" ITREALMS: Corruption, hypocrisy of service in Nigeria Labour Congress

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Corruption, hypocrisy of service in Nigeria Labour Congress

I felt abused the other day I read the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) say it was planning a nationwide protest against the high level of corruption that had been going on in the country. I felt amused and abused at the same time because the NLC, at the moment, seems not to have any credibility to march against corruption. By their public utterance to march against corruption in Nigeria, I felt that even the NLC has joined the horde other categories of Nigerians in deceiving Nigerians.

My advice to NLC is that it should first remove the log of wood in its own eyes before it would want to remove the line in another person’s eyes.

I have never felt this bitter and demoralized any other time I was hoodwinked than I felt when the NLC, a labour union that once fought for the welfare of the common workers, joined in deceiving the common workers and aided perpetration of fraud against its own; and funny enough, that same NLC is planning a nationwide walk against corruption. 

The President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, would recall that while people were congratulating him on his election, though controversial as at that time, I reminded him to treat the issue of the NLC-Kriston Lally and Nigerian workers with caution. I told him that he needed to salvage the image of the NLC by going out of his own way to resolve that fraud case and pacify all subscribers to that housing fund. But over 4 months into his administration, Wabba has not demonstrated any will to look different from his predecessor, Abdulwaheed Omar, who presided over the fraudulent housing scheme.

One of the strongpoints of fraudulent people is to identify the pervading needs of their victims and then capitalize on that need to hoodwink them. All fraudsters use this trick, including the 419ners. It was that same trick that the NLC, in collaboration with Kriston-Lally, who claimed to be a Greece based Real Estate Developer, used. They understood the precarious condition of government workers all over Nigeria and therefore identified workers with the following:

*These people are the worst-hit by issue of house-rent, especially in Abuja. Therefore, they would jump at any offer to help them secure a house.

*These people, judging from the levels of their income, cannot afford a home in Abuja without a help, therefore, offering to help them get a home will get them at once.

*These people are helpless people; they don’t have any other mouthpiece and they would depend on the NLC. Therefore, the NLC is the only way to get them part with their hard-earned money.

*These people cannot afford to prosecute their case in any court of law. Therefore, even when they discover that they are being cheated, they cannot do anything about it.

Finally and most depraving, these people are fools and hard fools. They don’t know their rights.

The NLC/Kriston Lally worked this plan well and decided to dish out misinformation, through staff unions and multi-purpose cooperative societies, to workers, especially in Abuja, promising them of affordable houses if they are able to pay a 10-percent down payment of the total sum at a time, then they would spread the remaining sum over a period of 10-15 years. The ultimate promise was that “successful” workers would own a home in a space of one year.

This idea sounded sweet in the ears of workers especially when the NLC is the one being used as a bait. Therefore, millions of workers keyed into the scheme. It was gathered that most staff who did not have a 10-percent down payment for their preferred houses, which ranged from N700,000 (Seven Hundred Thousand Naira) to N1,500,000 (One Million, Five Hundred Thousand Naira) went to the bank to borrow money. Some had to sell their belonging to be a part of the NLC scheme. The general belief by majority of the people is that if the NLC is involved, the project would not be a fraud. So, everyone jumped at it.

At the NLC-Kriston Lally designated bank, where people were asked to pay in their monies, it was gathered that there had never been another housing project in Nigeria which attracted such huge patronage like the NLC-Kriston-Lally. One of the bankers said people were interested because the NLC is involved. That same banker lamented that he was unable to subscribe to the project because of some family issues which took all his savings as at that time. But he assured himself that such opportunities will surely come his ways again and by that time, God willing, he would be able to be a part of them.

But therefore was something sinister about the whole project which was revealed to the subscribers only when they had paid money into the designated account. In the agreement form, there is a clause…that no subscriber should take any other dispute resolution channels, for instance, going to court, should any problem arise, except the one approved by the NLC itself. Some of the subscribers felt tinged by such clause and asked some questions, “does it mean that these people are expecting that problems will arise in this scheme?” “even if crises arise, it is normal, but why should the NLC forbid subscribers from taking the NLC/Kriston Lally to court? But at that time, the subscribers had gone deep into this fraud and there was no easy way of going back.

