salaries of workers in the public sector.

Omar said, “The poverty situation in the land is real and grim. Over the years, government churned out laws, policies and programmes that disempowered and pauperised its citizenry, leaving a tiny clique protected.

“Wealth and income are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a tiny proportion of the citizens. This situation, if unchecked, portends dangers for peace and stability. Government needs to evolve policies to promote inclusive growth and a more equitable society.”

Omar disagreed with the notion that the 2014 budget would create opportunities for job creation and inclusive growth.

“We find no details in the budget to promote these objectives,” he said.

Saying that it was immoral to play politics with the lives of people, Omar charged the government to confront the root causes of the violence by addressing the problems in the education sector, unemployment and poverty.

“As long as our policy makers are more interested in making policies in the interest of the ruling class to the detriment of the working people and the Nigerian poor, they cannot guarantee enduring peace and the search for sustainable national development will not only remain elusive but a mirage.”

Omar lamented that the spate of violence was taking a toll on the country.

He said, “The humanity in us is giving way to something sinister; a degenerate society incapable of human feelings or development, the perpetrators and the victims alike. I am afraid, we may lose our humanity and our society except something drastic is done.”

According to him, the turn of events in the fight against Boko Haram is creating a negative feeling.

“We do not need anyone to tell us that we have a serious situation in our hands. The war on terror does not seem to be going on well at the moment. Our security forces despite gallant efforts have suffered reversals, taking direct hits in their critical asset areas, raising concerns about their capacity or willingness to win this war.

“We feel seriously about the state of the nation’s security infrastructure. In spite of the relative huge security votes in the past few years, it is weak and inadequate. We also believe conflicting political interest, ambitious operational order and primordial sentiments are some of the factors undermining the counter terror war.

The NLC boss said the National Conference was a great opportunity to redesign a new Nigeria “that meets our expectations, allay the fears and concerns of all its constituent parts.”

Also in an address delivered by the chairman of Oyo State NLC, Bashir Olarewaju, during the Workers Day celebration at the Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Ibadan on Thursday, NLC condemned the kidnapping of more than 200 girls by insurgents in Chibok, Borno State.

The celebration was however tainted with protest from the staff of Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria who are demanding the removal of the institute’s Director General, Malachy Akoroda.

“In the past few years, the nation has witnessed unprecedented security challenges that have tasked our imagination, resources and temperament. From the Niger Delta to the northern-most part of the country, we have had one form of violent or another that threatened peace and security of the nation.

“The most threatening of these is the insurgency in the North-East. One of the most trying periods has been the kidnapping of more than 200 girls in Chibok. We feel seriously concerned about the state of the nation’s security. Despite of the huge security votes, our security infrastructure is weak and inadequate. It is important that government confronts the root causes of these violence and deal with the issue of functional education, poverty and unemployment.”

Source: Punch

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