May Day: Workers Celebrate Low Key Amidst Fuel Crisis, Unpaid Wages

Nigerian workers
Nigerian workers

Workers across the country today marked the annual Workers Day celebrations despite hardship occasioned by the unending fuel scarcity and with many yet to be paid their salaries for months.

In many states, the usual fanfare that goes with the annual event was absent as workers simply stayed back at home to celebrate the occasion in a low key manner.

In states where the ritual of the traditional march past was observed, government officials did not attend the ceremony while some other states had to battle with the issue of leadership tussles in the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC.

In Abuja, outgoing President, Goodluck Jonathan, did not attend the 2015 May Day rally which held at the Eagle Square in Abuja despite the fact that a considerable number of workers from the NLC and Trade Union Congress, TUC attended the event.

This would be the first time the President would be absent from the Workers’ Day celebration since his assumption of office in 2011.

The President was, however, represented at the event by Minister of Labour and Productivity, Joel Ikenya.

However, the President elect, Muhammadu Buhari in a message commended Nigerian workers for their steadfastness in the service to the nation despite noticeable challenges.

In his May Day message to the workers, he acknowledged the hardship of the Nigerian working class, which he said, was compounded by poor governance and large-scale pervasive corruption.

He noted that Nigerian workers were among the worst hit social groups on account of poor living standards that is inconsistent with vast oil wealth at the nation’s disposal.

He also expressed sadness at the contradiction and irony of Nigeria’s oil wealth which he said had relegated reward for hard work to the background while corruption raged unimpeded.

Buhari promised workers that his government would be committed to boosting their morale in order to increase productivity. He also pledged that his administration would increase incentives for workers to boost their income

In Edo State, workers held parallel rallies to mark the event. This was as a result of the leadership crisis currently rocking the NLC. While the deputy governor, Pius Odubu, who represented the state governor, Adams Oshimhole attended the rally at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City, another faction loyal to Joe Ajaero held its event at the NTA Pavilion ground.

Oshiomhole in his speech to the workers assured them of a better deal when the incoming government of Muhammadu Buhari assumes office on May 29.

He said his administration had been paying salaries despite dwindling resources at its disposal.

However, some unions such as the Judiciary Workers Union of Nigeria and the National Union of Local Government Employees wore black to the rally to lament the delay in the payment of their salaries.

In Delta State, governor Emmanuel Uduaghan shunned the workers rallies held in Asaba to express his dissatisfaction with the factionalisation of the NLC in the state.

An earlier attempt by him to unite the factions had ended without success. However in a statement issued on his behalf by his special adviser on Labour Relations, Mike Okeme, the governor congratulated the workers and said his administration did not owe any worker salary.

He promised that he would ensure that all outstanding local government workers entitlements were paid before May 29th

In Lagos, however, the celebrations were a bit livelier as hundreds of workers gathered at the Onikan stadium in Lagos Island with the  state governor, Babatunde Fashola, for the celebration.

In his address, Fashola urged the workers to unite with the incoming government to fight the current surge of insecurity ravaging parts of the country. He added that it was only through collective approaches that the country could overcome its numerous challenges.

In Awka, the capital of Anambra State, the celebration was also low keyed and the governor did not attend the event.

His deputy, Nkem Okeke who represented him, however, asked the workers to remain steadfast in their strides of ensuring that the state remains vibrant economically. He assured them that the state government would continue to maintain a good relationship with workers for the purpose of industrial harmony, peace and development of the state.

The May Day celebration in Yobe State did not witness the usual vibrant rally and assembling at the stadium.

The labour unions chose instead to address a press conference to commemorate the day at the office of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT.

The state chairman of the NLC, Lawan Ibrahim, lamented that the occasion has been low-key for the past four years in the state because of the insurgency ravaging the North east zone of the country.

He, however, called on the union members to partner with the NLC in the fight for members’ entitlements such as leave grants, annual increment, and promotion of staff among others.

He decried the falling standard of the state civil service examinations and called for stoppage of the exercise, insisting that it had not served the desired purpose.

He also requested for the full implementation of the labour/government agreement of the N18,000 minimum wage and payment of the outstanding gratuity of 33 per cent as approved by the federal government in August 2010 among others.

The union leader also demanded for the upward review of 22 per cent allowance for the media and cultural workers as well as meeting the lingering demands of the judiciary staff in the state.

Meanwhile in Kaduna, the usual beehive of activities to mark the event was also absent.

Adamu Ango, the Kaduna State NLC chairman said the workers in the state had nothing to celebrate. He demanded that the state government pay the outstanding leave grants owed local government workers in the past six years.

He also demanded that the workers who were removed from the new Pension Act should be given back their contributions.

He emphasized on the need for the incoming federal and state governments to be more committed to workers’ welfare.

In Borno State, it was also a bouquet of demands amidst a low key celebration.

The Borno State chairman of the NLC demanded for an immediate lifting of embargo on employment and the full implementation of N18, 000 minimum wage and payment of outstanding gratuities and pension of retired workers in the state.

The NLC chairman, Ali Abana, made the demand while delivering his speech at the annual gathering during the celebrations which held at the Maiduguri State Hotel.

He said the lifting of embargo had become inevitable in addressing “joblessness and poverty” which he noted are entrenched with many graduates still roaming the streets of Maiduguri metropolis and other cities in the state.

He said the day was set aside especially for workers to commemorate their past leaders who died while fighting for workers and, indeed, sacrificed their lives for others to live a dignified life with security of lives and property.

“While appreciating the implementation of workers’ demands, we have equally observed that there are so many areas where public funds could be channelled to, but like Oliver Twist we want to appeal to you to look into our demands with a view to solving them. Such demands include a payment and implementation of N18, 000 minimum wages and payments of outstanding 10 per cent and 30 per cent CONHESS for health and animal workers in the state,” Abana stated.



    “The other demands we are making here today also include payments of gratuity for councils and primary school teachers, training and retraining of staff in the Civil Service, implementation of owner/occupier housing scheme at the five housing estates and reactivation of five dormant industries sited across the state,” he added.

    Responding, governor Kashim Shema who was represented by his deputy, Zanna Umar Mustapha promised to look into the demands.

    He noted that the state government had accorded topmost priority to the improvements of workers’ living conditions in the state through prompt payment of salaries, promotions, implementation of yearly increments, payment of N18, 000 minimum wage, including CONTISS II and CONHESS to tertiary institutions and health workers, as well as that of Local Government workers and teachers in the state.

    He added that the government had also increased the amount paid for gratuities from N100 million to N250 million to enable it offset the outstanding arrears of gratuities owed to retirees.





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