Buhari Silent On Varsities’ Strike, Deregulation As Workers Boo Ngige

Obiajulu Joel Nwolu
May Day
May Day

The current industrial action by the four tertiary institution-based unions and uncertainty surrounding the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) were sidelined in the address of President Muhammadu Buhari at the May Day event, which held yesterday in Abuja to mark Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day.

Rather, the President, who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, mentioned the payment of salaries since his assumption of office as a major achievement.

The Vice President, a Professor of Law and a presidential aspirant in next year’s general elections, insisted the Federal Government has never underestimated the importance of labour in the dynamics of politics and good governance.

He urged labour to always exercise restraint in their declaration of trade disputes with their employers so as not to jeopardise workplace industrial relations, harmony and ensure maximisation of profits and sustainability of the establishment or enterprise.

Buhari noted that part of his achievements as President is ensuring the prevention of job losses during the pandemic.

His words: “I am glad to note that during the global job losses that happened due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigerian workforce suffered minimally. I commend the employers in the private sector for listening to the plea of my administration in this regard and I also applaud workers for imbibing the spirit of social dialogue and bi-partism in resolving issues of concern that arose at the time.

“We still need such consultative and conciliation meetings to continue on a regular basis to enable us at all times to engage in social dialogue and amicably resolve issues of mutual concern to us and the nation in general on a negotiation table and not to rupture industrial harmony over such issues in dispute.

“During this period, my government did not retrench a single worker, paid salaries and wages as and when due and even provided palliatives and COVID-19 enhancements.”

The President further stated that the Bankers’ Committee through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) also maintained the same situation for banks and their workers, while Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) were encouraged to continue to live and exist by some capital injection to their businesses.

President Buhari hinted that his government would continue in this spirit to share its resources appropriately to all areas of need.

Read Also: NLC Seeks FG Intervention In ASUU Strike 

Midway into celebration of the International Labour Day, there was a mild drama as the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, was booed by workers, who also sang anti-government songs.

The Minister, who was represented by the Federal Controller of Labour, Lagos State, Mr. Nnamdi Simon Enuah, continued reading Ngige’s speech despite the noise and chants. The anti-government songs started from the wing where teachers and universities workers were seated, with some other workers joining.

Surprisingly, a larger number of the workers who were not initially singing the anti-government songs joined immediately the Minister’s representative got to a point where he said he wanted to list all the good works President Buhari has done for the people and workers, including projects executed that benefitted workers.

At that point, the noise in the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan, venue of the Labour Day celebration became deafening with virtually all the workers singing anti-government songs, including blowing short vuvuzelas to drown the voice of the Minister’s representative. They did not stop until he completed reading the speech and left the stage.

Meanwhile, the Southwest zone of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), yesterday, vowed to truncate the presidential ambition of the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, if he refuses to take decisive steps towards ending the ongoing strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

The student body also challenged the Vice President to prove his love for students by ensuring settlement of the face-off between the Federal Government and ASUU.

Source: Guardian

This post was written by Obiajulu Joel Nwolu.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.

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