International Workers’ Day, also known as Workers’ Day, Labour Day in some countries and often referred to as May Day, is a celebration of labourers and the working classes that is promoted by the International Labour Movement which occurs every year on the first day of May.
May Day, started as a day to commemorate the Haymarket massacre, Haymarket riot, or Haymarket Square riot, that took place at a Labour demonstration on 4th May, 1886, at Haymarket Square in Chicago, the United Stated of America.
It was a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour work day, the day after police killed eight workers. An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at the police as they acted to disperse the meeting, and the bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; dozens of others were wounded.
Since 1904, 1st May is dedicated to workers in many countries, in support of their rights and other benefits that they are entitled to by virtue of the contributions they make in the economic development of a country.
In Nigeria, it seems an endless struggle for workers to get the basic things that a worker is entitled to. Nigerian workers have been unarguably the most unfortunate workers on the face of the earth. In some states, workers are owed between two to ten months salaries, while in some other states they are paid half of their salaries.
President Muhammadu Buhari on 18th April, signed a new minimum wage bill after about three years struggle for an upward review of the minimum wage by Nigerian workers. The bill, which many believe will assuage the suffering of Nigerian workers , makes it a statutory right of a worker to earn a minimum of N30,000 per month as salary.
Unfortunately, some governors have not hidden their opposition to the N30,000 minimum wage with some of them saying they will be unable to pay their workers N30,000 minimum wage.
The Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Abdulaziz Yari, had on Monday in his opening remarks at the NGF induction for governors-elect, warned them to be prepared for the possibility of another cycle of recession by the mid-2020 to third quarter of 2021.
He said, “On our part, we made a lot of achievements in infrastructural development and provision of social services because we enjoyed a relatively high oil price of about $100 to $114 per barrel between 2001 and the middle of 2014. However, by the mid-2014, the price of crude oil, which is sadly the main driving force of government’s expenditure, dropped to $75 per barrel. It, therefore, became very difficult for many states to even pay salaries of their workers.
“This scenario is a wake-up call for all of you to come amply prepared to face these kinds of challenges, especially since we are expecting the possibility of another cycle of recession by mid-2020 and which may last up to third quarter of 2021. Your good spirit of stewardship will make you contain the situation should there be one. Also, as members of the National Economic Council, you must work hand in hand to boost the economy in tandem with the global best practices.”
Yari’s statement is not only sad, but regrettable and unfortunate. If a governor who volunteered to serve his people, cannot pay workers their salaries because of drop in the price of crude oil, why did the person offer himself for service? It’s an indication that most of the governors do nothing, but wait for the meeting day of the Federal Allocation Account Committee (FAAC) to get their states’ share of whatever comes into the federal purse.
There is no reasonable excuse that can be given by any governor for not being able to pay workers their salaries. Fortunately for Nigeria, every state within her territory, is rich in one form of natural resources or another.
It is high time the governors wear their thinking caps and look for a way of harnessing these resources in collaboration with the federal government. By so doing, they will not only have enough to pay salaries, but more left for infrastructural development.
We also believe that the time has come to put an end to allocation of Security Vote to governors. Nigerians have not felt the impact of this money that is unaccounted for. Instead, this money should be allocated to states for infrastructure development. What is the essence of Security Vote to governors when they don’t have control over the security apparatus? Why should humongous amount of money be given to governors for security when the Federal Government is the one that provides security? Why should they be given Security Vote when they cannot pay workers their salaries?
We admonish the governors to make the payment of salaries of the workers a priority by cutting down on their expenses. Most of them need to reduce the number of cars in their convoy, travel on commercial flight instead of hiring a chopper, travel with lesser number of delegates to events and stop other wasteful ventures they engage in as governors.
Furthermore, we urge the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Nigeria Labour Congress (UNLC), to brace up and wage a legitimate war against governors who refuse to pay the new minimum wage.
Nigerian workers have made lots of sacrifices towards the growth and development of the country. As the country celebrates this year’s Workers Day, we admonish the president and the governors to tighten their belts and come up with workable strategies that will put to an end the suffering of the workers.