Public Service Day: Press Statement from the NLC

Keywords : ILLICIT FINANCIAL FLOWS - “STOP THE BLEEDING” Declarations Human and trade union rights Nigeria

TIME TO ACT IS NOW

On the occasion of the commemoration of the Public Service Day, Thursday, June 23, 2016, we at the Nigeria Labour Congress, congratulate workers, especially the public sector workers to whom this day is dedicated, for their commitment, devotion and sacrifice and without whom there would be no public service or programmes.

Whereas the State along-side its core development partners is the instrument for transforming the life conditions of the people, the Public Service is the infrastructure for service-delivery, and accordingly is the soul, the conscience, the memory, the unseen force in the projection of national sovereignty and power and the preserver and furtherer of core national values and interests.

In order for it to deliver on its mandate, we need a strong and professional Public Service, fully equipped and alive to its responsibilities. The commemoration of Public Service avails us the opportunity of re-stating that one of the effective and genuine ways of tackling poverty, inequality, want, deprivation and misery in Africa is to consciously and consistently implement state-driven public services delivery programmes and not to privatize them.

Accordingly, we call on the Nigeria government to scale down, halt and reverse where possible, the decision to privatize public services. According to the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the state still remains the driver of the commanding heights of the economy, and the provider of jobs and services.

Congress holds the strong view that aggressive privatization should not be an excuse for failing to stem illicit financial flows(IFF) from Nigeria in particular and Africa in general.

The case for serious, aggressive, brave and sustainable inward looking cannot be more urgent now that the country is confronted by near-unprecedented economic challenges to the extent that the performance of basic and fundamental state duties such as payment of salaries and pension as when due is under real threat.

We note with concern that 16 months after the African Union-Economic Commission for Africa (AU-ECA) report on Illicit-Financial Flows (IFF) from Africa was adopted by the AU Heads of State in Addis Ababa, no action has been taken by the Africa Heads of State even when the report pointedly said $50billion is lost to Africa annually through IFF activities. The report had noted that IFF activities in Nigeria, especially in the oil sector is “humongus and ravenous”.

The need for action is underscored by the increasing poverty and social discontent in the land. Congress is concerned that little or no progress has been made with regard to the implementation of the recommendations in the Mbeki Panel Report. The recent Panama Papers leak further exposes the depth of the financial hemorrhage to which Africa is exposed as asset theft and tax evasion schemes and activities go unchecked.

Congress is not in doubt that these lost revenues would boost and complement finances necessary for achieving the roll-out of social services that could considerably alter the quality of life of the citizenry.

Rather than commit the same zeal and attention to dealing with these criminalities and their perpetrators for which Congress will ever be ready to support the government, we are not amused that government has chosen to pursue tax policies such as increasing Value Added Tax, raise the pump price of petroleum products, devalue the Naira and other policies that will punish the poor and exacerbate the hardship and miseries of indigent households.

In light of the foregoing, we find it important and necessary to restate some of the urgent and cardinal thrusts of the report’s recommendations and call on our government to without further delay undertake the necessary implementation of the following:

1. African countries should seek and pursue effective cooperation with themselves and other developing countries, particularly in terms of tax policy, practices and information-sharing.

2. African governments should strive to eliminate undermining and damaging tax competition with and amongst them. In essence, tax concession in relation to attracting Foreign Direct Investment should be critically rethought.

3. African governments should seek cooperation with other developing countries to enforce multilateral adoption and implementation of measures to end financial and corporate secrecy jurisdictions which have contributed in major ways to the fledging of tax havens and thus loss of revenues to African governments. The revelations from the Panama Papers leak speak eloquently to this fact and the need to scale up preventive actions against secrecy tax jurisdictions.

4. On the strength of new revelations in terms of how Multinational Corporations have undermined revenue prospects of Africans countries, particularly in the extractive industry, Africa should commence processes to re-negotiate existing mining and exploration contracts as well as take other anti-mineral revenue theft measures.

5. African governments must commit to train and retrain personnel with the view to build, improve and deepen the skills, competences and knowledge needed for effective tax administration.

6. Importantly, tax regimes that place heavy burden and responsibilities on the working poor should be readjusted progressively, whilst sanctions should be improved to rein in the rich and corporate entities that have continued to evade tax payment.

Nigeria must stand up as a strong and resolute voice in this struggle to stop the bleeding of Africa, as well as work to use tax revenues to finance social services delivery and not to continue to privatize public services to the detriment and exclusion of the poor and needy.

Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni.

President.

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