A Roman ruler, Julius Caesar, after one of his numerous battles, said: “I came, I saw and I conquered.” In the next 48 hours, Nigerians will join the rest of the world to usher in the year 2022, and 2021 would become history forever.
The outgoing year definitely means different things to different people. To Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, “it has indeed been a year of many challenges that have cast a pall of despair on our nation.” But to the glory of God, most Nigerians came, saw, and overcame the daunting challenges of 2021.
Reviewing the year 2021, President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, among others said: “Nigerian workers and people were forced to endure a year inundated with socio-economic downturns especially as marked by hyperinflation, widespread hardship, governance reversals, insecurity and persisting prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic particularly with the advent and high infection of the Omicron variant.
We commend Nigerian workers and the masses of our people for keeping hope alive and for relentlessly making the required sacrifices for national productivity, growth, and development. We can assure you that your hard work, dedication, and commitment will never be in vain.
“2021 would be remembered as the year that Nigerians were confronted with both speculation and the reality of increases in the prices of essential and basic utilities, commodities and services including staple food items, cooking gas, cement, and other building materials. While we commend the government for ensuring a stable supply of petrol and a few other refined petroleum products, we are concerned that the proposed petrol price increase does not resonate with the spirit of Christmas.
“Just as the government was able to fix the perennial scarcity of refined petroleum products especially petrol during festive seasons such as Christmas, we are also hopeful that Nigeria’s political leadership would be able to find a lasting panacea to the cycle of increases in the prices of refined petroleum products. With a stable price of refined petroleum products, the prices of other commodities will be stable.
Insecurity was also one major headache for Nigerians in 2021. The spate of unrests, banditry, terrorism, and kidnap-for-ransom across the length and breadth of Nigeria is a source of sleepless nights for many Nigerians.
“There are genuine concerns of a looming hunger epidemic in 2022 as many farmers were unable to plant and those who planted are required to pay ‘harvest’ security fees to non-state actors who have now carved out autonomous power bases in different parts of Nigeria.
“Christmas is about solutions. We call on the government to find solutions to the myriad challenges facing the country. Enough of the talk! Nigerian workers and people want real solutions to the shame of nearly one hundred percent fuel importation and attendant perennial price hike for the largest oil producer in Africa. Nigerians want our domestic refineries to be fixed and new ones built. This will shift the narrative from petroleum products importation to domestic petroleum refining for local consumption, export for foreign exchange, and job creation.
“Nigerians everywhere want to sleep with both eyes closed. We implore the government at all levels to take seriously the provisions of Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution which mandates that the security of lives and property must be the primary duty of government. Nigerians do not consider the persistent scourge of kidnap, rural banditry, and terrorism as worthy hampers. We demand that government should use both kinetic and non-kinetic methods to make insecurity in Nigeria history. Nigerians would prefer to have as Christmas presents increased commitment by the government at all levels to social development especially in terms of public education, public healthcare, social housing, and expanded social protection cover.
“Our expectation as a national labor center is that by next Christmas, the hopes for affordable and quality education, healthcare, and welfare to the poorest of the poor in our midst, would no longer reside in the domain of hope but would be the existential reality of our people. This is the thrust of the Charter of demands developed by Nigerian working people and our allies as the tool for political engagement as we approach the 2023 election cycle.
“While we plan to change the political narrative by fully committing the political class to a defined and commonly shared national development agenda, we are concerned that the electoral field to cultivate our hopes for a transformed society is still cluttered with weeds and debris from the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment. The ball is back to the National Assembly. We urge the National Assembly to take the gauntlet and do the needful.
“The spirit of Christmas is the celebration of love, care, and empathy. We urge all employers of labor, public and private to fully implement the national minimum wage, minimum pension and ensure timely payment of salaries. We feel the pains of Nigerian workers and families likely to spend this Christmas without salaries. We implore employers who turn the joy of Christmas to a jam of pain to cease and desist. “This is also the season to remember the poor, the destitute, the orphans and widows in their suffering and be a source of hope to them. We urge that care and caution should guide our conduct especially in relation to personal and public health given the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is better to be safe than to be sorry.”