Time fled by and by the time the NLC promised the subscribers that there will be houses, it was learnt that the project had not even secured a plot of land for the project. At the time, the NLC started trying its hands on fooling the subscribers. There were series of false and unbelievable information coming from the NLC/Kriston Lally quarters.That means that by the time the NLC told workers that the houses are at Apo and Karu in Abuja, there was no place on earth where they had marked for the project. Then I asked myself, why should the NLC be a part of this? The NLC of all unions. 

However, workers remained calm and hoped for the better. People still hoped that at least, since the NLC is involved, if they project could not materialize, subscribers will have their monies back. Then their fears came to reality. They had been deceived. There was no land anywhere in the world where the NLC planned to build houses for workers. There was no plan, in the first place, to build any mass housing for subscribers. What they planned is how to extort money from the poor workers then share among themselves according to the degrees of their contributions to deceiving the workers.

For about one year now, the issue is no longer whether there will be houses for subscribers, the issue now is whether the subscribers will ever get their monies back. But this is a project which was initiated by the NLC and communicated to workers through their staff unions. In most government establishments, the NLC used workers’ unions to collect the 10-percent down payment for the houses. And now, the workers are having difficulty getting their monies back.

Reports have it that subscribers should brace-up for the worst: that the NLC is not planning to return their monies to them and at the same time, not planning to give them houses. That’s the worst in deed.
This revelation has forced affected workers to regroup to chart their own course. The workers in one of their meeting in Abuja metropolis said they had appointed arbitrators to speak on their behalf since the NLC can no longer speak on behalf of the workers.

However, “Nigerian factor” is unfortunately cropping up among the people who head workers’ regroup. The leaders of the group are claiming that they require a 15-percent of each person’s money to prosecute the case in court. That means that, should the court rule in favor of the workers, each worker will lose a 15-percent of the money they had paid to the NLC. That is really absurd and disturbing; because the NLC is involved in this. What has happened to the interest which the billions of Naira could have generated over 2 years in the banks?

When the NLC has mistakenly used its name and position to lure people into fraudulent transactions, why should the NLC shy away from prosecuting the case and getting justice for workers? It is suggestive if the NLC refuses to get justice for the subscribers. It suggests that the NLC cannot be a part in getting justice against itself. It means further that the NLC is a part of the whole game to steal the money of the poor workers.

It is most unfortunate that the NLC is playing this game under President Muhammadu Buhari administration where there is high expectation for anti-corruption. And to pull wool across our eyes, Wabba, spoke at the opening of the 2015 NLC Rain School in Uyo, AkwaIbom State, claiming that the NLC was going to march against corruption. If Wabba is not a part of the grand plan to defraud workers to the tune of billions of Naira, Wabba should first march against himself and the NLC and get the unions to pay back the workers’ monies if they cannot redeem their promise of using the monies to get them houses. 

Wabba said the NLC planned protests will be an expression of anger and total condemnation of corruption in the Nigeria. According to him, the Congress National Executive Council will hold in a few days’ time in Abuja where the congress leadership would ask National Executive Council of the union to declare a National Protest Action on corruption.

A section of the media reported Wabba as saying, “The Congress National Executive Council will hold in a few days’ time in Abuja; the congress leadership will ask NEC to declare a day of National Protest Action to highlight our anger at the massive corruption and bad governance of the recent past. “And make our case that all stolen wealth must be recovered, and those involved, face appropriate punishment for their crime,” and called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to release all the names of corrupt public officers that looted the national treasury.

Why NLC should be playing this pranks with the people? The NLC is taking Nigerians for fools. The NLC is highly recommended for Buharism: probe and appropriate sanction. The government of President Muhammadu Buhari Unless the NLC returns the money the collected from poor workers, Nigerians will not take NLC serious.

*Akunna Odii-Kelechi a public affairs analyst, sent in this piece from Abuja
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