May Day: Aggrieved Workers Staged Walk out, Boo FG Officials - EazyFeeds

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Tuesday 2 May 2017

May Day: Aggrieved Workers Staged Walk out, Boo FG Officials

Nigerian workers on Mon­day trooped to the vari­ous state capitals and the Federal Capital Territo­ry (FCT) to mark the yearly Work­ers’ Day held every May 1 across the globe.
While the event was a huge suc­cess in the states, the situation was dif­ferent in Abuja, the nation’s capital, as the ceremony was disrupted by an­gry workers.

In fact, what was planned to be a hitch-free celebration at the Eagle Square was disrupted by aggrieved workers who staged a walk-out on both the officials of the Federal Gov­ernment and the leadership of the Ni­geria Labour Congress (NLC).
Traditionally, the May Day rally brings workers together to celebrate and reflect on their working condi­tions, where their leaders speak on their plight and national issues while the government unveils its welfare package, if any.
But yesterday, the situation was different as both the leadership of the NLC and the top government offi­cials received the wrath of the work­ers who booed and jeered at them.
President Muhammadu Buha­ri was represented by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige. The Minister, the Senate Pres­ident, Dr Bukola Saraki, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Win­ifred Oyo-Ita, were all on the receiv­ing end of the anger of the workers.
All the Federal Government’s officials were not allowed to present their speeches.
Even the former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who once headed the NLC, was not accorded a better treatment.
The workers shut down every attempt by the officials to give their addresses as they called them names amidst calls for the immediate imple­mentation of the N56, 000 new min­imum wage.
The crisis started when workers refused the presentation of the speech of the Minister of Labour and Em­ployment by the Ministry’s Acting Permanent Secretary. They ques­tioned why the official should read the speech of the minister who was present at the event.
Although the NLC leadership had explained that Ngige would not present his speech because he would read Buhari’s speech, being his repre­sentative, the angry workers rejected the arrangement and began to shout in Pidgin English: “We no gree, We no gree” (which means it is unaccept­ed to us).
While this lingered, the work­ers shifted their demand to the im­mediate implementation of the N56, 000 new minimum pay. They accused the present administration of heaping enough insults on them.
They insisted that Ngige would not be allowed to address them on behalf of the President. All efforts to calm the situation by security agents failed. The government officials and NLC leadership were booed as they attempted to manage the situation.
After successfully preventing Os­hiomhole from speaking to them, the workers extended the same treatment to the Speaker of House of Represent­atives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.
They accused the NLC leaders of conniving with the Federal Gov­ernment, led by the All Progressives Congress (APC), to impoverish Ni­gerian workers.
The protesting workers said their leaders had become toys in the hands of the government, and lamented that while they were facing untold hard­ships due to the unfriendly policies of the government, the NLC leaders were indifferent to their plight.
The situation degenerated when the workers accused the government of taking them for granted and started shouting “Ole, ole” (thief! thief!) “We no gree! we no gree!” “Ngige must tell us what President Buhari has to say on minimum wage, if he must speak.” “NLC has connived with government while workers are suffering,” “If Osh­iomhole is not speaking on salary, he should not speak at all.”
The security agents were not spared. Some policemen who pushed down one of the protesters from the stage were confronted by the workers. The crisis escalated when a senior po­liceman suspected to be the Division­al Police Officer (DPO) threatened to use tear gas on the workers.
The angry workers went after him, and threw empty bottled water at the policeman. In response, the po­lice brought in their anti-riot tanker and positioned it towards the protest­ing workers, which forced the work­ers to stage a walkout, bringing the ceremony to an inglorious end.
In a chat with journalists, the Na­tional Union of Local Government Employee (NULGE) President, Ibra­him Khaleel, said: “The truth is that workers are really not happy. We feel sidelined in so many areas. We are not happy because we are not getting our salaries as at when due. Workers at the local government are the worst af­fected when it comes to issue of non-payment of salaries.
“On minimum wage, as you are aware, the present N18, 000 min­imum wage came into effect since 2011. Between 2011 and now, so many things have changed, particu­larly the economic recession which the country is wallowing in. Inflation rate is rising every day. And the nai­ra has lost its value. This singular fact is enough for the government and la­bour to see reason as to how the min­imum wage can be enhanced so that workers can live happily with their families and dependants. But as you are aware, every effort to achieve this has failed, as the government has re­sorted to delay tactics.”
Responding to the action if the workers, Ngige said: “The Federal Government has been fair to Nige­rian workers. And it has shown it by releasing bailout funds to state gover­nors. And part of this government’s fairness to workers has been demon­strated by our firm commitment to making sure that no worker is laid off.
“What happened today is sim­ply that this place was infiltrated by non-workers. And as you know, there are factions within the labour feder­ation in Nigeria. So, what is playing out here as I was made to under­stand from intelligence report is that this gathering was infiltrated by peo­ple who do not belong to the labour union.
“My message for the workers is that they should be patient, they should give us some time. The Min­imum Wage Committee will start functioning within the next quarter which is in the next three months. And within this time, backlog of pro­motion and repatriation allowances, relocation allowances and others that are due them as emolument will be paid”.
Gov Wike assures Rivers State workers of better welfare
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has urged the organised labour to be united and promised to continue to place priority on the workers’ welfare.
Represented at the May Day cel­ebration in Port Harcourt by the Sec­retary to State Government (SSG), Kenneth Kobani, the governor said that workers deserved their wages and assured them that his adminis­tration would continue to pay their salaries promptly.
Wike said: “With profound ap­preciation and support, it has been a partnership journey between the government and workers. We will continue to place in the front burn­er the welfare of workers in the state. We have noted all the presentations today, and the government will do something about them.
“The stadium we are using today used to be known as Liberation Sta­dium before it was changed to Yaku­bu Gowon Stadium. I’m sure the sig­nificance of that name will not be lost to any of us. Therefore, I enjoin you to participate in the activities com­memorating the 50th anniversary of the state,” he said.
Wike continued: “I did hear a number of you talk about disunity in the labour union. So, when you come here and sing about solidarity and unity, you must act it, you must practice it. It is only when you do that, that labour organisations and government will take your aspira­tions and request seriously.”
In her address, the state Chair­man of NLC, Comrade Beatrice Ito­bo, urged Governor Wike to look into the working conditions of work­ers and improve on them .
She said that the Contributory Pension Scheme had impacted neg­atively on the living standard of the workers, describing it as a colossal disaster.
The state Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Austin ThankGod Jonah, said that the unions under Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Associa­tion of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) were worried about the problems in the oil and gas sector.
Jonah said: “We are greatly worried about the increasing prob­lems in the nation’s oil and gas sec­tor which have led to the loss of jobs which have hit an all-time high of 350,000.”

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