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Lawan, Atiku salute Nigerian workers on May Day

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Lawan. Photo: TWITTER/DRAHMADLWAN/TOPEBROWN

Bayelsa, Kano Workers Sing Different Tunes

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, today, felicitates with Nigerian workers as they join the rest of the world in commemorating International Workers’ Day.

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This is as former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who also felicitates with them, has expressed his discontent with what he called the persistent and frightening economic decimation of the Nigerian working class in the face of appalling inflation and declining living standards.

Meanwhile, workers in Bayelsa State have applauded the cordial relationship they have had with the current administration of Governor Douye Diri, saying it has been a win-win situation between them and the government.

The story is however different in Kano State where it is not yet clear whether or not workers would receive the N30,000 minimum wage when their April 2021 salary would be paid.

In his felicitation message to Nigerian workers, the President of the Senate noted that workers remain the drivers of economic productivity, nation-building and democratic governance in the country.

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Lawan said: “I felicitate with the Nigerian workers on this occasion of the Worker’s Day of International Solidarity and Unity.

“The Nigerian Labour Movement has a proud heritage beginning from the heroic contributions of its founding fathers like Pa Micheal Imodu and his contemporaries in the struggle for the independence of Nigeria and emancipation of workers and the masses.

“The Nigerian workers across the generations since then have continued to drive economic productivity, nation-building and democratic governance in the country.

“I commend their patience, understanding and also their resilience in the face of the current challenges that our nation is facing.

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“The National Assembly believes in the well-being and welfare of the workers and will always provide legislative support for every effort to tackle their challenges and improve the work environment.

“I assure you of the resolute commitment of the Ninth Senate to its mantra of ‘Work for Nigeria.’ By this, we will continue to stand by the Nigerian workers to rid our statute books of anti-labour laws and promote legislations that will make our society a better place for the working people.”

Lawan urged the Organised Labour to always look at the larger picture and consider higher national interest in their responses to government policies and actions.

In his solidarity message to Nigerian workers, Atiku noted that the conditions of Nigerian workers were worrisome.

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According to him, “even what we call basic food items are unaffordable and we are in a situation where the price of a bag of rice is nearly at par with the value of our minimum wage.”

He added: “Increase in the national minimum wage has been matched or neutralised by astronomical inflation that is accelerating at a breathtaking rate almost daily. Even the locally produced foods are prohibitively expensive.

“Nigerian workers have never had it so bad. The impacts of the lockdown and worsening inflation have taken their heaviest toll on the working class. The situation is so bad that they are now living from hands to mouth.”

Atiku further explained that in the face of low morale and poor motivation, productivity would inevitably take a nosedive.

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“This situation will only create favourable conditions for corruption and aggravate depression and mental health problems among civil servants.

“Let me be clear: These challenges of economic survival are not limited to the civil servants alone.”

They affect the working class at all levels, including artisans and other low-income groups that are struggling desperately to put food on the table in the face of declining incomes and rising inflation,” he stated.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2019 election suggested that in the face of widespread extreme poverty and declining incomes among economically vulnerable Nigerians, political office holders should urgently review the costs of governance in order to bring them in line with the country’s economic realities and the sorry conditions of average citizens.

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His words: “The extravagant lifestyle of elected officials while poverty is decimating the people is a demonstration of insensitivity. We can’t tell ordinary people to make sacrifices while elected officials are reluctant to take the lead in making those sacrifices. Elected and appointed officials at all levels must cut down on their extravagant expenditures at the expense of the people.

“Despite these challenges, however, let us not lose hope in our country. Nigeria is bigger than those who preside over our affairs. We have more common interests that unite us than things that divide us. Let us not allow anyone to use us as fighting tools while they are busy protecting their own interests.”

Speaking with The Guardian in Yenagoa, both the state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade John Ndiomu and his Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart, Comrade Laye Julius, said Bayelsa State workers had never had it so good despite the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.

Ndiomu acknowledged that the year has been hectic as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 and its effects on the economy, but added: “Notwithstanding, I can say we are special because there were states that couldn’t pay salaries. There were states that laid workers off but we didn’t experience that in Bayelsa. Our salaries were regular and up to date and so I think it was a good year.”  

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On his part, Julius lauded the government for prompt payment of workers’ salaries, pensions and gratuities.

He said: “I want to commend the state government for the past one year. I will say it has been well, even though it is not always 100 per cent. But if you compare us to all the sister states, we are doing far better than them.”

In March this year, the Kano State government had reverted to the N18,000 old minimum wage following shortfalls in federal allocation, a move which workers resisted and threatened industrial action.

The proposed action was suspended after the leadership of the NLC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state government.

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Part of the agreement was that government would revert to payment of the new minimum wage once its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and federal allocation improve and also refund the shortfalls in previous months.

Speaking on whether the state government would revert to the N30,000 minimum wage when April salary would be paid, the state Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, said the government would continue to engage labour leaders on the financial condition of the state.

The commissioner, who spoke yesterday at a symposium organised by NLC and TUC in Kano, however, emphasised the commitment of the Governor Abdullah Umar Ganduje administration to workers’ welfare.

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“I can assure you that Ganduje is workers friendly and he has a mutual working relationship with labour union. The government has continued to engage labour union on the condition and situation of the state’s finances.

“I can only say the government is committed to agreement and promises and if there is any grey area, we are ready and willing to resolve it amicably,” he said.  

In a swift response, Chairman of the NLC in Kano, Comrade Kabiru Ado Mingibir, insisted that labour was not prepared to accept the old minimum wage, saying they would insist on the implementation of the MoU earlier signed with the state government.

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