On behalf of the leadership of Congress and my colleague members of the Organising Committee of the 40th Anniversary celebration of the founding of the Nigeria Labour Congress, I warmly welcome you to this special briefing.
As a number of you present at this briefing already may be aware, the NLC will be exactly 40 years next week Wednesday, 28th February 2018. It was on that date, that the ancient city of Ibadan played host to the inaugural conference of the current Nigeria Labour Congress, 40 years ago in February 1978.
Composition of Organising Committee
When the National Executive Council (NEC) of Congress took the decision to celebrate this special anniversary, the Congress leadership empaneled the Organising Committee under my humble self to plan and advice the Congress on how the anniversary should be commemorated. In all my years of service to the labour movement, and the NLC in particular, this committee is perhaps the most distinguished I have thus far had the privilege of chairing. A decade ago, I had the honour of chairing the celebration of the NLC at 30 events. However, the calibre of the membership of the current organising committee certainly dwarfs the previous one I chaired.
On this organizing committee, the Congress leadership took advantage of our blessing in having around and active the very top leaders of NLC from its founding days. We have serving with me on the committee, Comrades Hassan Adebayo Sunmonu and Aliyu Dangiwa, the founding President and General Secretary of Congress. Both are here physically at this briefing.
Also, serving on the committee is Comrade S.O.Z. Ejiofoh, who was the first General Secretary to be appointed for an industrial union in 1977, just before the inauguration of NLC the following year. He was also the longest serving General Secretary in the history of Congress till he retired some seven years ago.
Comrade Salisu Mohammed, another member of the committee, joined the Congress secretariat as Head of Information in 1982 and left in September 1999 as acting General Secretary some months after Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was elected President of Congress. Another member of the committee is Comrade John Odah, who became the 3rd General Secretary of Congress in 2001 till his retirement in April 2013. My colleague Deputy President of Congress, Comrade Kiri Mohammed is another member of the committee, with Comrade Benson Upah, Head of Information of NLC as secretary of the committee.
Ladies and gentlemen, you can see why I said from the onset that this particular committee is very unique. This stems from the fact that it is not often in the life of a 40 year old organisation that you have the pioneer President and General Secretary actively participating in the organisation of how to celebrate the occasion. Coupled with the cumulative experience of other members of the committee, one can safely say that we feel fully blessed to have such a distinguished committee.
Objectives of the Anniversary Celebration
The present NLC in the period of its existence from 1978 till date has, like any human organisation, witnessed a number of trials and struggles. On two different occasions since the formation of Congress, its leadership has been dissolved by military regimes of General Babangida, between March and December 1988, and by General Abacha in 1994 till his demise in June 1998, before we again reclaimed our organisation two months later in August 1999.
In the period in between, the Congress has encountered a number of challenges, gone into battle with government and other employers, and won some memorable victories for Nigerian workers in particular and the mass of our people in general.
Reaching our first 40 years is therefore an opportunity to celebrate an opportunity to reflect on decades of struggles, the impediments, the successes, and to outline the immediate and medium-term challenges facing our movement as we march towards the golden jubilee of this Congress in another ten years.
The broad objectives of our commemorating this anniversary are therefore fourfold, namely:
· To celebrate forty years of struggle and perseverance as a working class organisation
· To highlight Congress history and its accomplishments.
· To reflect on the challenges facing the NLC and the wider labour movement and identify ways these challenges can be addressed; and
· To articulate an agenda for Congress in the next ten years as it made marches towards its Golden Jubilee.
Programme of the Anniversary Celebration
The programme of commemorating this anniversary is being marked at two levels – at the State level and at the national level. Throughout the 36 states of the federation and the FCT, from today Thursday 22nd February 2018, the celebration has started, with public lectures. Tomorrow, all Muslim faithful will go to the Mosque across the country, as part of the anniversary. On Saturday, 24th February, there will be novelty football matches in the states, followed by cultural/Gala night in the evening. On Sunday, our Christian faithful will congregate in Churches across the country and pray for the working people of this nation.
At the National level, Muslim prayers will be held at the Central Mosque this Friday, while the National Ecumenical Centre will host the Christian prayers on Sunday, 25th February.
A formal Opening Session of the National Programme of the anniversary will hold at the International Conference Centre, here at the Central Business District on Monday, 26th February, 2018. This will be followed by an anniversary lecture that will be delivered by Prof. Attahiru Jega, a renowned trade unionist in his own right, former President of ASUU during the turbulent IBB years as military Head of State, and immediate past Chairman of INEC.
