As Nigeria today join other countries across the globe to mark the May Day, otherwise known as Workers’ Day, Labour leaders have been lamenting the socio-economic and political environments in the country, saying COVID-19 and insecurity have compounded workers’ woes.
Leaders of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, National Union of Chemical Footwear Rubber Leather and Non-Metallic Products Employees, NUCFRLANMPE, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, are unanimous that Nigerian workers are really suffering and passing through difficult times.
NUPENG in a May Day message by its President and General Secretary, Prince Williams Akporeha and Afolabi Olawale, among others, said “NUPENG is using this auspicious occasion to highlight the fact that Nigeria oil and gas Industrial Relations atmosphere has been grossly affected negatively with numerous challenges ranging from redundancy, casualisation, outsourcing, hostile employers, non-implementation of Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) to non-recognition of Unions in the workplace.
“Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic further plunged the workers into so many other harrowing challenges; even in the post covid-19 era some workers are yet to survive the negative effects which took serious toll on their socio-economic and psychological well-being.
Nevertheless the oil and gas Workers will remain resolute and undaunted, and will never give up, as the Union will continue the struggles and resist every obnoxious and anti-labour practice with all the resources at our disposal. We are strongly committed in our mandate to defend, promote and protect the rights of our members and this we promise to do with all our strength and conviction.
Organised Labour however challenged the Federal Government to reclaim Nigeria from the stronghold of Boko Haram insurgents, militias, bandits, armed herders, kidnappers and other criminal elements that have taken over almost all parts of the country.
Labour lamented that “It is unfortunate and a terrible injustice to the memory of Nigeria’s founding fathers that virtually every part of the country has been engulfed by one form of security challenge or the other.”
The two Labour centres in the country, among others, said “During the 2nd NLC National Peace and Security Summit which took place on the 29th of April 2021 at the International Conference Centre, Abuja as part of this year’s May Day commemorations, it was clearly established that human insecurity as marked by mass unemployment is the main driver for the physical insecurity besieging our dear country.
“According to data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment figures in Nigeria has reached an all-time high of 33.3% in the last quarter of 2020 from 27.1% in the second quarter of 2020.
“Part of the challenge of unemployment and insecurity is the crisis of poor governance. Weak budgets that lead to poor appropriations and poorer budgetary oversight is the bane of our development.
“It is unfortunate and a terrible injustice to the memory of Nigeria’s founding fathers that virtually every part of the country has been engulfed by one form of security challenge or the other. In the North East, there is the challenge of Boko Haram terrorism. In the North West, there is the challenge of rural banditry and kidnap-for-ransom. In the North Central, there is the challenge of farmers and pastoralists clashes. In the South South, armed militants still operate in the mangroves engaged in all manner of economic sabotage. In the South West and South East, local militias are filling the vacuum created by the absence of the state and are heating up the polity with ethno-religious rhetoric.
“In the midst of this confusion, Nigerians are asking “where is the state?” Many Nigerians understand the grave dangers of surrendering our sovereignty to a mob of violent and non-descript non-state actors. Already the numbers are piling up as the humanitarian carnage left in the wake of Nigeria’s medium to high intensity conflict continue to rise.
“Workers are the major targets. So many teachers, health workers, agricultural and food chain workers have been either kidnapped or killed. So many working families have had the lives of their breadwinners brutally cut short leaving behind open wounds that could be the sores for another cycle of counter-violence.
“Just as we did at the Peace and Security Summit, we ask the Nigerian security apparatus to do more. Yes, we recognize the sacrifice and commitment of our Armed forces in the multifaceted fight against insecurity in Nigeria but the job of our security operatives is not done until we reclaim a country where people can travel from Zamfara to Katsina without looking over their shoulders for fear of kidnappers, a country where Nigerians travel by train from Abuja to Kaduna as a matter of choice not as a consequence of the imposition of the will of kidnappers. We must reclaim a country where pastoralists and farmers live in peace with one another under the umbrella of justice. We must reclaim a Nigeria where militancy in Southern Nigeria becomes history as a result of the overflow of the tributaries of socio-economic justice.
“To reclaim our country, we must be serious with security votes. Security votes should be routed through the normal budgetary process for proper oversight and accountability. The usual refrain that security is a secret business is now worn. Security is a collective task. We reiterate our call for improved social protection and investments in social services to deal with human insecurity which is the bane of physical insecurity.