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Nigerians count gains, losses after nationwide strike dislocates economy

The domestic cargo agents in Nigeria said the sector in the aviation industry lost approximately N7b to the less than the two-day nationwide industrial action by both the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress...READ THE FULL STORY HERE▶▶▶

Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Domestic Airports Cargo Agents Association, Ikpe Nkanang, made this known on Friday.

Nkanang noted that with approximately 30 tonnes of cargo lifted across the country’s domestic airports daily, the volume of cargo left unprocessed during the two-day strike was significant, resulting in a loss of about N7 billion.

He said, “For those two days, the airlines were not working, and once the airlines are not working, cargo cannot move and it is a great loss to all of us.

“You needed to see the volume of cargo that was dumped over those two days; of course, you know we gathered cargoes during the weekend hoping that by Monday and Tuesday, we would be able to send them out.

“It was a colossal loss to us in the cargo world, it affected our income and, of course, the economy of the country. For those few hours of the strike, the country lost about N7 billion across all local airports.”

The NLC and TUC withdrew their services across the country for less than 48 hours in protest of an increased minimum wage.

The workers embarked on a nationwide strike on Monday, June 3, 2024, due to the tripartite committee’s failure to agree on an acceptable new minimum wage for workers.

The unions also protested against the hike in electricity tariffs, arguing that it placed an undue burden on workers and consumers across the country.

When the strike commenced on Monday, workers closed down ministries, departments, and agencies of the federal, state, and local governments, as well as public facilities such as airports and seaports, in compliance with the strike.

In the aviation sector, domestic commercial airlines were unable to provide any services, including passenger and cargo operations, as airports were shut down from Monday till mid-Tuesday.

“Some economists blame the country’s woes largely on the poor performance of the naira against the US dollar because past governments failed to boost local production; the country is import-dependent and particularly vulnerable to external shocks.”

Generally, last week was a black week for Nigeria and Nigerians as the gladiators in the battle for and against living wage for the Nigerian worker entered into a very fierce engagement ring to press their points to a convincing conclusion that though never was.

Monday, usually the first working day of the week, unfortunately became an extended weekend as the organised labour shutdown the country with a nationwide strike across all sectors of the economy.

The Federal Government in its usual approach to the needs of her citizens often referred to as ordinary Nigerians ignored the organised labour’s call for nationwide indefinite strike and treated it with kid gloves till it became very clear that the Joe Ajaero-led Nigeria Labour Congress and the Festus Osifo-led Trade Union Congress received massive support from the affiliate bodies leading to a total conformation across the length and breadth of the country.

In a bid to prevent further damage to the already ailing economy, the Federal Government hastily summoned the organised labour to an emergency meeting leading to the NLC and TUC, in their words relaxing the strike for five days to engage the government and hear them out.

The NLC spokesperson Benson Upah said unions have been patient with authorities.

According to him, “As far as we know, no government has been this lucky and for our uncommon understanding and patience with this administration, we have been called names. Yet this government does not want to wake up.”

Abdullahi Abdul, a civil servant, accused the government of taking the workers for a ride. He said the government has shown clearly that it is not interested in the workers’ welfare which is the reason it ignored all the agreements reached with the organised labour.

“It’s very clear that the government is taking us for a ride. This particular government has shown that anything affecting the workers does not concern it.

How can a government voted into office by the workers and other masses begin with draconic policies and the wailing of the poor does not touch the leaders rather they continue to churn out more anti masses policies.

“It’s very unfortunate that when this government was campaigning, they promised to make workers’ welfare a priority but on the very first day of President Tinubu’s administration the welfare package he gave to the workers was removal of fuel subsidy without any plans on ground to cushion the adverse effects. We are struggling to grapple with that, he floated the naira, increased tax and worst still, removed electricity subsidy. What evil did we do by voting him in as our President? His anti-masses policies have become worse than Buhari’s.”

N60, 000 minimum wage not sustainable – NGF

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum came out with a statement indicating their willingness to better the worker’s welfare but lamented that they are not capable because the states do not have the wherewithal to sustain it.

“The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) is in agreement that a new minimum wage is due. The Forum also sympathizes with labour unions in their push for higher wages.

“However, the Forum urges all parties to consider the fact that the minimum wage negotiations also involve consequential adjustments across all cadres, including pensioners. The NGF cautions parties in this important discussion to look beyond just signing a document for the sake of it; any agreement to be signed should be sustainable and realistic.

“All things considered, the NGF holds that the N60, 000 minimum wage proposals are not sustainable and cannot fly. It will simply mean that many states will spend all their FAAC allocations on just paying salaries with nothing left for development purposes. In fact, a few states will end up borrowing to pay workers every month. We do not think this will be in the collective interest of the country, including workers.

“We appeal that all parties involved, especially the labour unions, consider all the socioeconomic variables and settle for an agreement that is sustainable, durable, and fair to all other segments of the society who have legitimate claim to public resources.”

