Penultimate Saturday, precisely on Oct. 13, 2018, TMC Committee on Social Mobility, the Economy & Politics presented the 12th series of the “State of The Nation Address” as part of its contributions to national discourse.
The Secretary of the Congress, Alhaji Taiwo Bamgbala, who stood in for the National President, Dr Luqman AbdurRaheem made the presentation that is reproduced here unedited for the record:
STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS
THE MINIMUM WAGE AND THE NIGERIAN WORKERS
Nigerian workers definitely deserve a rise in their take-home having been on the receiving end for so long in our chequered history. The long-suffering workers deserve every comfort they can get in order to live a more comfortable and less-stressful life. In 2011, the National Minimum Wage Act set workers’ wage at N18,000 per month and to be revised every five years.
An upward review is therefore justified by the fact that the cost of living has increased considerably. The Federal government needs to continue its dialogue with the stakeholders in order to arrive at a figure that will ease the daily burdens of the Nigerian workers.
That amount should also be in consultation with the states especially owing from the fact that most of the states are already defaulting in paying the N18,000 minimum wage. But more importantly, governments at all levels must speed up the development of public infrastructure and also step up financial inclusion.
These two steps will further complement the increase in minimum wage to make life more meaningful for the people. The organised labour should also show understanding and ensure that the laudable agitation does not lead to the breakdown of services across the sectors.
NIGERIA’S INDEPENDENCE: 58 YEARS AFTER
It is certainly true that Nigeria has not attained the glorious state that every Nigerian desire. But if we all work harder and show more patriotism and dedication to our fatherland, Nigeria may soon exit its present challenges.
This should make us choose wisely as the 2019 General Elections approaches. Let us elect politicians of proven integrity and commitment that will drive the growth and development of the nation in the right direction. We have to be thankful for the corporate existence of Nigeria as a nation and the fact that some progress is being recorded in the affairs of the nation.
Let us stop disunity, religious bigotry, corruption and impurity. It is only when this is done that we can rest assured that we can birth a new nation that will be favourable to every Nigerian in terms of enjoying all the dividends of democracy.
The masses of the Nigerian people are the unsung heroes of our nation for having displayed courage, patience and understanding in the long years that Nigeria has failed to meet their aspirations. These are difficult times but if the new wave of discipline and dedication on the horizon is allowed to properly take root in our socio-economic and political firmaments, we will be better for it. Let us continue to support what is good and the people you have identified to be of proven integrity.
KUDOS TO THE SPIP IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
We commend the efforts of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) for the Recovery of Public Property. This organ has again highlighted how some politicians and public officials are colluding to steal the nation’s resources to the detriment of the Nigerian masses who continue to wallow in abject poverty despite being blessed with stupendous wealth.
The SPIP has recovered over N4 billion and another $7 million in cash as well as physical assets in its various operations. We commend the chairman of SPIP, Mr Okoi Obono-Obla for recovering $7 million from the previous management of the Nigeria Export and Import (NEXIM) Bank. N533 million and land valued at N1.5 billion were also recovered from the former NEXIM Bank management and returned to the bank. SPIP also recovered N24m allegedly misappropriated by some directors of the National Theatre, and two hectares of land worth N2bn belonging to the National Council for Arts and Culture.
Also recovered is a part of the Agura Hotel illegally annexed by some so-called powerful persons with untouchable connections for over 20 years. This property has been returned to its rightful owners, the Nigerian Ports Authority. The SPIP also recovered 86 assorted vehicles valued at N500 million, six houses in highbrow areas of Abuja and a large farm in Abuja from a director in the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
The SPIP which was inaugurated by the then Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, in August 2017, has shown that Nigeria cannot develop except there is a rigorous and sustained fight against corruption. The issue is not about how much Nigeria earns but about how much is stolen. The 2019 General Election must be about sustaining the fight against corruption and the integrity and credibility of the candidates seeking political offices.
COURT AFFIRMS BUHARI’S EXECUTIVE ORDER ON SEIZURE OF ASSETS OF ALLEGED LOOTERS
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has affirmed the constitutionality of Buhari’s Presidential Executive Order No. 6. This executive order permits the Federal Government to confiscate assets belonging to persons facing corruption-related charges.
The court held that the president did not act beyond the power available to him under the constitution. The executive order preserves suspected property from being dissipated while investigation or trial is on-going.
We give kudos to Justice Ojukwu for this judgement that will enhance the anti-corruption efforts of this administration and also boost the efforts on recovery of stolen assets. This is a right step in the right direction and it will ensure that our commonwealth is returned to the people.
ENSURING PROPER CONDUCT IN THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS
The election fever has gripped the nation as we approach the general elections that will be held next year. Even before that, we have been witnesses to the stiff competition in the elections recently held in Ekiti and Osun States.
It shows that people have become more aware and are ready to take their destinies in their hands. Having said this, we must warn the populace against vote-buying and vote-selling. Both are crimes according to the electoral laws of the land.
Aside from this, there is no benefit to be gained from selling one’s future and the future of generations unborn for just a plate porridge. Let us all acquire the political education necessary to distinguish between political jobbers and the politicians who have the interest of the nation at heart.
The power in your thumb should be used to usher in an era of progress and development for the nation through the election of credible candidates. Let us stop violence, ballot-box snatching and intimidation at the polling units.
