May Day celebration is noted as International Workers’ Day, and it is a public holiday in Nigeria. The celebration began in Europe as a traditional spring celebration to welcome Summer while the first Monday of every May is usually a bank holiday for labourers and workers.
In Nigeria, it is usually a day of specches and demand for better working conditions by the leaders of the OrganizedLabour Unions. Government officials also always use the occasions to make promises they may don’t usually work towards fulfilling.
This year’s celebration is marked in low key celebration mood, as in some states like Kogi state, it was not celebrated. This simply shows that there are reasons why today is never a day of celebration for Nigerian workers.
In a similar move that shows Nigeria Labour Congress determination to register its displeasure over the conditions of workers in the country, this year’s National Parade at the Eagles Square was greeted massive booing of government officials including the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representative, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.
Attempts by the Minister of Labour Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, and former NLC Presdient, Comrade Adam Oshiomhole, to pacify the workers who were protesting poor minimum wage didn’t yield results.
When it was obvious that the protesters would not back down, security operatives of Saraki and Dogara, whisked them out of the state box to their vehicles and they left the venue, based on eye witness account.
Other government officials also left. After the departure of the guests, the workers continued with the programme and celebration.
Government and Workers' Welfare
Currently in the country, there are no fewer than 12 states that are still owing their workers despite series of bailout funds from the Federal Government. Some states are notoriously noted for this act, with Kogi (15 months), Osun (12 months) and Kwara (11 months) states. Other states on this list include Bayelsa (7 months); Ondo (7 months); Ekiti (6 months); and Oyo (6 months); Benue (4 months); Nasarawa (2 months); Abia (2 months); Imo (2 months and several months of unpaid allowances) and Ogun State with over six months of unremitted deductions from workers’ salaries for cooperatives, union dues, among others.
Also, the Nigeria Federal Government was not omitted from the list.
The Organised Labour also accused the Federal Government of owing civil servants a whopping N290 billion promotion arrears, while noting that all efforts at making the government pay had not yielded any positive result.
Commenting on the situation, Mr. Bashir Alade Lawal, Secretary-General of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), commented that in spite of the huge bailout received from the Federal Government.
“Osun State is owing one year, Ekiti is owing six months, Oyo is owing six months, Ondo is owing seven months; Bayelsa is owing seven months; Abia, two months; Benue four months; Kogi 15 months; Nasarawa three months. Ogun can claim it is not owing but it is not paying deductions from workers’ salaries in some cases, six, seven, eight months.”
“Anywhere in the world, you pay workers’ salaries first before doing anything else. For example, in Osun State, some senior staff are being owed over two years allowances. In order words, you can simply say they are being owed one year salaries. What are the explanations?
Bailout has been given about three times and the last one with clear directive from the Federal Government for the states to focus on salaries and pensions, but Osun State government claimed that government was not instructed to use the entire bailout to pay workers’ salaries.”
According to the ASCSN’s scribe, the federal government is busy bailing out states and local governments without its own workers.
“You promote somebody from grade level 9 to 10, from 10 to 12, 12 to 13 and in some cases, from 13, to 14 and he or she is still earning the salary of level 9. All these arrears of promotions have accumulated to almost N290 billion. ‘’We have engaged this government from day one and up till now, it has not paid.
“We have made noise, but government is not listening. So, we are preparing and very shortly, we will do something to at least, compel the government to look at our side. This indebtedness to workers at the federal level dates back to 2007 and we are talking about 2017."