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Buhari to Workers: We’re doing everything to improve livelihoods

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President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba (third right); President, Trade Union Congress, Comrade Quadri Olaleye (third left); former President of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Alhaji Najeem Yasin (second right) and other<br />members of the NLC Executive during the 2021 May Day celebration in Abuja… yesterday PHOTO: NAN

• Laments Dwindling Resources, Silent On Petrol Price Hike
• Labour Seeks Review Of Politicians’ Emoluments, Fuel Pricing Model
• Demands Improved Security, Implementation Of Minimum Wage
• NLC To Protest Mass Sack In Kaduna
• Govs Promise Better Welfare
• Osun Approves New Wage

As workers across the nation observed May Day, otherwise known as Workers’ Day, yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari reassured them that the federal government was doing everything possible to mitigate harsh effects of the economy on lives by investing in its diversification and improving macroeconomics to keep the nation afloat.

He, however, maintained silence on possible increment in the price of petrol as he lamented the dwindling funds in the federation account occasioned by the downward slide in crude oil price.

The President, who was represented by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, spoke yesterday at an event to mark the May Day in Abuja.

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But in a joint speech by the Presidents of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba and his Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart, Quadri Olaleye, organised labour stressed the need for a review of salaries and emoluments of elected political office holders and appointees of government in the face of dwindling revenues. It also reiterated its demand for retention of the national minimum wage on the exclusive legislative list.

On the special day set aside to honour workers the world over, labour movements across states of the federation, at different occasions, also called on governments at different levels to create enabling environment for workers to work with dignity, earn decent wages and never to deny Nigerians their rights. This was as governors and other government representatives across the country, promised improved welfare and support for workers.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on his part, paid glowing tributes to Nigerian workers, saying they were worthy of being celebrated.

In a statement by Special Adviser on media and publicity to the Speaker, Lanre Lasisi in Abuja, Gbajabiamila was quoted as saying that the Nigerian system had remained stable due to the dedication and sacrifices of workers. He promised that their welfare would remain paramount on the government’s table.

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Speaking in Abuja, NLC President, Wabba and his TUC counterpart Olaleye, said: “If there is anything that needs restructuring, it is the maximum wages arbitrarily fixed by elected political office holders and which has no bearing whatsoever in international law or standards. It is difficult to imagine that those who enjoy very fat wages, allowances, pensions and other perks of office would be the ones thinking of snatching from workers’ mouths, the little minimum wage we are struggling to survive on. This action only smacks of a class war indicative of the intents of a privileged few to willfully pauperize and enslave the masses.”

Labour said that its stance that the national minimum wage be retained on the exclusive legislative list was informed by the fact that a national minimum wage is a tool for social inclusion and poverty reduction.

“The National Minimum Wage is a product of negotiations between Labour, Organised Private Sector and Government. During the negotiations, the government was represented at both federal and state levels and several issues are taken into consideration with data provided by relevant federal and state institutions and agencies. Some of the issues considered included inflation rate, poverty threshold rate, purchasing power parity and periodic surveys by the National Bureau of Statistics.

“The national minimum wage ensures that all workers, particularly, the unorganised, the unskilled and the vulnerable are included and protected by a wage level that ensures their survival,” Labour noted.

ORGANISED labour called on the government to adopt a petrol production model that suits Nigeria and refrain from operating unstructured systems.

It argued that each country chooses the model that is in syncs with their level of development, unique resources, development strategies, and nature of domestic energy markets, adding that Nigeria should moderate the production cost pricing model to fit into her developmental and market agglomeration goals.

It said: “Nigeria has a captive market for refined petroleum products. Any serious refiner has no reason to worry about the market for the realisation of the products. What is more, the supply chain could be extended to neighbouring countries, which currently serve as the illicit destination of smugglers of even the imported products.

“The production cost pricing model allows the government to manage the national PMS market in the interest of sustainable economic development. This would encourage the industrialisation of our country and would break Nigeria from its colonial past as a mere source of raw materials and a net importer of manufactured goods.”

