Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday told Nigerian worker that the worst days are over for them following federal government’s firm resolve to maintain its current economic recovery effort.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who stated this regretted that despite the enormous revenues Nigeria earned from oil in recent past, the country still has problems with payment of salaries and pensions of workers due to mismanagement and corruption.
Speaking during the 2018 May Day celebration in Abuja, Osinbajo said the administration of President Buhari believes the worst is over, while assuming that, “we will do everything within our powers to sustain the current economic recovery efforts.”
He said the federal government will continue to reinforce its macroeconomic policies to achieve sustainable economic stability and growth, adding that it will also continue to ensure that growth comes along with more jobs and a fair and just distribution of the national wealth.
The vice president recalled that when the Buhari administration came into office, workers in at least 22 states were owed salaries, some for a whole year.
He said the president’s concern for workers is not a theoretical or rhetorical one, but one borne out of experience and respect for the sweat of the working classes.
This, he said, is why federal government evolved mechanisms to bail out all the 36 states of the federation, to the tune of N1.91 trillion, in recognition of the shortfalls in their finances arising from the oil shocks of 2015/2016.
He noted that the administration extended the support, regardless of party affiliation, to enable them settle the backlog of arrears of salaries and pensions of workers.
The VP said, “While we do recognize that payment of salaries and pensions is essential; we are also conscious of the fact that the increasing cost of living and the recognition to ensure a fair and decent living wage has rendered the Minimum Wage Instrument obsolete.”
Osinbajo supported the argument for a national minimum wage, even as he urged the tripartite committee comprising government, labour and the private sector negotiating the new wage to expedite its assignment to enable the federal government present an Executive Bill on a new National Minimum Wage to the National Assembly for passage into law as soon as possible.
He however assured that in the meantime, the federal government and the state governments will continue to work together to improve the conditions of workers across the country.
“I assure you that under our administration, we will ensure that we expend every kobo of public funds towards securing the welfare of all Nigerians”, he added.
On their part, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart urged the federal government not to release federal allocation to states and local governments that refuse to implement the new minimum wage when passed into law.
The two labour unions also said they are battle ready against public and private organizations that would refuse to conform to the new minimum wage, while also warning that they shall ensure governments that refuse to pay the new minimum wage will not receive the support of the working class, pensioners and their families.
In his address, NLC president, Ayuba Wabba said the disparity between the remuneration of political office holders and other workers in the public sector must be urgently addressed.
Wabba decried a situation whereby some states are still owing workers and pensioners their salaries and pension ranging between three and fifteen months.
He said, “Some states owe pensioners many months of pension arrears despite the bailout funds, budget support fund and the Paris debt refund. The callous and inhumane treatment of pensioners has unleashed untold sufferings on our senior citizens whose only crime was dedicating their entire lives to public service.
“Many of our pensioners have gone down with avoidable ailments and even suffered untimely deaths while waiting for their well-deserved pension allowances. This situation does not augur well and sends the wrong signal to workers still in active service.
“The lack of payment of salaries and pension in some states is not essentially as a result of insufficient funds. It is mainly symptomatic of crisis of governance. First is the issue of over bloated retinue of political jobbers and payment of bogus salaries to such appointed political office holders by state governments. Second is the issue of dearth of public accountability.
“Third is that some state governments have over borrowed to fund white elephant projects that have no bearing with improving the lives of citizens and in most cases end up as abandoned projects. These projects litter all over the country. Last is the fact that at different levels of government, priority is not accorded to the payment of workers’ salaries and pension.”
NLC, TUC Adjudge Ayade Best Labour-friendly Gov
Meanwhile, organised labour in Cross River State yesterday declared the state governor, Professor Ben Ayade the best labour-friendly governor in the state, just as it resoundingly endorsed him for a second term in office.
This came on the heels of the payment of May 2018 salaries to workers on the eve of this year’s workers’ day celebration by the state government.
Since the inception of the current administration workers have always received their salaries in advance.
The state chairman of NLC, Comrade John Ushie, who announced this during his address to mark the 2018 May Day celebration at the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar, told the gathering that the decision of the organised labour to endorse the governor has to do with his very impressive performance in office since assuming the reins of leadership in the state.
He said, “In view of what you have done so far in Cross River State since your assumption of office on May 29, 2015 in the area of socio-economic, political and manpower development as attested by many, and in view of your workers friendly posture, we the workers of Cross River State have viewed critically the options open to us and our future and have agreed on this day to massively support your second term in office.
“Indeed, as a new minimum wage is being proposed, we know that only you can and have the capacity to pay us our salaries without fail. We therefore urge you to bid for a second term in office come 2019 general election.”
On his part, the TUC chairman, Comrade Clerk Out, lauded the governor for providing employment opportunities to Cross Riverians through the construction of the Garment Factory, the Calabar pharmaceutical factory, Cocoa processing plant in Ikom, the ultramodern rice mill in Ogoja as well as the Rice seedlings center and several other industries.
In his response, Governor Ayade described his endorsement for the 2019 elections by the organised labour as humbling, even as he promised to continue to give priority to the welfare of the citizenry over every other consideration.
“I want to thank you all as workers of Cross River State for finding it necessary to honour me in a day of this nature. This honour is a commitment; it is a challenge and responsibility on my part to do even more.
“Therefore, your choice of my adoption come 2019 is a clear testimonial that that my philosophy, my focus on the stomach, that I must put food on the table, has worked.
“The only thing I owe society and God is to ensure that these people who have been standing under the sun, who have made the choice of reaffirming their commitment to me in 2019, that at the fullness of time, you will be happy you did”.