At this year’s May Day celebration, Nigerian workers plead for improved salary package, accommodation
| By Vincent Nzemeke | May 12, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
NIGERIAN workers joined their counterparts all over the world in to celebrate this year’s workers day on Thursday, May 1. After listening to the ritual of rolling out catalogue of promises, some workers who spoke with Realnews said the major things they would want government to do was to improve their salaries and provide affordable accommodation for Nigerian workers. They expressed optimicism that addressing these challenges would reposition the Nigerian workforce for better performance.
Nancy Okwuchi, a staff at the National Assembly, wants government to increase the salaries of workers to meet the present economic challenges. “They call it take home pay but it is not enough to take us home and the government must do something about that. If you go to many offices you will see workers selling recharge cards and soft drinks, that is because their salary is not enough. So, if the government wants to make things better they must find a way to raise salary.”
Thompson Ayade, another worker, said workers in Abuja live too far away from their offices. According to him, if the government could provide low cost houses for workers around the city, they would perform well at work. “We are suffering. Our people live in Masaka, Lugbe, Nyanya, Mpape and other satellite areas. But the people we work for live right here in the city. So workers get to work very late and they are too tired to work. If the government is serious about helping us, what they should do is to provide low cost houses within the city for us. Many of us will really appreciate that,” Ayade said.
Indeed, some analysts say while workers in other countries may truly have reasons to celebrate, the same cannot be said for many Nigerian workers who see the May Day as just another day to stay away from work.
At the May Day celebration in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, on Thursday, workers celebrated the May Day amidst tight security. Eagle Square, where the celebrations held was cordoned by security agencies. All roads leading to the square were closed, forcing a lot of workers to trek about 200 metres to the venue. The workers were also thoroughly searched by security personnel before being allowed
in. Vehicles that were parked about 200 metres to the square were towed by police and Federal Road Safety Commission personnel.
Armed personnel from the military, police and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, supported by sniffer dogs, took position in and around the venue. Ambulances, tow vans and fire fighting vehicles were also deployed in and around the square to forestall any eventuality.
Labour union leaders from various sectors were decked in colourful attires as they rehearsed for the match past before President Goodluck Jonathan’s arrival.
When the President Jonathan eventually arrived in company of the Abdulwaheed Omar, president of Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, Emeka Wogu, minister of labour and productivity and other top government officials, there was little or no delight on the faces of many of the workers.
Jonathan in his address saluted the workers for their efforts in national building. The President acknowledged that without a dedicated and competent workforce, the nation could not make any meaningful progress. On his part, Omar urged Nigerians to embrace peace and unity as critical tools for national development. In his address titled: “Building Enduring Peace and Unity,” which was also the theme for this year’s May Day, Omar said peace and unity were vital for the survival of many nations, adding that Nigerians must be rightly concerned about enduring peace.
“The challenges of insecurity had continued to threaten peace and unity in the country, yet without enduring peace our nation cannot truly develop on a sustainable base. In the past few years, the nation has witnessed unprecedented security challenges that have tasked our imaginations, resources and temperament. From the Niger Delta to the northern part of the country, we have had one form of violence or the other that threatened the peace and security of the country,” he said.
In his own message to the workers, Bala Mohammed, minister of the federal capital territory, Abuja, disclosed that President Jonathan had directed that three districts be allocated for housing schemes for workers in Abuja. Mohammed told the workers that the president had directed that the houses should be made affordable. “Recently the President commissioned more workers’ housing estates in the life of this nation; this can also be said in other sectors of the economy, such as health, education, among others,” he said. The minister said the FCT administration recently gave out 200 plots as Long Service Award to some of its employees who served meritoriously.
However, he said that the FCT Administration had been working assiduously to boost workers’ morale through various welfare programmes and incentives. Mohammed explained that the present administration had adopted measures to check congestion at healthcare facilities in the territory arising from the influx of people. “In the light of this, scores of specialised medical and para-medical personnel have been recruited for this purpose. As a worker-friendly administration, a Ministerial Committee on Hazard allowance has been constituted to address dangers being faced by some of our staff who perform duties that are considered hazardous,” he said.
The May Day is an annual event marked to renew workers agitation for improved working conditions and general welfare. It started in the United States in 1860, when May 1 was set aside to commemorate the struggle of workers in the country. This year’s was the 168th formal edition, while 68 countries including Nigeria are observing as a public holiday.