Nigerian Workers Celebrate Amidst Uncertainty, Poor Living Condition

Nigerian Workers Celebrate Amidst Uncertainty, Poor Living Condition

It was an eventful day across the country as Nigerian workers trooped out in all the states of the federation and joined their counterparts worldwide to celebrate International Workers Day. May Day, as some may call it, is usually acknowledged every May 1st of the year for workers to commemorate their achievements and to state

It was an eventful day across the country as Nigerian workers trooped out in all the states of the federation and joined their counterparts worldwide to celebrate International Workers Day. May Day, as some may call it, is usually acknowledged every May 1st of the year for workers to commemorate their achievements and to state their demands to the government.

Although May 1st was designated as International Workers Day in the United States in 1889, it was not declared a national holiday in Nigeria until the federal government did so in 1981, and it has been observed ever since.

To celebrate May Day 2023 and further advance their advocacy for better welfare, Nigerian workers led by their respective trade union leaders in their states held rallies, marched, and gathered in public spaces all across the nation

Their celebration was centred around the need for the government to improve their working conditions, review civil servant salaries across the country, and extend years of service, among other demands presented to the authorities.

Joining the workers across the country were the state governors, who were present at different stadia to receive salutations from different civil and public servants from different sectors in their states and to further reassure them of their commitment to providing adequate welfare for them.

Among the governors who joined the workers was the Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who appreciated their hard work and dedication to the contribution of the state. He reaffirmed his commitment to creating a conducive work environment that promotes the well-being and prosperity of all workers.

In Osun State, Governor Nurudeen Ademola Adeleke participated in the celebration with the workers and pledged to put an end to the scourge of half-salary payments in the state. On a similar note, his counterpart in Oyo state Engr Seyi Makinde also appreciated workers for their contribution to the country’s economy, promising to focus more on their welfare.

Despite the euphoria that clouded the atmosphere during the May Day celebration and the different promises they receive every year, it is quite ironic that workers experience the opposite of the government’s appraisal of them every year.

For instance there is no doubt that Nigerian workers were among the citizens who went through the recent excruciating pain of fuel scarcity and the naira crunch, which made the organised labour unions lay a threat to embark on an indefinite strike in the past month.

Also, the workers, in some of the states have also been subjected to erratic payment of their salaries over the years, while some governors have also refused to pay the federal government statutory 30, 000 minimum wage across the country.

In this regard, the labour unions have set an agenda for the government to protect the rights of the workers and social and economic justice. According to them, this will enhance their living conditions and promote their comfort, especially as the new administration is about to be inaugurated in the country.

Speaking with NDR, a member of the organised labour and a unionist, wh0 identified himself as Baba Aye noted the Nigerian workers need to keep on challenging the powers that be to get rid of the worst living conditions they have been subjected to.

“The conditions Nigeria workers are going through right now is one of the worst in a long time, inflation at 22% is the worst in this century the real wages have declined even at the time that nominal increment was made from #18,000 to #30000, it was actually a reduction in real wages. In 2011, I remember at the rally how much we were talking about, whether it was 11,000 increments, now imagine how it has been at this time.

“Nigeria workers are going through a hell, both working conditions and living conditions, security and so on and so forth. But May day is a day of reflection and struggles won by workers, but we need to be sure that we can take it beyond celebrations alone. We must keep on challenging the powers that be”.

Another member of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayoyinka Oni also lamented the despicable conditions of the Nigeria workers under the current administration. He also noted that the outgoing government undermined the Workers Union in most of its decisions, claiming that labour unions must be more strategic to make their demands known to the incoming government.

“Labour does not actually have anything to celebrate, because the administration of Buhari for the past eight years has not recognised that workers should be taken care of in terms of their remuneration and welfare, and salary increase. They just increased the minimum wage to 30,000 but so many states are yet to meet up and that has been put under the carpet which many have forgotten about. And here we are in a country, where a bag of rice is over #30, 000 , so the workers have nothing to celebrate but because it has become a tradition, that’s why we come out and see what we can do, gathering in Lagos and other parts of the country. They have nothing to celebrate.

What workers should do is to strategise towards workers liberation and that’s what workers should be all about at the moment, but it is obvious that the mood does not really depict that we are celebrating anything.

In his reactions to the workers day celebration, Comrade Adeola Soetan, the National Coordinator of Democracy Vanguard, pointed to government’s erratic payment of workers salaries in the country as reason for the expansion of corruption in the country.

He added that the government officials are underpaying the workers to expand their siphoning of public funds, encouraging them to bridle up to put the government on its toes to further increase their conditions. “We have to understand that labour creates National wealth and they should be the first beneficiary of the wealth, we should know that for the past years, workers have always been surcharged. Their status have been devalued and that’s why we have minimum wage not paid, pensions not paid and yet you want them to work and work. At retirement, you want them to leave like normal citizens.

“When you look at the instances wherein government officials are becoming richer and workers are becoming poorer. So you are encouraging workers to be very corrupt in order to meet their livelihood. I heard that the most paid Professor is earning #700,000 and you want him to build houses and take their children to private school, some even take their children to school outside the country, by that underpayment, you have streamlined them to be very corrupt. That’s why they should be asking for the right payment.

“Why is it that pensions are not paid? We had some housing estates during the Jakande regime in Lagos, why are we not having such? And I think that has been a trend, anti workers policy, don’t expect magic in pro capitalist, anti poor neoliberal economy wherein everything has been privatised to the privileged guys.

This is where I will call on the worker that what they get will be determined by the struggles they wage, not by the benevolence of the government in power. Because the more the government steals, the less they pay. So this is where workers should organise themselves, because May day is already becoming a government’s day not workers day, because of the collaboration and conspiracy of the bourgeois elites that have taken over labour movement.

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