The election period should rather be one of friendship, good neighbourliness and understanding. It should not be a do-or-die affair. Even though INEC stands to be commended for the way it has conducted itself in the last two gubernatorial elections, a lot of improvements can still be made so that the people can have absolute confidence in the electoral process.
We urge INEC to always conduct free, fair and credible elections by deploying its machinery in the most efficient and effective manner. INEC should know that free, fair and credible elections are the guarantors of peace and progress in the nation as the people exude confidence in the choice that they have made. Politicians are also urged to be law-abiding, to respect the wishes of the people, and to diligently serve the people if eventually elected.
THE ISSUE OF AUTHENTIC DOCUMENTS AND THE RESIGNATION OF KEMI ADEOSUN
This is the time for everyone especially those who want to serve in public office to go back and ascertain the authenticity of the documents at their disposal. It is the duty of everyone to ensure that personal documents are gotten from the right sources while following due process.
This is because the individual stands to be blamed should any liability arise. Let us ensure we stop the acquisition of certain documents by proxy since we cannot guarantee that our aides, friends or acquaintances would be diligent enough to do the right thing. Documents such as driver’s licence, car plate number and NYSC exemption letter, just to mention a few, need to be verified and ascertained as true copies.
The resignation of the former Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, is indeed regrettable even though it was a situation that could have been prevented if due diligence had been carried out on the procurement of her NYSC exemption letter. The case of Adeosun is even more complicated since there is the issue of whether or not she was qualified to obtain an exemption letter in the first place.
The federal, state and local government should put in place mechanisms to ascertain the authenticity of issued documents. A case in point is the car plate number that can be verified online. It should be a serious offence for anyone to be issued fake documents within the official premises of government agencies. Individuals, as well as government officials, should be punished for cases of fake documents.
CONGRATULATIONS TO NIGERIAN AIRWAYS PENSIONERS
The Federal Government under President Buhari has approved the sum of N22 billion as payment for retirement benefits to former workers of the liquidated Nigeria Airways Limited. This amounts to about 50 per cent of the N45 billion entitlements for the former workers of the company.
The workers have suffered the injustice of not receiving their retirement benefits for about 15 years. The Buhari administration needs to be commended for putting smiles on the faces of these pensioners who paid their dues working for their fatherland. We urge the government to settle the balance as soon as it is feasible.
PRIORITISING THE POOR IN FINANCIAL INCLUSION BY THE BUHARI GOVERNMENT
The release of about N20 billion as working capital to enable petty traders across the country to expand the value of their businesses through Trader Moni is indeed commendable. Trader Moni is an Ultra Micro Credit programme of the Federal Government to give petty traders direct access to capital that is payable within three to six months.
This is one of the short-term direct economic interventions that will make a positive impact on the masses since access to finance remains a major impediment to SMEs across the nation. It will indeed be significant especially if the target of the projected 2million beneficiaries is attained.
It will be recalled that the GEEP, which is an initiative of this administration, seeks to financially assist SMEs that are structured. We also urge the Federal Government to implement the proposed Education bank that was contained in its discussion negotiation with ASUU.
This will allow the poor to access quality education and pay back after gaining employment in the future. Efforts such as this will bring relief to the people and increase the quality of life.
DISAPPEARANCE OF RETIRED MAJOR GENERAL IDRIS ALKALI
The military must not relent in the search for one of its own in the person of retired Major General Idris Alkali. The diligent prosecution of the search effort must continue since it has led to the recovery of his car and personal belongings in a disused mining pond in Dura Du in Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State in Plateau state.
Anybody that is found to be criminally involved in how the car got into the pond must be arrested and made to face justice in the court of law. The retired general was said to have been travelling from Abuja to Bauchi in a black Corolla vehicle on Sept. 3 before he went missing.
EKITI HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY IMPEACHMENT AND THE RULE OF LAW
The speaker and deputy speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly have been impeached by 14 out of the 26-member house. The speaker and his deputy, Hon. Kola Oluwawole and Sina Animasaun respectively were replaced by Adeniran Alagbada and Segundo Adewunmi after the suspension of 10 members of the house.
Even though the members have the right to choose their leaders as they wish, they must follow the rule of law by ensuring that two-thirds of the members are in support of the impeachment. We urge the members to play by the rules in order to strengthen our democracy and stop the wanton impunity in our polity. The media is also urged to be neutral and state the position of the law in its reporting.
STILL ON THE HIJAB ISSUE
It should not be that until the Supreme Court pronounces on the validity of the Hijab as a woman head cover guaranteed and protected by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria before Muslim girls and women have the freedom to wear the Hijab at places of work and schools.
The fact that the Appeal Court of Nigeria has affirmed the validity of this covering is enough to deter any bigot from undue interference on Muslim women and girls. We unequivocally state that Muslims will no longer treat with kid gloves cases of molestation or psychological intimidation or suppression of Muslim women and girls owing from their choice of the Hijab.
Hate-mongers and Islamophobic elements within the community who like to follow in the footsteps of the secondary school Principal in Isolo in Lagos State who ordered the suspension of five Muslim girls for nothing other than wearing the Hijab should be prepared to face the consequences.
The authorities at both state and federal levels should call their officers to order in order to prevent an unnecessary religious crisis that may erupt if such people continue in their wanton display of hatred for Islam and its symbols. A stitch in time saves nine!