Economic expert, Richardson Esezogbar said, “Nigeria, acclaimed Africa’s biggest economy and oil producer but decades of poor governance and corruption have depleted the country’s coffers as nearly more than three-quarters of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

“Under Tinubu’s administration, however, the country has experienced one of its worst cost of living crises ever as prices of food, transportation and rent have tripled within the past year.

“A 50kg bag of rice, a Nigerian staple, cost about N40, 000 ($27) in 2023 but has hit about N90, 000 ($60) this year. The present food inflation rate is among the worst the country has seen in decades having hit 40 percent.

“Major cry among the masses is that some of them have been forced to feed on food meant for animals while others are simply eating fewer meals, this led to a mob attack on a commercial food-laden truck, ripping its contents in broad daylight.”

He however said the lasting solution is not in the increments of worker’s wage but policies that will control the soaring prices of foodstuffs.

Esezogbar also said while traders determine the prices for their goods without price control from the government, no amount paid to the workers will translate to a living wage because when wage increase is announced, traders will skyrocket their prices and what has been crying will continue to cry.

He called on the government to show political will in the area of price control adding that indiscriminate pricing of goods in the country has remained the speed lane to the destruction of the economy.

Some economists blame the country’s woes largely on the poor performance of the naira against the US dollar because past governments failed to boost local production; the country is import-dependent and particularly vulnerable to external shocks.

However, senior analyst with think tank SBM Intelligence Oluseyi Awojulugbe said, “It’s not accurate to lay all the blame at the door of the Tinubu administration,” noting that the president inherited a sputtering economy.

She pointed out that Tinubu’s blame was for failing to mitigate the expected fall-outs of the reforms.

“They went ahead with these policies without putting in place a social security net that would cushion the effect. The government could have given a wage bonus or granted farmers facing high fertiliser costs some subsidies.”

Nigerians knock Governors, Akume on minimum wage, say their comments offensive, insensitive
However, the Nigerian Governors Forum has been criticized over its comment on the proposed N60,000 minimum wage, which has been a contentious issue between the Federal Government and the organised labour.

Some Nigerians, who spoke following the collective response of the governors to the minimum wage, said that the state chief executive officers were both oppressive and self-serving in their posturing.

They also accused George Akume, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, of hypocrisy over his stand on the controversial minimum wage.

Benson Upah, head of Information at the Nigeria Labour Congress, said: “We are very worried that history is about to repeat itself. Nigerians are very angry and we have tried very hard to hold them back. But we advise the President to be weary of these governors.”

According to him, “We are alarmed by the statement credited to the Nigeria Governors Forum that state governments cannot even afford to pay N60, 000 as minimum wage as a few states will end up borrowing to pay workers every month.

“We do believe the governors have acted in bad faith. It is unheard of for such a statement to be issued to the world in the middle of an on-going negotiation. It is certainly in bad taste.

“As for the veracity of their claim, nothing can be farther from the truth as FAAC allocations have since grown from N700 billion to N1.2 trillion making the governments extremely rich at the expense of the people.

“All that the governors need to do to be able to pay a reasonable national minimum wage (not even the N60, 000) is cut the high cost of governance, minimize corruption as well as prioritize the welfare of workers.”

Auwal Musa (Rafsanjani), executive director of the Civil Society and Legislative Advocacy Center, chided the governors.

He drew copiously from reports of the Debt Management Office DMO which show that states had enjoyed more resources since the fuel subsidy removal by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

According to Musa, “A report in February this year, showed that the states received over 50 percent higher revenues since June 2023, after the fuel subsidy was removed.”

The civil rights activist wondered what the states are really doing with these funds, apart from living in large cabinets, siphoning funds abroad and spending lavishly on their families.

“We know that about 13 states are said to have borrowed N226.8 billion from the domestic and external sources, for the period between June and December, 2023.

“This is despite the fact that they have also enjoyed an increase in the distributable revenue from N786.16 billion in May 2023 to N1.9 trillion in June 2023 and it doubled in July 2023.

“These are states that also got N2 billion each as fallout of the fuel subsidy removal approved for them by President Bola Tinubu in July, to help in meeting payments of salaries and pension arrears.”

“Reports also show that 16 other state governors received loans totaling N509.3 billion with domestic and external debt of N243.95 billion and $298.5 million.

“The states, which include Benue, Cross Rivers, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Zamfara, and the Federal Capital Territory, got N115.57 billion from domestic creditors, while governors of Ebonyi, Kaduna, Kano, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara states borrowed $125.1 million (N111.24bn) from external sources.”

An aggrieved young civil servant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wondered “Why is there always a fight when it comes to the welfare of the masses, while nobody hears when the rich are given oil wells? Who knows how much the legislatures earn despite the figures being bandied.”

