President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to lifting workers and leaving a legacy of service and buoyant economy, Labour and Employment Minister Dr. Chris Ngige said yesterday.
In a message to mark Workers’ Day, Ngige said the President gave states bailout to pay salary and pension in his resolve to improve workers’ lives.
The President, he said, was determined to create an economy that would bring sustainable abundance to the people.
Ngige said: “On behalf of the management and staff of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment as well as its parastatals, I wish to send warm felicitations to Nigerian workers on the occasion of 2019 Workers’ Day.
“The theme of this year’s celebration which is “Another 100 years of struggle for jobs, dignity and social justice in Nigeria” aligns with the vision and efforts of President Buhari to not only uplift the lot of the Nigerian worker, but also leave a legacy of a buoyant economy capable of creating sustainable abundance for our people.
“The uniqueness of this year’s event manifests eventfully in its co-incidence with the centenary celebration of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which Nigeria proudly pioneered as the first country office in Africa 60 years ago, in Lagos in 1959.
“While I sincerely salute the resilience of the nation’s workforce and its numerous contributions to national development, we owe plentiful accolades to the most labour-friendly President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, who took practical steps to douse the restiveness in the labour force he inherited four years ago due to unpaid salaries and allowances.
“He released bailout funds at the state and federal levels, and capped it all with a new national minimum wage for the Nigerian working class in public and private sectors. As we move to the Next Level, I have no doubt that things will get better. I wish you all a productive and fulfilling workers’ Day celebration.”
‘2.78 million die yearly from occupational accident’
At a symposium to mark the 2019 World Day for Safety and Health at Work in Abuja, Ngige said that about 2.78 million people die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases yearly worldwide.
An additional 374 million are suffering from non-fatal occupational accidents yearly.
This statistics, the minister said, was alarming, adding that the economic cost in these figures is not only enormous and unquantifiable, but also tragic and regrettable.
Represented by his Permanent Secretary, William Alo, Ngige said: “This immeasurable human suffering and catastrophe caused by poor occupational safety and health practices and conditions are largely preventable”.
The minister said free medical screening was being planned for the enhancement of the informal sector’s workers’ safety, health, and welfare.
He said: “You can attest to the fact that technological advancement including digital technologies, artificial intelligence, robotics nanotechnology, and increasing automation is becoming more common in the workplace and machines are now attempting to take over the role of humans.
“In a renewed effort at addressing changing patterns and emerging risks in the workplaces, the government has embarked on measures in ensuring safe, healthy and decent work for all.
“Government has also embarked on measures to promote a culture of prevention through various workplace interventions that include the vigorous enforcement of extant labour laws through conduct and factory inspections of workplace nationwide.
“In addition, employment patterns and structures are shifting with the introduction of new forms of employment such as outsourcing, contract staffing, and a host of other non-standard forms of employment.
“All of these now present various threats and challenges to the safety and well-being of workers which must be addressed by the future of work”.
The ministry, he said, would encourage concerted efforts by all stakeholders toward rising to the transformation challenges and opportunities posed by rapidly advancing technologies which revolutionized occupational safety and health concerns.
Ngige said the evolving world of work today and in the future called for innovative investments in labour as a major factor of production, through continual learning and skill development, adding that Nigeria as a member-state of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) had since 2004, joined the yearly awareness-raising campaign.
He said the ministry would continue to develop and review policies, legislative and regulatory framework critical to achieving sustainable improvement in safety and health standards in the workplace.
ILO Country Director Denis Zulu said Nigeria had been consistent in commemorating the World Day for Occupational Safety, adding: “It is an important day for us in the ILO, because we are commemorating 100 years of the ILO and it gives an opportunity to see how much progress has been made in safety and health.
“I must admit that over the past few years, we have made tremendous progress around policies and we have also made progress towards having an updated law that reflects the changing environment in the world of work.
“We are delighted that the government is taking this issue very seriously but also the presence of the private sector, trade unions is particularly important. This is because health and safety in the workplace is not just the responsibility of the government but also the employers and the workers who are actually around the workplace”.
Director of Occupational Safety and Health Dr. Ifeoma Anyawutaku, said it was part of the ministry’s mandate to ensure the safety and well-being of workers in their workplace.
“It is our mandate that nobody goes to work to meet his death or gets harmed or sustains injuries in the course of doing his or her job. So, the Federal Government under the Ministry of Labour and Employment is doing so much particularly in enforcing standards, laws and regulations by guaranteeing the safety of the health and the well-being of every Nigerian worker in their various workplaces.
“In addition to enforcement, we are involved in promotional activities and rising awareness to ensure that every worker knows those hazards they are exposed to and to also ensure that every worker knows what steps to be taken”.
Workers mainstay of economy, says Saraki
Senate President Bukola Saraki saluted workers on their contributions to the country’s socio-economic development despite what he called the fluctuating economy.
In his Workers’ Day message, signed by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki hailed the leadership and members of organised labour for their patriotism in often choosing dialogue rather than industrial action in resolving trade disputes.
He expressed hope that workers would be encouraged to always put in their best in working to uplift and sustain the economy, following the recent signing into law of the N30,000 minimum wage.
“No nation can develop without a virile and agile workforce,” Saraki said. “It is trite to say that workers are the mainstay of our nation’s economy, since no policy of government, no matter how remote, will succeed without the commitment and collaboration of workers saddled with implementation.