The workers’ leadership further urged the government to take measures to ensure that all four public refineries were rehabilitated and brought fully on-stream in good time, adding that such efforts should be based on value for money.

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Speaking on gas price for the power sector, organised labour also stressed the need for adjustments. It called for suspension of gas price increases for the next three years to support electricity tariff stability, noting that factors fuelling incessant hike in electricity tariff, such as the dollarization of gas used by GENCOs to run power stations were issues government ought to control.

Reacting to the recent mass sack of workers by the Kaduna State government, Labour condemned the action. It said the action was a violation of the terms of the employment contract of the disengaged workers, which provides for 60 years retirement age and/or 35 years of active service.

It said it considered the promise in the redundancy letters issued to the victims as a mockery of the sacked workers, recalling that Governor Nasir el-Rufai had refused to pay workers earlier sacked between 2016 and 2020 their redundancy benefits.

The labour leaders called on President Buhari to intervene and ensure Governor el-Rufai does not deny workers their rights. “We will not take Mr. Nasir el-Rufai’s current repression of workers lying low. We are mobilising Nigerian workers for the mother of all struggles in Kaduna State. We will use the weapons availed us by the law to fight for the right of Kaduna State workers to decent work.”

IN the same vein, labour movements across states of the federation called on governments to create enabling environment for workers to work with dignity and earn living wages. Governors and other government representatives, at different fora, also promised improved welfare and support for workers.

To ensure better welfare for workers in Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu handed over to the labour unions a document for five hectares of land both in Idera and Badagry areas, to be used for housing scheme.

Sanwo-Olu announced the donation at the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), year 2021 Workers Day celebration, themed, ‘COVID-19 pandemic, social and economic crises: challenges for decent jobs, social protection and peoples welfare,’ held at Mobolaji Johnson Stadium Arena, Onikan.

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The governor promised the state government would continue to prioritise the welfare of workers while also promising to hand over official car keys to the state chairman of TUC, Gbenga Ekundayo, and NLC, Funmilayo Sesi.

The governor disclosed that no worker in the state was retrenched during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that his government was ready to collaborative with stakeholders to ensure the judiciary was granted autonomy as well as address issues of gender-based violence.

While explaining that the state would continue to celebrate health workers and was committed to the COVID-19 vaccination exercise, Sanwo-Olu promised that some of the demands of the unions would be met.

On another hand, Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. (Dr) Mudashiru Obasa, former National Secretary of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Kayode Ajulo and Convener, Lagos4Lagos Movement, Dr. Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran (Jandor) commended Nigerian workers for keeping faith in the country’s progress and helping to keep it strong.

In separate statements to mark the Workers’ Day, the trio acknowledged the fact that this is a trying period for the country and all over the world, especially with the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers have displayed exemplary commitment to the growth, unity and development of the country.

While Obasa urged workers to continue to keep hope alive so Nigeria of everyone’s dream could be achieved, Adediran said it has been a challenging period for the workforce in the country especially in Lagos State, which is the nation’s economic hub.

He said the sparring partnership of an already challenged economic environment and the visitation of the COVID-19 pandemic, which greatly exposed our state of preparedness regarding a robust support system for the vulnerable, dealt a combined blow on the polity, with Lagos workers finding themselves inevitably at the short end of the stick. “In spite of the harsh and almost impossible situation, our people have persevered and endured. And it is only through deliberate collective efforts and resolute courage to elect the right leadership that our dear state can fully reach and bask in its full potentials,” he noted.

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OSUN State workers have called on Governor Gboyega Oyetola to consider paying salary arrears and pay retirees their gratuities and pensions. They, however, commended the governor for not defaulting in the payment of salaries since the inception of his administration in 2018.

Speaking at the 2021 May Day Celebration jointly organised by the state chapters of NLC and TUC at the Osogbo City Stadium, Osun NLC Chairman, Comrade Babatunde Adekomi, commended Oyetola for approving the new minimum wage for workers despite paucity of fund.