Day two of the national event will have the viewing of the documentary on NLC at 40, which is a one-hour documentary commissioned by the Congress for the anniversary of the Congress. This will be followed by another anniversary lecture on “the Future World of Work”. This will be delivered by the Director General of International Labour Organisation (ILO), Mr Guy Ryder from the ILO headquarters in Geneva.
Day three, which is the final day of the celebration, will begin with a lecture on the theme of the anniversary: “NLC, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. Long standing working class intellectual, Prof. Toye Olorode, an ASUU stalwart, will be the Guest Lecturer.
Comrade Olorode will spotlight the contribution of workers to National Development and Social Justice in his presentation.
The evening programme, which is tagged; Gala/Award Night will climax the anniversary celebration. On this occasion, apart from the traditional cultural display, there will be awards and recognition giving to selected persons in appreciation of their contributions to NLC or the entire labour movement over the years. These range from long service awards to deserving staff of Congress, awards to past and present leaders of the NLC and the preceding generation before the current NLC was formed.
In the above respect, awards will be given in the General category of contribution to the cause of the working people; a 2nd category will be recognition of intellectuals of the working class; another is those who have used their legal practice to promote the cause of the working class. There will also be recognition for female trade unionists and activists who made path-finding contributions to our effort to involve and integrate women in trade union activities.
We shall use this occasion to induct a number of our veterans into the Labour Hall of Fame. This, as is the practice, is the ultimate in the scheme of awards.
These recognitions and awards have been designed on the basis of the following criteria, namely:
a) Individual or organisation’s contribution to the development of the NLC and the working-class movement in Nigeria
b) Commitment and sacrifice to the cause and development of Nigerian workers and the NLC
c) Legal and intellectual contribution to the growth and struggles of NLC and the Labour movement in Nigeria
d) Contribution by women or in furtherance of women participation in trade union activities in the country
e) Supreme sacrifice in pursuance of the cause of the working people in the country
f) Landmark contribution to the cause of workers in the country.
Presentation of Brief History of the NLC
One of the highlights of this anniversary celebration will be the Public Presentation of a Brief History of the NLC. The publication will subsequently be expanded in a later edition, which will be done in a few months. This is particularly important because in these four decades of Congress existence, there hasn’t been such documentation.
Re-launch of Congress Labour College Endowment Fund
In this anniversary year of the Congress, soon after the formal celebrations are completed, we will turn our attention to planning in earnest for the re-launch of the NLC Labour College Endowment Fund. This is being done based on the realisation of the necessity to operationalise a full fledge labour college to serve NLC and its affiliates.
It will be recalled that in the early 1990s, following the failure of the then NLC leadership to convince the military regime to hand over the Michael Imoudu Institute of Labour Studies, Ilorin, Kwara State to the NLC to manage exclusively, the Comrade Bafyau leadership of Congress launched a Labour College Endowment Fund at the National Arts Theatre in Igamu, Lagos. We raised over N10 million then and put it in a fix deposit. This amount which is today’s value is over N400 million was one of the casualties of Abacha’s
sole administratorship in the NLC, as it was withdrawn and squandered by the government appointed Sole Administrator.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, in the preceding paragraphs of the briefing, we have strived to do our narrative within 40 years of the emergence of the current NLC. However, this celebration is not just about this era.
We are also celebrating the era of the advent of trade unionism in our country and the Labour Movement’s contribution to the anti-colonial struggles. This anniversary is therefore organically linked to the August 1912 formation of what is today known as Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU). It is also about the 1945 general strike for Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) led by Labour Leader No. 1, Pa. Michael Imoudu. This strike lasted all of 52 days. It is also about the 1949 Iva Valley Massacre of coal miners by the colonial police which directly fuelled the agitation for self-rule and independence from Britain.
It is similarly about the 1st NLC, which was again led by Pa Imoudu as President. This celebration is also about the 2nd NLC which came about famously as a result of the Apena Cemetery declaration, in September 1974, when leaders of the then existing four national centres, the United Labour Congress of Nigeria (ULCN), the Nigeria Trade Union Congress (NTUC), the Labour Unity Front (LUF), and the Nigerian Workers Council (NWC) decided to form a new United Central Labour Organisation. The occasion was at the burial of Treasurer of ULCN, Comrade J.A. Oduleye at Apena Cemetery. This gave birth to the 2nd NLC which came into been at the end of the December 1975 Unity Conference. Comrade Wahab Goodluck was the President of the 2nd NLC. Of course, the second NLC had a very short life span, because the military administration fought its coming into being and soon after proscribed it.
Therefore, when we say this is an anniversary to reflect our struggles, our trials, our successes and triumphs, we have a long history to reflect on.
Gentlemen of the press, on behalf of my colleagues on the Organising Committee, I thank you most profusely for taking time to honour our invitation