“However, having interacted with Nigerian workers and their leadership times without number, I can say without fear of contradiction that the nation’s workforce is among the best on the continent,” he stated.
“All that is left is to adequately harness their abundant talents and spirit of patriotism to further improve on the nation’s economic and political development through timely and adequate motivation, training and retraining. The public sector should work to ensure that the country realises its potential. It should eliminate tardiness, increase the level of discipline and strive to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive with the resultant broadening of the scope of national prosperity”, Saraki said.
He called on the leadership of organised labour to continue to discharge its responsibilities in the interest of the country and its people adding that the government should continue to do its best to meet the yearnings of workers and other Nigerians through sustainable welfare programmes.
Atiku: workers are critical economic partners
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) standard-bearer in the February 23 presidential election Atiku Abubakar has described workers and their unions as critical partners in the country’s economic development.
In his Workers’ Day message, Atiku said: “The labour and sweat of Nigerian workers constitute the engine and lubricants of our economic growth and national development.”
The former vice president praised unions for being dependable watchdogs that serve the people’s interest.
“Over the years, the various labour unions in Nigeria have played pivotal intermediary role between the government and the people and the most recent is the agitation for increased minimum wage of N30,000. I congratulate the labour unions in Nigeria for this feat and I believe that with the same kind of determination, it is possible to further improve the lot of the Nigerian worker.
“With the efforts and creative energies of Nigerian workers, I believe that it is very possible to create economic buoyancy in Nigeria and redefine our destiny in the world as a centre of prosperity and refuse to be the capital of the world’s poor people.”
“I want to join several other well-wishers to celebrate with Nigerian workers on today’s Workers Day and also to assure the labour unions of an acknowledgement of their great sacrifices for the country,” Atiku said.
He urged workers to embrace peace, harmony and national unity in their engagements with their employers and governments at all levels.
Kalu seeks improved working conditions
Former Abia State Governor Orji Kalu praised workers for their contributions to nation building.
Describing them as hardworking, patriotic and productive, the Senator-elect implored government at all levels to improve workers’ welfare for the sake of productivity.
In a statement issued by his media office, Kalu said: “As we mark this year’s Labour Day, Nigerian workers deserve to be acknowledged, celebrated and appreciated for their efforts in building a prosperous nation.
“The labour force in Nigeria is a key component of the country and as such must be supported to promote sustainable growth and development in Nigeria.
“Nigeria cannot be prosperous if the workers are not carried along in governance and other endeavours.
“Government must implement policies that will guarantee welfare of workers.
“As we live in a dynamic world, the capacity of workers must be continually built. Knowledge is key for growth and sustainable development.
“The right people with the right skills are needed for a productive economy”
‘Nigeria must tackle corruption to save workers’
The Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) has asked the incoming Ninth National Assembly to pass into law the Anti-Corruption Bill.
Its National Secretary, Comrade Abdulrasaq Saidu, said corruption must be tackled to save civil servants.
According to Saidu, workers are bearing the brunt as politicians continued to milk the country, which he noted, must be sanitised.
Saidu noted that privatized companies such as, the National Shipping Line, Power Holding Company of Nigeria, among others were sold to enrich few Nigerians. He called for the reversal of their sale.
Saidu frowned at the poor handling of the National Health Insurance Scheme and the National Housing Fund, calling them conduit pipes for manipulating workers’ funds.
The ANAP secretary, who described the minimum wage as nothing, said it would be difficult for parents to pay tuition fees because of privatisation of schools.
Saidu called for the sack of all the heads of parastatals in the aviation industry to give the agencies a new lease of life.
Conspiracy, he said, remained the greatest problem in the sector, especially the ministry which has failed to order the payment of debts owed various agencies.
Saidu accused Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika of disobeying the President’s directive to inaugurate the parastatals’ board, saying that is “abuse of office”.
He blamed the ministry for undue interference in the running of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), warning that the regulator’s autonomy was being threatened.
“I blame the ministry for interference; the autonomy of NCAA is being threatened by the activities of the ministry. The regulation body is weak and airlines increase fares at will.”
On the access gate at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Saidu called for immediate review of the agreement with the concessionaire.
According to him, the volume of traffic at the access gate has increased and the contract must be re-negotiated.
Okotie to workers: be more productive
Pastor-politician Rev. Chris Okotie has urged workers to be more productive and efficient.
He said he supported workers’ quest for a decent wage but warned that such demand must be matched with high productivity and efficiency.
“A productive work force deserves decent pay; employers should also respect labour rights so as to avert disruptive strikes which often harm the economy,” he said, adding: “Nigeria needs industrial stability to grow the economy.”
Rev. Okotie, the presidential candidate of the Fresh Democratic Party, FRESH, in the just-concluded general elections, called for a comprehensive review of the country’s labour laws to bring them in line with global standard practices as enshrined in the ILO statutes.
Okotie expressed hope that states and other public sector employers would honour their wage obligations in the face of shrinking revenue.
He advised the federal, other sub-national governments and public institutions to diversify their sources of revenue. “There’s an urgent need to turn our oil-dependent economy into a multi-product export economy. That’s the only way to sustain our current position as Africa’s largest economy”, Okotie added.