By Ayodele Faghohun
Though the government team argued that it cannot afford to meet our earlier demand of N30,000.00 minimum wage across board because of economic situation in the country ,we made them understand that some people cannot be more Nigerian than others. If we are tightening our belts, government should also do.”
…… A statement by the erstwhile Trade union congress (TUC) president, Comrade Quadri Olaleye and Secretary- General, Musa- Lawal Ozigi while sealing the mutual pact between Federal Government and Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC) for the full implementation of #30,000 minimum wage workers.
From the foregoing, having candidly considered national interest and the precarious economic predicament in Nigeria,the entire labour force deserved Kudos for arriving at a painful and patriotic decision to whittle down workers financial demands, made some concessions in a spirit of uncommon patriotism, sacrifice and self –abnegation that will not deplate national coffers and consequently cause industrial disharmony across the country.
The volte-face by the NLC to douse tension and acrimony that would have triggered off industrial action and to surrender, liberalise longstanding legitimate demand of workers for better living wage by extension guarantee minimum standard of living should be rightly seen or regarded as the height of patriotism.
Despite the concessionary and considerate dispositions of the NLC to stave off industrial dispute and to maintain peaceful industrial relation and equilibrium, it is still a matter for regret and great concern that some state government are not financially viable enough to discharge their onerous statutory functions and particularly owing substantial incredible arrears of salaries and pensions of the workforce
Unfortunately, by sharp contrast ,other sectors of the nation’s economy notably our Legislators, the lawmakers in the National Assembly arguably the highest paid in the society
Again, this is in sharp contrast to the oath of allegiance to serve the people “bi eniti nse iranse .” By so doing, our lawmakers should cultivate and imbibe fiscal discipline in all its ramifications.
Lawmakers are not supposed to take fantastic salaries /allowances in the national confers. That is tantamount to sharp practices which must be stamped out in public office.
Rather, lawmakers first and foremost must be professionals in their callings; assets not liabilities nor economic vermins on the economy. They are supposed to live prudently and entitled to stringent and meagre part-time allowances in order to promote national productivity and the economy to grow by leaps and bounds.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late elder –statesman Federal Comissioner, now minister of Finance in the war-time 1967-1970 and a messiah of full employment had vigorously canvassed for the introduction of national minimum wage compatible with a national minimum standard of living.
Awo, an erudite author and shrewd economist had brilliantly proffered some basic economic principles and objectives toward attaining national minimum standard of living as follows:-
(a)elimination of discrimination between categories of employees; all persons employed in the public and private sectors whatever their categories, should be on a full-time and permanent basis, and should be entitled to pension on the same basis under a comprehensive and compulsory social insurance scheme.
(b) The raising of pensionable age to between 65 and 75 years, in strict regard to the types of employment.
(c)rationalization of the salaries and remuneration paid to, or received by different classes of employed or self employed persons with a view to closing the existing gap between the higher and lower income groups.
(d)integration and assimilation of the salaries and conditions of service of all employed persons, other than self-employed persons, with a view to ensuring equal pay for identical qualifications of merits in all the sectors of the country’s productive activities. This will entail the abolition of “fringe benefits” for all categories of employed persons in all sectors of the country’s productive activities.”
Regardless of the magnificent receipts from oil proceeds and the concomitant nation’s incredible resources, the workers have taken humble pie for accepting what is lower and at the rock bottom of what Awo and the United Nations(UN) strenuously advocated and put on records in uplifting the living standard of Nigerian workers; and provision of unemployment relief.
Under UN universal declaration of human rights, every government in Nigeria should provide employment for all their citizens who are able and willing to work. And payment of unemployment relief allowances to such persons during the period of their involuntary unemployment or enforced idleness.
Unfortunately, Nigerian workers are ruthlessly exploited, extorted and shortchanged. Exploitation of labour embraces inadequate remuneration. Lack of motivation, long and excessive hours on duty without recess and poor condition of services lead to decline in productivity.
Exploitation of labour is a common phenomenon in Nigerian economy especially in the private sector. Workers in the small establishments especially those owned by Nigerian entrepreneurs are heavily exploited. They have no condition of service. Fines are imposed on them contrary to labour code.
They have no vacation or holiday and their appointments can be terminated abruptly at short notice by their employers without adequate or any compensation at all.
It must be noted for urgent amendment, that the fundamental and remote factors leading to this degenerate and pathetic lots of the work-force emanated from our British colonial heritage which imposed or foisted capitalist system of economy with all intents and purposes on clamping down on our nation’s fledgling and floppy-economy.
At independence, neo-colonialism surreptitiously seized the economy by the jugular. And the naked self interest, greed, planlessness and capacity concomitant with brazen capitalism which exacted and still exacts its negative, primitive and harmful effects ceaselessly on the wages and lives of workers.
For instance, under the capitalist system on which we glibly run our economy, incentives to workers are not only half-hearted but always hopelessly inadequate and unjustly calculated; rents and price controls are frustrated and ineffective in the face of huge short supplies of services and goods.
To curb this injustice, it is vigorously canvassed by public spirited section of the economy that concrete steps should be taken to spell out in labour code how to prevent exploitation and the penalty for those die-hard capitalists who will stop at nothing to exploit fellow Nigerian workers.
The public service should be rigorously insulated from partisan politics in accordance with the laws, extant rules and procedures guiding public services to be enmeshed in the murky pastime of partisan politics.
In this connection, the intermittent struggle and partisan activities of local government employees tagged NULGE calling for autonomy of the local government administration is sheer diversionary factics, academics exercise in futility, indolence, flagrant disobedience to rules and regulation of civil service.
The institution of old age care, unemployment benefits and social insurance scheme should be of utmost priority especially in a country where the wealth of the nation is under lock and key in a handful of privileged few political elite and lustful nouveaux riches who hold the country into ransome.
The salary structure in the public service is too low and meagre to enable the working class with any margin of savings for old age or period of unemployment.
The oil money is still growing daily at a geometric rate. This is an auspicious and opportune time for government to embark as a policy on social security schemes for old age and unemployment periods.
For quick economic recovery and freedom government should take up the gauntlet and match the intrinsic age long patriotism displayed by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to galvanise the welfare and material well being of the workers without shutting down the economy of the country in its entity.
Towards this end, the incoming Federal government is urged to sever connection or link from the present pernicious and excruciating capitalist orientation and policies which poses greatest drag, bottleneck and threat to our economic survival as a people.
There must be a deliberate and conscious planning of the economy through stern fiscal discipline, diligence and sheer industry of our leaders at various heights of the economy to guarantee the greatest happiness for the greatest number of our ever growing population.
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