He urged the governor to reinstate six members of staff of Osun State College of Education, lla-Orangun whose appointments were terminated by the last administration. He also appealed that the Ministry of Justice, and Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice be directed to withdraw the appeal case against six workers of Osun State University, Osogbo, who were tried for protesting against the alleged financial impropriety of the Vice Chancellor, Labo Popoola.

On his part, Governor Oyetola called on workers to reciprocate his administration’s gestures towards their welfare by ensuring increased productivity and efficient service delivery so the state could generate more IGR to become financially sufficient.

UNION leaders in Ondo State, on their part, decried the increasing spate of insecurity in the country, saying the present security architecture can no longer safeguard lives and properties of the citizenry.

Chairman, TUC, Ondo State Council, Mrs Helen Odofin, while speaking at the 2021 Workers Day Celebration in Akure, underscored the need for the international community to assist Nigeria.

“Nigeria is no longer a safe place to live. The rising cases of bloodshed and wanton destruction show that the nation is on the verge of collapse. Traditional warfare method being used by our military is no longer fashionable and can never resolve the current spate of insecurity. We hasten to suggest that the President seeks help from international communities without delay,” Odofin said.

Chairman of the state chapter of NLC, Mr Sunday Adeleye, however, lauded the efforts put in place by the state government to drastically curb insecurity.

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Odofin and Adeleye noted that the state government prioritised the welfare of workers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, commending the state government for the palliatives given to the citizenry.

The union leaders also commended the state government for the massive development in the health, education and industrial sectors, urging Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to pay all outstanding arrears.

Akeredolu reiterated his commitment to the welfare of workers, adding that his administration’s vow to make the welfare of the civil servants a priority remains unwavering.

IN Ilorin, Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq said workers were critical to national growth, noting that whatever developmental mileages the administration has made across sectors were linked to the workforce.

The governor reassured workers of his administration’s commitment to improving their well-being despite the dwindling revenue amid the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

Describing the labour as integral component of successive governments and a determining factor in attainment of good governance, AbdulRazaq commended them for adding value and for being committed to the growth of the state.

He also disclosed that his government was revitalising the economy through heavy investments in farming and agribusiness, and creating enabling environment for entrepreneurs to grow.

KOGI State chairman of NLC, Comrade Onu Edoka in his speech at the commemoration event, called on the state government to implement the N30, 000 minimum wage approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 without further delay.

Edoka noted that life had become unbearable for workers in the state due to escalating prices of foodstuffs without corresponding income, urging the government to set up a committee to look into the plights of workers.

Also yesterday, the Borno State chapter of NLC demanded a review and implementation of retired workers’ pensions and gratuity payments.

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The state NLC Chairman, Comrade Bulama Abiso noted that promotional benefits, annual increments and other basic rights were paramount in social security and economic development. According to him, as workers demand for better working conditions and standards of living, pensions and gratuity payments should also be reviewed and implemented.

He noted that the current rate being paid as pension had become obsolete in the face of inflation and other economic realities, saying most pensioners could not afford the school fees of their children, rents and medical bills accruing from hospitals.

He said the state government should also address the issue of payment of workers’ salaries with government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), just as he appealed for the implementation of the N30, 000 minimum wage for the Local Government and Education Authority staff.

IN Kano State, worried by the continued default of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje to sustain payment of the minimum wage, the NLC yesterday demanded immediate refund of the deductions made in the month of March from workers.

The joint labour union, led by state NLC chairman, Comrade Kabiru Ado Minjibir, also urged the Governor to urgently settle the over N26 million outstanding pension, gratuities, and death benefits of retirees.

The Kano State government is reportedly said to have reverted to N18, 000 old wage in the March salary because of the shortfall in monthly federal allocation. A looming industrial action was only averted after a Memorandum of Understand (MoU) was reached between labour and government to refund the deduction as soon as the allocation improves.

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