Nigeria’s umbrella union body, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has demanded the resignation of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) following reports that he called for half of the country’s civil servants to be sacked.
CBN governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who last year was named African of the Year by Forbes magazine and also made Time magazine’s top 100 list, was speaking at the Annual Capital Market Retreat in the oil rich city of Warri in southern Nigeria when he allegedly made the controversial comments.
He reportedly said that Nigeria could not build its economy if 70 per cent of its earning went to salaries and entitlements of civil servants, a statement which his representatives later said were taken out of context.
However, unions and labour activists were incensed. NLC president Abdulwahed Omar described Sanusi as an “agent of death” whose measures were destroying the Nigerian economy.
“Since assumption of office as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, all Sanusi’s major pronouncements have been either directly anti-people or ruinous to the Nigerian economy,” said Omar in a statement.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with an estimated 162 million inhabitants but despite being the continent’s leading oil producer, more than half of its people live in poverty.
Omar said Nigeria’s economic problems could not be blamed on overspending on civil servants but on corruption and lack of good governance.
“Even if you sack all the workers in Nigeria, any amount saved from that will be stolen and the culprits will walk in freedom,” he said.
The NLC is the largest trade union in Africa with an estimated four million members and 29 affiliated unions.
Nigeria is said to have 2,602,000 public sector employees, with majority belonging to unions affiliated to the NLC.
But the country suffers from huge unemployment – according to the National Bureau of Statistic 23.9 per cent of Nigerians are unemployed while the youth unemployment rate stands at 35.9 per cent.
Any mass sackings would contribute to the country’s already saturated employment market.
“It is obvious Sanusi was never qualified for the office of CBN governor in the first instance, and he must be asked to leave the office as he has shown more than enough incompetence and contempt for the Nigerian people,’’ the NLC said.
Although the CBN has challenged the veracity of the governor’s quoted comments he was recently criticised by Nigeria’s House of Representatives for proposing a cut in the number of federal lawmakers to help Nigeria’s shrinking economy.
And earlier this year, state government of Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos dismissed 788 doctors for participating in a three-day strike.
However, the federal government has tried to allay fears of mass sackings amongst civil servants by offering assurances that no workers will lose their jobs and that the government is working to address the country’s high unemployment.
Speaking at the eight national Labour Relations Summit Labour Minister Chief Emeka Wogu, said the administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was particularly focused on the problem facing young people in Nigeria.