Prof. Itse Sagay

The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption has kicked against the suggestion that the labour unions should have representatives in the committee.

PACAC, which is led by Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), said the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, being not free of corruption themselves and their leaders not being ‘saints’, could not be part of the committee.

“The labour leaders are corrupt,” declared Prof. Femi Odekunle, a member of PACAC, who stressed that the NLC and the TUC had over the years been compromised and their leaders no longer trustworthy.

The acting Secretary General of the TUC, Mr. Simeso Amachree, had, while speaking on Tuesday in Ikeja, Lagos, during an interactive session between PACAC, media and civil society organisations, demanded that the Nigeria Labour Congress, the TUC and CSOs, being major and experienced stakeholders in the struggle against corruption, should be represented in PACAC.

“I wonder why we are not carried along,” Amachree said, adding that “we have the experience, we have the structure. We should have at least one representative of the NLC, one representative of the TUC and one representative of the CSOs in the committee.”

But the idea was instantly rejected by Odekunle, who said labour unions no longer protest against corruption or where they protest, they don’t persevere before their leaders would be compromised through the back door.

Also rejecting the idea, the Executive Secretary of PACAC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said the fact that labour unions were not protesting against the alleged graft in the National Assembly was the evidence that their leaders were either collaborators or beneficiaries.

He added, “Many state governments, by manipulating their Houses of Assembly, got laws passed to give humongous sums of money to governors who spent four or eight years in office, and then you build houses for them in Abuja, meanwhile they cannot pay salaries of workers of the state and yet labour has never said a word…somebody served for four years, then he gets a life pension, meanwhile people who have been working for 35 years before they retired, they don’t get their pensions and labour keeps quiet and you expect us to accept that there is no compromise in labour leadership? I think it’s not rocket science, the labour leadership is badly compromised.”

Also repulsed by Amachree’s suggestion, another member of PACAC, Prof. Etannibi Alemika, berated labour leaders for thinking that they had expertise in fighting corruption and should be invited by PACAC to help.

He said, “I’m a little bit disappointed, because you are thinking that this problem is PACAC’s problems that you have solutions to. No. We are talking about Nigerian problem of corruption.”

Taking the final bite, Sagay said labour leaders did not need to be members of PACAC to fight corruption.

He said, “In any case, you don’t need to belong to PACAC to fight corruption; PACAC is not made up of representatives of any groups or sectors. Fight corruption from your own organisation and if we invite you, participate, you don’t have to say unless you are a member of PACAC. How many members will PACAC have if we have to invite representatives from every sector? I think that is a very wrong attitude, very negative attitude!”

“Mr. Chairman, I only proposed an idea, I didn’t make it a condition,” Amachree cut in but Sagay responded, “It’s not a good idea!”

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