ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, GCFR, AT THE 2013 MAY DAY CELEBRATION, ON WEDNESDAY 1ST MAY, 2013.
1. I am pleased to join you on this important day of solidarity with workers around the world. I salute you, all our hardworking men and women, who toil daily and relentlessly from sunrise to sunset for the progress of our great nation.
2. Over the years, through your valuable contribution and sacrifice, we have achieved significant reforms in various sectors of our national life, and made remarkable progress as a nation.
3. The struggles of workers around the world have indeed come a long way, since the 1st day of May was designated International Workers Day in 1904. Here at home, the historical development of Nigeria as a nation is closely linked to the history of the Trade Union Movement. The recognition of the Nigeria Civil Service Union, by the British Colonial Government as the first Trade union in the nation in 1912, set the pace for workers’ rights awareness and the bravery and principled agitations that manifested in the “Aba Women’s Riot” of 1929, the Coal Miners’ Strike of 1949, and several other workers legitimate demands for economic justice.
4. By pioneering organized rallying points for mass interest, these movements strengthened the nationalist struggle for independence, and provided the bedrock for a National labour platform, as today represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
5. Who can forget the dedication of the Teachers Unions?, the perseverance of Association of Civil Servants? the picket lines of the Road Transport Workers? or the resilience of the Textile Workers Union? and indeed the solidarity and sacrifice of so many others, which has enabled the hope we have today as a nation? I salute you all, your service and courage will never be in vain.
6. This year’s Labour Day can rightly be described as the Centenary Labour Day as it coincides with the hundred years of the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria. This year’s commemoration, appropriately affords special reflection and accords special recognition to the historical and contemporary importance of the Labour movement in the national project.
7. I have been informed that a good number of activities involving workers shall be reviewing “100 years of the Nigerian Worker”, with the theme – A Centenary Journey of Service and Struggles. This will include a landmark Symposium, and workers’ Lottery, to be administered by the Nigerian Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC). I thank the Nigerian Labour Movement for its support and involvement in organizing the Centenary Celebrations. I assure you of my support during the workers’ events.
8. The Nigerian worker is not only an important part of our history, but a pivot of our past, present and future. That is why we are leaving no stone unturned towards the practical enhancement of the welfare of all workers in both the private and public sectors, and in facilitating better relations with employers and government. Since the advent of this administration, our actions and policies have been geared towards placing the country on the path of sustainable progress, where everyone can better achieve his or her dreams. That is the thrust of our Transformation Agenda.
9. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the Transformation Agenda is about taking and implementing measures today, in order to give our people a brighter future. It is about creating jobs, creating wealth, and ensuring a better deal for Nigerians. This is an onerous task that requires the support of all our citizens.
10. Central to this Transformation is the creation of a politically stable environment in which economic development activities will flourish. To this end, we are strengthening our democratic institutions, and confronting the challenges facing our country with great determination and firmness.
11. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Labour has been in the forefront of the demand for good governance and increased action against corruption, and these issues are being vigorously tackled on various fronts. Prosecutions are being pursued in matters arising from Fuel subsidy fraud, Embezzlement of Pension funds and other serious longstanding malpractices demystified by this administration. I assure you of accelerated and expanded action against all forms of corruption. Given that some of these perpetrators are senior and junior members of labour unions, greater attention to peer review action on the part of labour, will be much appreciated.
12. As a result of our economic policies, there have been significant improvements in our economic fundamentals. Our economy grew by about 6.6% during 2012 and is set to grow at a similar pace in 2013 according to independent forecasts. This is quiet significant by global standards.
13. We have further reduced our fiscal deficit in the 2013 budget to 1.81% of GDP, and cut domestic borrowing. We have rebalanced our spending in favour of capital expenditure. The rate of inflation also dropped to single-digit territory at the beginning of this year.
14. At a time, many advanced and emerging markets are being downgraded, our sovereign credit ratings have been upgraded. We are however, not unmindful of the fact that the ultimate benefit of these encouraging results, must reflect on the lives of the most needy Nigerians. This remains our goal.
15. We are also focused on economic inclusion, with articulated strategy targeting the disadvantaged and unemployed in our society with economic opportunities in agriculture, entrepreneurial support, graduate employment and unskilled job programmes. We are also building robust social safety net programmes, targeting pregnant mothers and children in the health sector.
16. Through the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN!) programme we are supporting talented young entrepreneurs to set up or expand their businesses, and employ others.
17. Our port reforms are aimed at ensuring efficiency in the handling of ports and related businesses and achieving 48 hours clearance time for cargo. In the Power sector, the inevitable and painstaking task of correction, construction and consolidation, is on course, with the privatization of our electricity generation and distribution companies boosted with significant foreign investors’ participation and confidence. Our railroads, major airports and federal roads nationwide are also being comprehensively rehabilitated.
18. Diversifying the economy away from the oil sector into agriculture, housing, manufacturing, creative industries, and other sectors that generate jobs and grow the economy has long being a national goal and today, our Government is actualizing this as another fundamental goal of our reform agenda.
19. I would like to use this opportunity to thank the Labour Movement for its support of the Transformation Agenda. I assure you that our efforts are sincere and informed by the need to entrench good governance for the well-being of Nigerians.
20. Trade disputes are inevitable in all social environments, but with commitment to patriotic reason and dialogue, such disputes are easier resolved. In the interest of national development, I urge all the social partners – labour, employers etc. to embrace the rule of law in pursuit of their rights in the workplace. Due process would minimize the negative consequences caused by incessant industrial crisis in our nation.
21. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Labour movement in our country has historically been a partner in national progress. I enjoin you to responsibly continue your hard work, resilience and commitment to national development. We stand together in this transformation undertaking and together in partnership, we will succeed in building a new nation.
22. Insuleto! Inafrica!!
23. I Thank you