The initiatives put in place by the Federal Government in year 2017 have provided a solid platform for government at all levels, investors and workers to look forward to less turbulent and confrontational years ahead. Sunday Ojeme reports
Unlike the situation in the past, the year 2017 has been an admixture of despair and optimism for Nigerian workers and employers. Although it was tough at a point due to policies of government that were not favourable to investors, the gradual exit from month-long recession gradually restored hope in the economy.
With the exit also confirmed by manufacturers, who were the hardest hit, some investors, who had closed shops, gradually returned to business and also recalled their workers.
Confidence was further propelled with the roles played by the Federal Government and agencies such as the Central Bank of Niger (CBN) and deposit money banks through series of interventions in the economy.
Although the year began with the inevitable hangover of the industrial crisis of the previous years, the government’s renewed policy formulation and CBN’s flexibility on foreign exchange dealings impacted graciously on the economy.
This much was made obvious from the statistics released by the NBS, which showed gradual deceleration in inflation rate.
NBS had said that over four million Nigerians lost their jobs under the administration as far back as mid-2016 as even the once fiery and intimidating organised labour force has lost its vibrancy and only watching events from the sidelines.
The President, Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Mr. Larry Ettah, attributed the unemployment rate to erstwhile policy gap as well as flawed foreign exchange policies that constrained the productive sector.
Within the period under review, apart from policy reforms, programmes such as the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and N-Power have also had their appeal to the labour industry by way of encouraging investors to put money in the system and also getting more youths engaged across the country.
As at last May, for instance, about 200,000 youth across the country out of 500,000 targeted under the N-Power Programme had been fully engaged.
Through the programme, the government has recruited and trained young unemployed graduates as teachers, agricultural extension workers and health support workers, etc.
The N-Power is one of the components of the National Social Investment Programmes (N-SIP), aimed at empowering Nigerians both graduates and non-graduates between the ages of 18 and 35 by paying them N30,000 monthly over a period of two years.
The N-Power programme is designed to drastically reduce youth unemployment in the country, by providing young graduates and non-graduates with the skills, tools and livelihood to enable them advance from unemployment to employment, entrepreneurship and innovation.
Following in similar trend, the Federal Government, still under the N-Power programme, unveiled another opportunity for young and unemployed graduates to be engaged as community tax liaison officers.
The programme, which will take 7,500 graduates away from idleness, would move them to schools, churches, mosques, markets and other social places to educate people on the tax system and let them know their obligations.
Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said, “We will be recruiting them through N-Power and they can apply through the website of the Federal Ministry of Finance or through the N-Power website.
“It is a two-year fixed contract and they will be deployed to states, attached to state Internal Revenue Service or FIRS. “Their job is to improve the level of education on the Nigeria’s tax system.
May Day clash
Even with all the positives within the period under review, organised labour and workers, however, had a raw deal with the Federal Government during the Workers’ Day in Abuja.
The angry workers protested the tough economic conditions in the country, disrupting the rally organised to commemorate the special day at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
They complained about the insensitivity of the Federal Government and also described the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the rally as ample evidence of their disregard for labour.
Their protest forced very important dignitaries, including the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara; Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige; and former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, to leave the event abruptly.
Many of the workers said while they could understand the absence of Buhari, who was presumed ill, they objected to Osinbajo’s preference for honouring an invitation to attend a lecture in Lagos instead of honouring them at the May Day rally.
New minimum wage committee
Notwithstanding the protest, Buhari reassured that his administration would approve the final recommendations of the committee comprising the government and labour representatives for the constitution of a new national minimum wage committee to set a new minimum wage for workers.
True to his words, the minimum wage committee was finally constituted with 29 members drawn from organised Labour, federal and state governments to achieve a balance.
To say the least, the outgoing year has laid the foundation for a better, stronger and well organised economy that will guarantee sustainable employment for Nigerians and also minimise incessant industrial actions due to the all-inclusive representation in the minimum wage committee.
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