As the Federal Government concentrates fully on growing the economy to the detriment of every other thing, the harsh consequence on the average Nigerian worker has raised the need for other sources of income. Sunday Ojeme reports
The experience in the last two years of this administration, to say the least, has been a traumatic one for most Nigerians, especially those on the lowest rung of the ladder.
For those who were lucky to be employed, the uncertainty over job security and eventual termination of their appointments placed a bigger burden on them into the new year.
Battling unfriendly policies
No doubt, the rash policies put in place by the Federal Government dealt more blows on the economy and, by extension, employers of labour, who had no choice than to either prune their workforce or close down their businesses.
The lessons learnt within the period have been enormous, but the biggest of it all is the need for every salary earner to cultivate the habit of engaging in an extra income generating activity besides his wages.
Although the leadership of organised labour has issued signals of likely confrontation with the government and other employers of labour, who mistreat their workers, experience has shown that it is better to secure one’s financial independence than rely on agitations that have hardly put food on the table.
This has become even more necessary as the Federal Government’s disposition to workers’ welfare continue to remain unpredictable. The fate of the average Nigerian worker during the current year would still be highly determined by unpredictable circumstances coming from a the government with no immediate empathy for the people.
Having failed to deliver some of the promises made in the past two years, it remains uncertain what the new year would turn out to be for workers in the hands of the federal, state, local government authorities as well as private sector employers.
For the records, although the leadership of Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have expressed their resolve to battle the Federal Government and other employers of labour that fail to honour their agreements with workers, events of the past only revealed that there is a limit to how far they can go.
Having emerged from another gruelling and unrewarding year into another bleak calendar, the labour movement brushed aside the traditional sugar-coated felicitations with the government to sound a note of warning that it would henceforth confront the government more aggressively if only to put an end to the unwarranted suffering of Nigerian workers.
As a prelude to what labour is standing for in the year, the NLC disclosed ongoing plans to march against what was described as, “Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s Draconian Government’ on January 11, 2018 in Kaduna State, over the distribution of sack letters to about 26,500 primary school teachers and local government workers under the guise of having failed an assessment test.
The proposed march against the governor will be a precursor to what may befall other employers who are in the habit of treating workers the way it pleases them.
As a matter of urgency, President of TUC, Comrade Bala Bobboi Kaigama, is demanding a number of palliative from the government including the conclusion of everything concerning the new wage on or before the second quarter of the year by the National Minimum Wage Committee set up by the Federal Government.
It also demanded that all state governments should pay all outstanding salaries and allowances to workers before the end of the first quarter in 2018.
Kaigama said : “We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different result. This is not how it is done in other climes.”
On his part, the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, vowed to hold government at all levels accountable for their actions towards Nigerian workers and the country in general.
He lamented that contrary to its campaign promises and the expectations of the citizenry, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had failed Nigerians at all fronts within the last three years of its administration.
Saddened by the backlog of salary and pension arrears arising from the failure of state governments to pay workers’ salaries and pensions after collecting three tranches of the Paris Club refunds, he accused some states under the leadership of the APC of frustrating workers and increasing the number of unemployed persons in the country.
Wabba maintained that as Nigeria moved towards the electioneering year, workers would ensure they put into due consideration, the untold hardship meted out on them by governors who refused to pay their entitlements on the excuse of the scarcity of resources, whereas, they have continued to pay themselves, their political appointees and cronies huge packages.
“The previous year saw the working people, pensioners and other Nigerians facing series of daunting socio-economic and security challenges, even though we had hoped that the year would offer succour for the masses of the people.
“The deplorable economic situation in the outgone year is aptly captured by the statistics recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which indicated that over four million Nigerians lost their jobs in 2017. Against the background of the campaign promise of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government to create three million jobs annually, this statistics from the NBS underscores the grave and depressing situation of the Nigerian economic landscape in 2017.
“Rather than work to create jobs and improve the condition of Nigerian working people and Nigerians in general, leading elements in the ruling APC government, like Governor Nasir el-Rufai, have been taking measures to further chastise and ruin Nigerians by throwing tens of thousands of workers into the already saturated unemployment market and wretchedness.
“In the same vein, despite the huge revenue that the states have received through the Federal Government intervention funds to clear arrears of unpaid salaries and pensions in many states of the federation, coupled with additional payment of three tranches of windfall, (Paris Club debt refunds), states such as Kogi, Osun, Benue, Ekiti, Bayelsa and several others entered 2018 with huge arrears spanning up to 10 or more months of wages and pensions.
“Under these conditions, Nigerian workers, pensioners and their families remained the most despondent group in an economy that even the well-to-do are groaning and struggling to survive. No wonder, our country is one of the worst, known for having many hungry people in the world according to the World Hunger Index report 2017,” he said.
While also urging the tripartite National Minimum Wage Negotiating Committee under the chairmanship of Ms Ama Pepple, former Head of Service of the Federation, to expeditiously conclude its assignment, he called on the National Assembly to ensure the executive bill that would emerge upon completion of the ongoing negotiations would be granted an accelerated passage for the new national minimum wage to become a reality before the end of the third quarter of 2018.
As germane as the above are to the welfare of workers in the current year and beyond, experience over time has revealed that the average worker, who relies entirely on his income from an employer suffer untold hardship n the course of agitation or negotiations.
In light of the above, experts are of the opinion that engaging in small scale businesses alongside being employed gives room for more strings of income.
Some of the areas that can be explored are fish farming, farming generally, learning a skill and engaging an idle spouse in business. Others are transport business, restaurant, open bar, fast moving consumer goods distribution/retail, and any other business that available capital can undertake.
Now that the year has just begun, it is advisable that every worker plans ahead especially towards the raining season in order to take advantage of the weather for agriculture besides investing part of his monthly income into any small business of his choice.
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