They said the awards were fast losing respect and credibility.
The list is made of 149 honourees from diverse fields with the highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Order of Niger, going to the Chairman of Globacom, Mike Adenuga.
Although they agreed that the 2012 list contains names of some honest and credible Nigerians, they said that people that were being probed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for fuel subsidy fraud and other infractions ought not to have been considered as honourees.
They also queried the rationale behind awarding the top national honours to businessmen while honest and hardworking Nigerians of modest economic means could not be decorated.
The organised labour specifically urged President Goodluck Jonathan to give deserved recognition through the awards to Nigerians who have contributed to national development.
Such individuals, according to them, include the winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, the Chief MKO Abiola; his late wife, Kudirat; erudite lawyer and foremost human rights crusader, Chief Gani Fawehinmi; labour activist, the late Chima Ubani; and Afrobeats legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
The Trade Union Congress and the Nigerian Labour Congress said that national honours were not meant for only wealthy Nigerians.
President of the TUC, Mr. Peter Esele, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, said it was improper for the Federal Government to give awards to people under investigation by the EFCC.
Esele said, “Well, there are people on the list who are of impeccable character; these are some of the Nigerians who have made serious contributions to national development.
“I mean people of integrity like the former Supreme Court Justice, Kayode Esho, whose works speak for him and others like him.
“However, if there are people being investigated by the EFCC for financial crimes, I think, the right thing to do is not to nominate them for such national award.
“Those investigated by the EFCC should not be given awards until they are cleared by the commission. The way we churn out these awards every year, it will reduce the importance attached to them. Honestly, I think they are becoming too many; this is not the situation in the United States where the President nominates about nine people and they are taken very seriously.
“You know that Nigerians are rated by the amount of money they have and not by the level of service rendered.”
The Acting General Secretary of the NLC, Mr. Chris Uyot, wondered why key figures who had made efforts in the protection of the Nigerian workers and activists who laid down their lives for the country did not make the list.
He said that the awards had become avenues exploited by the ruling class to take care of their colleagues and the super rich in the society.
He said, “Our view generally is that the ruling class are only taking care of themselves in terms of giving awards to their colleagues, their partners, money bags and the rest of them,
“A country that is so corrupt, where people are stealing billions of Naira and awards are giving to people who are maintaining the status quo of corruption.”
The NLC Acting secretary called on President Goodluck Jonathan to use his discretion to ensure that the national awards were not given to politicians and businessmen alone.
He said several great Nigerian who committed their lives to the service of the country had not been recognised because they were poor.
“The President should not depend on recommendations from party chieftains and friends from the business society. He should use his discretion to ensure that the searchlight is beamed on other segments of the society rather politicians and technocrats. Great Ubani, Gani Fawehinmi, MKO, Kudirat, Fela, and others did a lot for Nigeria.”
A lawyer and counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said the government should be careful in giving the highest honours in the country to businessmen.
Speaking to our correspondent on the telephone, Jacobs said, “The highest honours of the land are being given to businessmen. I think the government should have a rethink on that, especially when there are other Nigerians who sacrificed for the country.
“I think the highest honours should not be given to businessmen just like that. There are honest businessmen that the government should honour but the government has to be very careful.
“Justice Kayode Eso was given a lesser honour, these are legal minds, like Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, that should be considered for the higher national honours, not just businessmen that are milking the nation dry.”
The Congress for Progressive Change and the Action Congress of Nigeria also faulted the honours list.
The National Publicity Secretary of the CPC, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said that national honours had been bastardised.
He said the list was “an attestation to the decadent show of shame of the Jonathan regime.”
Also, the Lagos State chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria said the Federal Government was awarding national honours to Nigerians with questionable integrity.
According to the party, with the latest list of awardees, it is certain that the present government is not listening to the opinion of Nigerians.
It stated that the process of selecting awardees had been seriously abused such that Nigerians did not attach any value to national honours again.
The ACN, in a statement by its state publicity secretary, Joe Igbokwe, said that “a careful perusal of the latest names released for national honours shows that it is a pot-pouri of businessmen that have no scruples, friends and associates of those in government, discredited contractors and acolytes of those in power, especially at the federal level and mainly PDP party members.”
In its reaction, a group of legal practitioners under the aegis of Public Interest Lawyers, said the list “parades the bad and the ugly of our country that President Jonathan would find it difficult justifying some, if not all of the names of men and women.”
On her part, the President of the Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said, “The bottom line is that our national honour has become dishonourable. Honest Nigerians who have the misfortune of carrying the devalued honours should throw their plaques in the waste bin.”
Another group, the National Anti-Corruption Vanguard, said national awards had lost their essence because it had been “commercialised, monetised, politicised and privatised.”