The Labour Party as well as human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), have expressed concern over the crisis that marred the 11th National Delegates’ Conference organised by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to elect new set of officers.
As one of its critical stakeholders, the Labour Party (LP) said it is ready to offer the NLC assistance where necessary to ensure that the delegates conference is properly organised without rancour.
In a statement issued yesterday by the National Publicity Secretary of LP, Ebere Ifendu, the party said it watched with dismay and utter embarrassment the inability and failure of Comrade Umar Abdulwaheed and Comrade Peter Eseozor to conduct a peaceful delegates’ conference.
It said the crisis that trailed the central labour movement election is a bad omen, especially as the incident came at a time the country is about to go for national elections.
“We are more worried particularly when this election is precursor to the general election. The NLC should be an exemplary organisation that would champion good leadership and defend democratic process, “ she said.
The Delegates’ Conference was organised by the NLC to elect new officers to replace the executive led by outgoing president, Abdulwahed Omar.
But the conference ended in fracas and pandemonium mid-way during voting, with some aggrieved delegates smashing ballot boxes and tearing the ballot papers.
One of the reasons given by the aggrieved delegates was that the election was being done to favour one of the contestants and they resorted to smashing the ballot boxes and throwing out the ballot papers.
As a result, the conference which took place at the International Conference Centre in Abuja last week was suspended without the elections being concluded.
However, Ifendu said the fact that the conference was marred with allegations of electoral fraud and physical fracas is a source of embarrassment to the labour movement and its allies.
“We urge NLC to put its house in order, while we offer our structure and service to assist them to conduct a free, fair and credible election,” she said.
In the same vein, the National Secretary of the Labour Party, Kayode Ajulo, said that the party would assist the NLC to organise transparent election following the controversy that trailed the inconclusive elections.
Ajulo also observed that the leadership of the NLC had failed to carry along Nigerian workers in the last six years, thereby expressing regret that the labour movement had become dour and lacking in leadership and unrepresentative of the aspirations of the Nigerian worker.
Ajulo in a statement in Abuja, said it was great a disservice to Nigerian workers and the nation that the NLC could not hold successful election to elect new leaders.
According to the LP scribe, “the NLC is the hope of the common man; therefore we cannot allow it to fail. We in the Labour Party are saddened that the NLC could not hold a peaceful and successful transition of leadership. This should be of concern to all true lovers of democracy.
“The failure of the NLC to transit, just before Nigeria’s most important election in the past 15 years, should alarm every patriot in this country. It is in this regard that we are offering to intervene and help the congress conduct a transparent and credible rescheduled election because the leadership has demonstrated that it needs all the help it can get.
Expressing his concern over the botched NLC election, Falana called on the leaders of the labour movement in the country to urgently investigate and unravel the underlying issues that led to the disruption of the elections of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) last week.
In a statement yesterday, he said the NLC held its triennial delegates conference at the International Conference Centre, Abuja and in the spirit of international solidarity, the conference was well attended by labour leaders from all over the world.
“As counsel to the Congress, I was invited to the conference. To the embarrassment of the country the conference was violently disrupted by hired thugs who carted away the ballot papers and other voting materials.
“Thus, the conference was abruptly disrupted, while the election of the national officers of the Congress was postponed indefinitely. Coming so soon after the simulated postponement of the nation’s general election, the failure of the Congress to conduct its election has further exposed the country to ridicule before the international community.
“The last time that the Congress witnessed a similar disruption of its election was at Benin, Edo state, in February, 1984, when the Ibrahim Babangida junta instigated an imaginary fictionalisation which led to the dissolution of the structures of the Congress. For four years thereafter, the Congress was in disarray, while the Structural Adjustment Programme SAP was imposed on the Nigerian people at the behest of imperialism, Falana said.
He added: “Hence, without a coordinated resistance from the labour movement, the junta successfully prosecuted the anti-people economic agenda of currency devaluation, retrenchment of workers, withdrawal of funding from social services, privatisation of public assets and other anti-peoples’ economic agenda.
“Although the Congress was restored in 1988, it was again proscribed together with the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) in 1994 by the Sani Abacha junta for demanding that a democratically elected government be inaugurated on the basis of the results of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
“As the 1993 scenario is being replayed by the service chiefs in cahoot with a faction of the ruling class, the country is once again on the edge of a precipice as the most organised civil society body in the country, the NLC cannot afford to be distracted at this critical period in the life of the nation.
“History is beckoning to the Congress to play a leading role in ensuring that the fragile democratic process in the country is not truncated by desperate anti-democratic forces. Therefore, the leadership of the Congress should probe the disruption of its conference, reconvene as soon as possible and conclude the conference with the election of its national officers. However, I urge the labour leaders to ensure that the election is conducted in strict compliance with the provisions of the registered Constitution of the Congress,” he said.