WORKERS in the oil and gas sector under the auspices the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) have called on President Muhammandu Buhari-led government, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and international community to leave no stone unturned in conducting free, fair and credible election.
They also charged them to ensure that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and other electronic devices slated to be used in the 2023 general election are not in any way tampered with.
PENGASSAN went on to link the growing multidimensional poverty in Nigeria to bad governance and policies, hence the reason it is sacrosanct to conduct credible elections in 2023 and ensuring that leaders with prerequisite capacity to bring the required change to the challenges facing the country are elected.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the security agencies and other key actors in the electoral process should use this window to reassure Nigerians that 2023 general election will be credible, free and fair.
“Specifically, the aspects dealing with the use of electronic devices such as the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machine should not be toyed with if we truly desire elections that will stand the taste of times” the union said.
Comrade Festus Osifo, PENGASSAN National President, who said this at the opening secession of the union’s National Executive Council meeting in Abuja further said, “We sound a note of warning to the four recently sworn-in Resident Electoral Commissioners who, despite oppositions from the Civil Society Organisations, scaled through the partisan screening processes. Nigerians will be watching them and the roles they will play in the forthcoming elections.”
On the link between elections, political office holders, good governance and worsening poverty situation in the country, the union expressed anger that those elected to bring dividends of democracy to Nigerians are rather inflicting more hardship and poverty on the citizens.
“We are worried at the ever-increasing poverty status of Nigerians despite the abundance of human and natural resources. A report by the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the National Bureau of Statistics on the results of the 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) Survey released in November 2022, shows that poverty in all ramifications has gotten to an all time worse.
“The survey, which was a collaborative effort between the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), etc., was conducted between November 2021 and February 2022, and provides multidimensional poverty estimates at senatorial district level,” the union said.
PENGASSAN also reiterated its position on pension for political office holders and wage increment for workers. The union insisted that workers and poor Nigerian masses rather deserved wage increase and social protection benefits instead of politicians.
“Nigeria has suffered two recessions in five years under this present administration with the workers and the poor masses left to bear the brunt, and the economy remains in a bad shape on all fronts. Based on the above summations, we view the recent clamour by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to increase the salaries and allowances of top public office holders as highly insensitive and an affront to the struggling masses and the working class.
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“The only group entitled to pay rise are the downtrodden Nigeria workers and at best, Nigeria judges. The president, his vice, governors, lawmakers and other political appointees do not require pay rise. The Economist of London already lists Nigeria’s lawmakers as the highest paid in the world.
“It is therefore provocative to consider increasing their pay packages without acceptable justification. We are also saddened by the continuous payment of pensions to ex-governors and their deputies even in states nearing insolvency.
“More painful is the fact that many states are not paying the N30,000 national minimum wage, who implementation commenced in 2019. Pensioners in some states have not been paid for 75 months or more with backlogs of unpaid salaries while others deduct workers’ pension contributions and fail t remit to the Pension Fund Administrator which, by law, is a criminal offence.
“Upon these challenges of poverty and want among the citizenry, former governors and their deputies in some states receive huge pensions for life, excluding cars and houses at regular intervals for an official that served for a maximum of eight years. This makes no sense. More so, some past state governors that draw such gargantuan pension from their poor states are current senators in the National Assembly who also earn salaries and gigantic allowances from the federal purse.
“PENGSSAN therefore, demands for the stoppage of pension to all political office holders and kill any idea of further increasing their salaries until they justify such increment by first putting the economy in a proper shape and lifting millions of Nigerians out of poverty,” the union added.