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Ngige tasks OTUWA on diversification of ECOWAS economy


Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige PHOTO: NAN

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige PHOTO: NAN

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has urged the Organization of Trade Union of West Africa (OTUWA) to lead the vanguard for the diversification of the economies of the ECOWAS member states.

Ngige, who stated this at the opening of a three-day workshop of OTUWA in Abuja, said the mono-economic base of most of the West African countries is largely responsible for their current economic woes, which is occasioned by the low oil price of crude oil in the international market.

His words: “There is a big threat to the economy of the ECOWAS sub-region because of our largely mono-economic base. I am happy that your organization has been able to live down its challenges. The revived OTUWA must therefore help the governments and employers in the sub-region to look elsewhere. In Nigeria, we must look for other sources of revenue and the most easily identifiable one is agriculture and of course, mining. We are also diversifying in trade and services. And because of the availability of fertile land in West Africa, the same thing goes to sister countries. OTUWA which is our regional component of the World Union of Trade Unions must hence, lead this campaign for the diversification of the West African economy.”

The Minister further urged the regional union to help governments in the region develop the requisite skills for the full maximization of the utility of their cash crops by enhancing local processing of the raw forms into finished products.

“I want this workshop to be the starting point of this line of thought by getting our people move from the area of white collar jobs to the blue collar jobs in agriculture and mining,” Ngige added, asking OTUWA to be “ the catalysts in entrenching decent work environment in line with the ILO convention which we all are signatory to,” he added.

On its part, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said OTUWA must lead the way in ensuring the region speak with one voice on trade issues across the world.

In particular, Congress noted that the latest African Union-European Union agreement that aims to return African migrants forcibly in exchange for development aid, is considered fragile, unsustainable and not far reaching enough to address the migrant crisis.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who spoke through the General Secretary of Congress, Dr Peter Ozon-Eson argued that because a large number of migration flows from Africa are about employment, Congress urges governments in the continent to prioritize industrialization for the transformation of the continent, and aggressively tackle the creation of jobs for citizens.

On his part, the Director, ILO Country Office for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Liaison Office for ECOWAS, Dennis Zulu, submitted that the relocation of OTUEA to Abuja is a very strategic decision when viewed in the light of its proximity to ECOWAS head office and the benefits it portends.

He added that ILO believes that social dialogue at the regional level will be enhanced and this will in turn ensure quality services to national trade unions as a result of the relocation.

Zulu hinted that the ILO is supporting the ECOWAS Commission to develop a Sub-Regional Decent Work Programme (SRDWP) for the ECOWAS region.
In his welcome address, the President of OTUWA, Mademba Sock lamented the formidable challenges the sub-region is confronted with.He stated that the strategic workshop was designed to address solution to most of the challenges confronting ECOWAS countries.

He said: “Part of this workshop will be devoted to analysing the types of challenges that we face, and in discussing how best they might be addressed. This is not an easy task. Poverty, under-development, enforced austerity, unemployment, super exploitation of our human and natural resources, and the growing gap between the ‘haves’ and the have-nots’ are all challenges that we face across all of our borders. Made worse by the growth of corruption, the ever present threat of insurgencies, and the breakdown of law and order, and not least the plight of our young people, many of whom have not had a decent job of work since leaving school decades ago.”

Sock also said OTUWA is unhappy with the negotiation of the new Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between ECOWAS and the European Union.
He submitted that the region did not act together, and in the process, they allowed the EU to divide its ranks, and countries signed the agreement individually.

“As at December last year, five of the 15 countries held out against signing. This obviously is because of the unfavourable conditions in the agreement that unions in our respective countries have drawn attention to. Now we understand that only a couple of states including Nigeria, which constitutes about half of the ECOWAS market and population, is still holding out. Our countries and people need to learn from this: We cannot make progress by allowing our ranks to be divided,” he explained.

He added that as OTUWA embark on developing a new strategic plan to take it forward, it hoped that the employers, and our governments across the region, would see that what OTUWA is trying to achieve is good for the sub-region and for the African continent.

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