… as NLC President Says Workers Pushed To Wall
Chris Steven, Abuja
Workers at the federal level on Monday, took to protests, disrupting activities lined out to commemorate the 2017 May Day, which held at the Eagle Square,Abuja.
The workers who came in their thousands to commemorate the May Day, organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and Trade Union Congress, TUC converged at the Eagle Square, but no sooner had the event started that they started to protest,chanting solidarity songs, “we no go gree oh”, “we no go gree” .
The event which started at about 10am was going on smoothly, until it was time for the Minister of Labour and Employment,Chris Ngige to give his address when the angry workers raised their voice.
Trouble started when the President,Muhammadu Buhari who was supposed to be the chief guest of honour was observed to be absent, and Ngige who was Buhari’s representative mandated the Acting Permanent Secretary,Federal Ministry of Labour, Abiola Bawa to deliver his address on his behalf.
But workers who were hoping to see the President or his Vice kicked against having Ngige as his representative.
Findings by our reporter from some of the workers who staged the protests revealed that they were angry over the non payment of allowances owed them,including other welfare packages like promotion areas which have been stopped as well as government’s lackadaisical stance over the proposed N56,000 new National Minimum Wage.
Some of them argued that the N18,000 minimum wage can no longer take care of their bills,hence the protest was an opportunity for them to voice their grievances.
The protesting workers carried placards, with inscriptions such as,”New Minimum Wage Now,”Democracy without Jobs is Bad Governance,”Stop Smuggling, Kill Corruption” among others.
NLC President,Ayuba Wabba who felt obviously embarrassed by the workers’ action, however supported their position, saying workers have been pushed to the wall and they were only reacting to the injustice meted out on them by those in authority.
He said Federal Government should set:up the tripartite committee to negotiate a new minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
Wabba who spoke on the theme: “The Working Class and the Quest for Socio-Economic Revival”,noted that the immediate consequences of the recession on the economy have included crippling budget short-falls, massive devaluations of the Naira, shortage of foreign currencies, a steep rise in inflation, job losses, non-regular payment of workers and pension entitlements and significant drop in social spending and capital expenditure; all of which have combined to make life very miserable for majority of Nigerians.
He said, “The fact is also in view of the challenges we have found ourselves as workers, we also expected that either the President or the Vice President should have been here today because as you can see that it was at the point when his speech was to be read that trouble started, it also points to the fact that workers are actually going through serious challenges, many of them have not even earned their salary for this month,Nigerian workers have been pushed to the wall”.
His colleague in the Trade Union Congress, TUC, Bobboi Bala Kagama said the protest was obviously to drive home the need for government to implement the new minimum wage proposal of N56,000 as N18,000 was nothing to write home about in view of excruciating economic challenges.
Kaigama said,”What happened today is not surprising,particularly federal workers we are aware have not been paid their promotion arrears since 2007, some of them as far back as 2007, you keep promoting,somebody that has been promoted to be Director or Assistant Director is still collecting salaries of grade level 9 or 10.
“Today we are taking about recession, within the face of devaluation of the naira, within the period that we have a huge inflationary trend at a very astronomical rate.
“Its a protest of pain and anger and the best thing the government should do is to come out practically to address these issues”.
Not even the intervention of the former Governor of Edo state, Adams Oshiomhole and Speaker of House of Representatives,Yakubu Dogara who were at the event could placate the workers.