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How we stopped Okorocha from short-changing pensioners – Durueke

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How we stopped Okorocha from short-changing pensioners – Durueke

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“What happened in Imo State was that the government issued a notice where it unilaterally cut the pension benefits of the pensioners.”

Magnus Eze, Enugu

Uche Durueke, Executive Director of Centre for Peace Across Borders, led the Nigerian Bar Association’s team that represented Imo pensioners and secured judgment against the administration of Governor Rochas Okorocha for making illegal deductions on their pensions.

READ ALSO: Okorocha releases N16.568bn for salaries, pension – Commissioner

He speaks on the unending National Minimum Wage impasse and what the parties should do.

We have this back and forth issue over the new national minimum wage; what do you think is the solution?

First and foremost, the issue of wage in this country is reflected in chapter four of the constitution. If you go there, you will find that the constitution provides for what it calls living minimum wage for the Nigerian worker. So, I think that this is the framework that in negotiating minimum wage; the question should be the wage that we are asking for or the wage that we are saying that we are not going to pay, will it satisfy the minimum living wage for a Nigerian worker? And this will take a lot of things into consideration. The present status of our economy in terms of market demands and also family demands; if you take what is being paid in some other countries that Nigeria is better than, you will find out that many of them are earning more than the Nigerian worker. So, on that basis, if you talk about salary increase for Nigerian worker, I will say yes.

But one thing about salary and the economy is that, if the economy is well organised and our money is strong enough, we don’t need to have a bloated kind of sums of money going out there because what we get will give us more than what we will get now; than what we are asking. The point I am trying to

make is that the demand by the Nigerian worker is not a greedy demand. It is a demand that is anchored on the prevailing economic situation in the country. For me, I will want the government to see it that way because today we’re all going to buy things from the same market; our children go to the same school. A city like Enugu, if your child is in private school, how much does the school take; and if you have about three or four of them, you can’t train them. Look at the issues of hospitals too. So, these are the issues. As far as I am concerned, I think that whatever process that is left should be fast track by the Federal Government. There is nothing to hide about it. The nation belongs to all of us.

What do you say about this fear that bloated salary could cause inflation?

That was the point I made earlier. Yes! It is a fear but the situation is that if you don’t increase salary and there is still inflation, how would you address it? What is the cushioning package; if you say ‘I am not going to increase salary because of this fear’, what is the cushioning package that you are going to give to the workers?

(Cuts in) Does that bring the issue of social security?

That is the thing. That is the point I am making. We don’t have that kind of functioning security regime in the country. For you to say ‘ok where your salary is not reviewed upward, that is being cushioned by these, these, and that.’ What is the cushioning package that you are going to give to the workers? The situation is a dicey one. How will the worker survive? That is the challenge. Yes! People would say that we have National Health Insurance Scheme. How many workers are benefiting from that and to what extent? Talking about pension, you will find out that many pensioners are being owed. If you look at it, you will discover that many are depending on the little that they were able to save while working. If you are unable to save, what happens when you retire or disabled in the course of your job? We need to start getting some of these things right in terms of our governance processes. I think that if we are able to fix our governance challenges, some of these issues might not be a big issue if the economy is stable.

Since it will be difficult to implement the various national social security laws, would you recommend a national policy while the states have their own laws on social security?

If we have a national policy that is not a law, it will be difficult. I grew up in Enugu and I can say that it is my second home. I come from a civil service home.

I can recollect that as a young lad in this town, if I was sick, I would just go to Park Lane Hospital and get treated because my father was a civil servant. Today, you find out that those facilities are not there across the country. It might just be in one or two states. Those days, you find that civil servants in many establishments had quarters. Today, it is not like that because we are talking about monetisation. You can see the challenge. Those years, workers had means of transportation. But it is not like that.

You were fighting for the pensioners in Imo State when government allegedly wanted to short-change them. What actually happened?

What happened in Imo State was that the government issued a notice where it unilaterally cut the pension benefits of the pensioners. Whether it is N1 or N2 that the pensioner gets, it should be 100 percent. The government slashed 60 percent and said that it would give them 40 percent and the pensioners protested it different times. The Nigerian Bar Association stepped in and decided that it would give them legal assistance. I had the privilege to lead the legal team for the NBA and we went to court and our case was that the government hadn’t the power to slash the pension of the pensioners; that that particular act was illegal. The matter proceeded into arguments and the court heard us and gave judgement in favour of the pensioners. But the basic issue today that one must ask is: are the pensioners being paid regularly as they ought to be paid? The answer is no. Though recently, I read that the state government said that it would pay them about N5 billion or so. I don’t have the correct figure here. From the documentation that I have, the amount that the government owes the pensioners is more than the amount it said that it would pay.

READ ALSO: Yuletide: Gov Obiano donates 100,000 bags of rice to workers, pensioners

The post How we stopped Okorocha from short-changing pensioners – Durueke appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

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CATHOLIC WORLD

Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump – CAN fumes

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Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump - CAN fumes

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s revelation of his conversation with United States President, Donald Trump, on the massacre of Christians in Nigeria, saying President Buhari was economical with the truth.