“What seems to form a majority opinion is that if you consider the fact that prices have quadrupled in the last one year, due to the persisting inflation woes, yet most earnings are static, a concerned person will marvel at how the low-income earners have survived.”

Expressing his anger over the governors’ stand on the minimum wage, Ademola Bakare, a corporate executive, decried the governors’ complaint that they would have to use all the monthly allocation from the Federal Government in paying salaries.

“With the price of a bag of rice above both the N30, 000 old minimum wage, and the N60, 000 insisted by our governors today, it will be callous and inconsiderate on the part of the government to allow workers to continue to earn peanuts as minimum wage.

“That amount is 100 times lower than the allowances our governors give their children. So, funds meant for development are wasted or diverted to private pockets. Let the governors use the federal allocation to pay good salaries, if that is the only thing workers will gain from being Nigerians,” he said.

In his argument against those in support of the governors and those citing imminent rise in inflation as major reason for the inability to pay the N60, 000 proposed by the governors, Onyewuchi Akagbule, a senior lecturer with the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, noted that the poor has always paid the cost of most of the economic policies of the different administrations in Nigeria and not this time.

“There is hunger in the land and you refuse to pay workers realistic wages, while still unable to explain why you cannot pay them. The action of the governor will pitch the workers and citizens against them and will result in sabotage of their efforts across the states.

“With N60, 000 minimum wage proposed by the governors, Nigerian workers will still be hungry and angry,” Akagbule noted.

Speaking on the presumed hypocrisy of the governors, which has manifested in the minimum wage saga, Chijioke Umelahi, an Abuja-based lawyer, decried that the governors keep giving out a large number of appointments to political supporters and spending billions monthly on their salaries and allowances, that would have gone into workers’ welfare and development projects.

“If the governors can pay their numerous aides above N200,000 monthly, they cannot insist on N60,000 minimum wage for workers. That is unreasonable. They can reduce the number of their aides or use the workers to do the jobs of the aides without paying them additional salaries. This will save billions being wasted on aides’ salaries and allowances every month,” Umelahi, who was also a former Abia lawmaker, said.

Speaking on the issue, a former campaign director general of the LP presidential candidate, Doyin Okupe said that state governors should decide the new minimum wage they can pay to workers.

Okupe faulted the National Minimum Wage Act which mandates governors to pay a uniform minimum wage to the workers in their various states.

“But Labour and the Federal Government must be careful on the increase to checkmate the repercussions of wage increase to the economy.”

Okupe said: “We should not make laws that are encompassing, that makes it compulsory for all governors in the federation to obey them. They are sub-nationalities on their own.

“I mean for instance, if you pay a minimum wage in Lagos, why should I pay that in Sokoto? Let every governor decide for his own state by his own people that this is what I can afford.”

Ladipo Johnson, Publicity Secretary of the New Nigeria People’s Party, said that the governors must seek a solution that leads to some form of equitable equilibrium, bearing in mind the high cost of living.

“The governors must seek a solution that leads to some form of equitable equilibrium, bearing in mind the cost of living and the possible resultant increase in inflation.

“However, the medium to long term solution is the government doing its very best to drive down inflation and generally bringing a positive turn around in the economy.

“State governors must also make their states more investment friendly and create a conducive environment for local businesses to pick up and thrive, amongst other things.”

Tade Ademola, former Lagos State chairman of inter-party Advisor Council, said several states could pay a good reasonable amount as wage to workers, but that some of the governors were extravagant and living above their means.

“You can imagine a governor spending N5 billion on helicopters in a few months; they travel on private jets and see their cars in their fleet. So what are they complaining about?

“The current minimum wage does not reflect the economic reality in the country, it is unsustainable for now. How much is a bag for rice?

“But Labour and the Federal Government must be careful on the increase to checkmate the repercussions of wage increase to the economy,” Ademola said.

He further blamed President Tinubu for initiating reforms without concrete plans in place to check the effects on the economy and the citizens.

Omoyele Sowore, former Presidential candidate, lambasted Nigerian governors who claim that the states cannot afford to pay a reasonable minimum wage above N60, 000 to their workers.

He said that several of the governors spend billions on refreshments and others, but noted that claims that paying a good minimum wage would cause inflation and cripple the economy was not true.

Tope Musowo, public affairs analyst, said a lot of the states in the country can pay more than N100, 000 to their workers if they harness the potentials in their domain and use it to generate revenue.

He pointed out that the problem with most states was that the revenue and allocations are looted and misused by officials.

“I am not surprised with what they are saying, what we see here is that poverty is used as a weapon against the masses to oppress the people. If they pay good money people would not come to them begging during elections.

“They are not interested in fighting poverty; in fact they are even happy you are poor. It is a calculated attempt, check how much they spend as salaries for their personal staff,” Musowo said....Continue The Full Reading.>’. 

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