President Muhammadu Buhari has said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) owes Nigerians explanations on how it expended the resources that accrued to the country from oil sales between 1999 and 2014.
Mr Buhari also described the 16 years of rule of the PDP as an era of “unprecedented, irresponsible expenditure”.
He said this during an audience with the leadership of organised labour comprising Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) led by the NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, who were on a congratulatory visit.
According to the president, the PDP has not been able to successfully explain to Nigerians what they did with the funds during the period they led the nation “as no tangible infrastructure was built”.
Mr Buhari, recalling the negotiations that led to the approval of the N30,000 minimum wage, said he had to ask the minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, to remind the workers what his administration met on ground and what it has been able to achieve with minimal resources.
“During your negotiation with the minister of labour and when he briefed us in council on N30,000 minimum wage, I gave an analogy of a mad woman, who went to fetch firewood but then she realised it was too heavy for her to carry, instead of reducing it, she added more,” he said.
According to the president, “we are struggling to survive as a nation. You (workers) knew what this country was earning between 2009 and 2015, you knew the state of infrastructure when we came in. God gave them (PDP) 16 years of unprecedented earnings. Multiply 2.1 million (barrels) by $100 by 16 years. I don’t think the PDP has been able to successfully explain to Nigerians what they did with that money.”
‘Where is the power?’
Mr Buhari said the opposition party spent $16 billion on power and Nigerians are asking: “where is the power?”
”I appealed to you through our mutual friend, the minister of labour, to tell you where we found the country, where we are, and what we have been able to do with the resources available to us,” he said .
“Oil production from 2.1 million barrels per day went down to half a million. The militants were unleashed on this administration, and yet as confirmed by your leader, we had to ensure pensioners who were dying collected their entitlements. So really, there was terrible management of this country in last 16 years and we are just trying to make up.”
Mr Buhari said he was looking forward to labour’s continued support.
“As we go to the polls this weekend, my prayer is that we also conduct elections in a non-violent manner,” he said.
Mr Buhari said the government will remain focused on its promises which remains security, economy and fighting corruption.
”I want to assure you that the next four years will be peaceful, prosperous and corruption free. I therefore look forward to receiving your proposals so that together we can achieve these goals,” he said.
Mr Wabba, in his remarks earlier assured Mr Buhari that the workers are partners in progress.
”Government and labour are primarily partners in progress. The success of government is linked to its workers. And the success of workers is linked to government,” he said.
The NLC president said one of the finest hours of labour with any president of the country was when Mr Buhari’s pressed states to pay salaries and pension.
“We all remember the special bailout, Paris club refund and budget support package you introduced to support state governments during the recession. Your directive during this intervention was state governments must offset accumulated arrears of salaries and pension liabilities. I remember your publicly and openly asked state governors, “how do you manage to sleep at night when the salaries of workers in your state are not paid?
“For us, that was one of the finest moments we have had with any President in this country…I can stand here today and say your intervention was the difference between life and death for many workers.”
Mr Wabba also commended the president for paying off the pension and accumulated entitlements of disengaged staff of Nigeria Airways and many other pensioners whose pension had been left to accumulating by successive governments.
The NLC president urged Mr Buhari to focus on job creation for unemployed youth, provision of affordable power across the country, reactivation and upgrading of the nation’s refineries and pipelines infrastructure, and continued diversification of the economy.
”Mr President should also focus on increased funding for agriculture research, upgrading of hospitals and academic institutions, revitalisation of the public service and revisit the tenure policy which has made the civil service top heavy resulting in indiscipline and stagnation,” he said.
The labour leader also appealed to the National Assembly to pass the National Minimum Wage Act, while also asking the President to thereafter sign it into law within the shortest possible time.
Mr Wabba urged Buhari to inaugurate the Boards of National pension commission (PENCOM), National Insurance Fund Trust, the Micheal Imoudu, National Institute for Labour Studies and National Labour Advisory Council.
”These institutes are key pillars in Labour-government relations. The activation of the boards will surely ensure our successes to date are taken to the Next Level. Please be rest assured we are ready to do our bit,” he said.
The N30,000 minimum wage bill has passed the first and second readings at the Senate after President Buhari transmitted the draft legislation to the lawmakers.