President Buhari had on Tuesday, revealed that at the heat of the bloody clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, the United States President, Donald Trump, unequivocally accused him of killing Christians.

Buhari said these in his closing remarks at the two-day ministerial performance review retreat held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

At a point, the President digressed from his prepared speech and narrated his encounter with Trump on the bloody clashes.

He said he managed to explain to the American leader that the clashes were not about ethnicity or religion.

He said, “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries the President of United States invited.

“When I was in his office, only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, and asked, ‘Why are you killing Christians?’

“I wonder, if you were the person, how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion, so I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and farmers, I know is older than me not to talk of him. I think I am a couple of years older than him.

“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root, to your water point, then they will follow it. It doesn’t matter whose farm it is.

“The First Republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle route where they used meager resources then to put earth dams, wind mills even sanitary department.

“So, any cattle rearers that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm would be arrested, taken before the court. The farmer would be called to submit his bill and if he couldn’t pay, the cattle would be sold, but subsequent leaders, the VVIPs (very important persons) encroached on the cattle routes. They took over the cattle rearing areas.

“So, I tried and explained to him (Trump) that this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing.”

However, CAN’s Vice President and Chairman of the association in Kaduna State, John Hayab, was not impressed with Buhari’s submission, saying “Buhari and his government will never stop from amusing us with their tales by moonlight because what is happening in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau and others cannot be described as a cultural thing.

He told Punch correspondent in an interview: “President Buhari’s weak story about his conversation with President Donald Trump further confirms why his government does not care about the killings in our country by calling them cultural things.

“Just this (Tuesday) evening, I received a report from the Kaduna Baptist Conference President about the number of their members that have been killed by bandits in Kaduna State from January 2020 to date to be 105 and our President will call it a cultural thing? All we can say is may God save our Nigeria.”

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NATIONAL NEWS

CAMA: Bishop blasts Christian lawmakers

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CAMA: Bishop blasts Christian lawmakers

The Catholic Bishop of Nsukka, Most Rev. Godfrey Onah, has blamed Christians in the National Assembly (NASS), for the passage of the 2020 Companies and Allied Matters Bill (CAMA), signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari recently.

Bishop Onah, said in a remark during the Sunday Mass that if Christians in NASS had opposed the bill, it would not have been passed into law.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Aug. 7, signed the CAMA bill into law, giving provision for religious bodies and charity organizations to be regulated by the registrar of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and a supervising minister.

“The question many Christians have been asking is, where were Christian legislators during the debate of this bill and its passage in the National Assembly?

“Because, if they had opposed this bill on the floor of the house, it would not have been passed and sent to the president for assent.

“I blame Christian legislators for doing nothing and allowing the passage of the 2020 CAMA Act,” he said.

“When I say that Christians are too divided and too selfish, don’t forget that the second in command in this country is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a professor of Law and a pastor.”

Onah, however, wondered what the Federal Government wanted to achieve in monitoring how the finances of churches in the country are managed when it contributed no dime to the church, NAN reports.

“Government should focus and monitor its ministries, agencies and other government institutions where it budgets billions of Naira annually and not church offerings.

“Had it been that the government gave allocations to churches and decided to monitor its usage, nobody will question the government,” he said.

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NATIONAL NEWS

Nigerians spit fire over fuel, electricity prices hike

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Increasing Fuel and Electricity Prices

Anger and condemnations, across the country, have continued to trail last week’s take off, of new increases in pump price of petroleum products and electricity tariffs, as directed by Federal Government.

Recall that the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) official, D.O. Abalaka announced on Wednesday September 3, on behalf of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that the new price of petroleum is now N151.56k per litre instead of N149 – N150 per litre which it was previously.

The new electricity tariff which the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) tagged “Service Reflective Tariff” has also come into effect. It requires consumers to pay N53.87 – N66.422 per kwh of electricity.

Outraged consumers of fuel and electricity have therefore warned government to get ready for collision with the masses if it fails to rescind these new prices.

Those who have expressed outrage over the new prices regimes include, the Organized Labour, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Nigerian main opposition political party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and the Major Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN).

Others are: Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce (NACCIMA).

The NLC said, “The frequent fuel price increase will no longer be accepted. We will not allow Nigerians fall victim of government ineptitude and negligence to make the country self-sufficient in terms of refining petroleum products at home.”

On its part, the PDP has described the price hike as “callous, cruel and punishing” and demanded an immediate reversal to avert a national crisis.

The All Industrial Global sees the incessant increase as a confirmation that deregulation means just price increase.

“This is unacceptable! Under a pandemic, we should put money in the pockets of citizens to revive collapsed livelihoods and preserve lives.” In its reaction, NECA said it has always urged Federal Government to adopt deregulation policy in the oil and gas downstream sector.

The MOMAN in its statement insists that monthly price variation of fuel was no longer sustainable. It urged PPRA to adopt quarterly price mechanism which would save the market the hassles of price volatility. The statements by IPMAN and NACCIMA also followed along the same line that the hike “…serves only to increase the severity and duration of the looming economic recession.”

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