As Nigeria marks 2018 Workers’ Day, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has urged labour leaders to engage federal government on minimum wage, industrialization, education, healthcare delivery and pension.
In a statement in Abuja yesterday, Abubakar said that the minimum wage of N18,000 per month (less than $50) as currently obtained was ill-motivating and embarrassing considering the current economic reality.
He said that while it was adequate that the federal government could set the standard for national minimum wage, state governments, especially the rich states, should not see the standard as the maximum wage.
According to Abubakar, the minimum should be simply considered as the baseline for them to build on.
“I believe that our federal government will become smarter when it is smaller and more flexible in addressing the needs of our labour force,’’ he said.
The former vice-president added that the continuing rate of de-industrialization in Nigeria’s economy was of grave concern, saying the manufacturing sector which was supposed to create jobs had continued to face decline.
He attributed the decline to unfavourable conditions imposed by challenges of epileptic power supply, high cost of credit, multiple exchange rate regimes, and in extreme cases, inadequate foreign exchange supply and depreciating value of the naira.
“The ability to broker the required synergy with international partners and the private sector in key sectors of the economy should be the basis for the 2019 engagement with the organized labour and the Nigerian people,’’ he said.
These, according to him, include automobile, textiles, agro-allied, petrochemicals, fertilizers and pharmaceutical industries, building materials, milling, paper and paper products, solid minerals, iron and steel.
Abubakar also said that the country’s educational sector had continued to suffer decline, noting that agreements freely entered into by workers’ unions and the government had experienced serious setbacks resulting from the authorities’ penchant for reneging.
He added that funding for the educational sector had also remained abysmally low, saying “this problem cuts across all tiers of government.
“As we speak today, the Central Bank of Nigeria is in custody of billions of naira, funds representing Federal Government’s share of Universal Basic Education Fund, which state governments are expected to draw from by paying counterpart funding.
“Majority of the states have failed to benefit from this fund because they have not provided the required matching funds.
“I am a firm believer in our youths and the height at which they can take this country if accorded quality and affordable education.’’
He said that Nigeria had a better potential if a little more attention was accorded to developing its human resources through the education of the youth and adult population.
“We must increase funding for our education and research institutions where the foundational rubrics of our development can be hatched and nurtured.’’
Abubakar added that there was an urgent need to make serious commitments to massive investment in the healthcare delivery system.
“We need a leadership that can gather enough investment in the upgrade of infrastructure and procurement of modern healthcare technology and equipment for our hospitals and primary and secondary healthcare facilities.”
He expressed concern over cases of workers leaving public service and having to wait for up to 15 months to18 months for their pension issues to be processed, and non-payment to pensioners, especially by state governments.
He said there was no doubt that labour movement in Nigeria had a huge role to play in ensuring that the objectives and reform of the sector were met.
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