While Chris Ngige was reappointed the Minister of Labour and Employment, Tayo Alasoadura was appointed as Minister of State. Barely a month after, Mr Buhari redeployed Festus Keyamo from Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to help man labour/employment.
In this report, PREMIUM TIMES presents the scorecard of this ministry in the last one year. This is based on their promises on assumption of office and others made thereafter.
Upon assumption of office on August 21, 2019, Mr Ngige, vowed to resolve the crisis surrounding the N30,000 national minimum wage, the ongoing university workers strike and other issues affecting the industrial sector.
The News Agency of Nigeria, reported that the minister said he will follow due process to put ‘smiles’ on the faces of workers by putting energy in all assignments assigned to his ministry.
Other promises made by the minister included creation of job opportunities to avoid job losses, revival of Nigeria’s Labour Advisory Council and implementation of 1990 Factories Act which entails occupational safety and health components of labour activities.
After his redeployment, Mr. Keyamo also promised to use his versatility in all sectors to help the ministry achieve great achievement.
On September 26, 2019, Mr Ngige told the leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) that the government was planning to reconstitute a new committee to begin fresh negotiations for full implementation of the new national minimum wage and in reaction to that, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, urged the minister to protect the interest of workers.
By mid-October that year, the government and labour unions reached an agreement on consequential adjustments in salaries that must be implemented across board in line with the new minimum wage law and also stop the threatened strike by organised unions.
As of the time of this piece, several states have begun the implementation of new minimum wage for civil servants in their employment.
Those that have commenced include Borno, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Lagos, Ondo, Sokoto, Yobe and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The states that are yet to start include Benue, Cross River, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Plateau, Rivers, Taraba and Zamfara.
In May, Mr. Keyamo revealed the details of the government plan to employ at 1,000 persons from each of the 774 local government areas in the country.
He noted that the beneficiaries will be paid N20,000 each monthly to carry out public works with political leaders having not more than 10 per cent of the beneficiaries.
The jobs include drainage digging and clearance, irrigation canals clearance, rural feeder road maintenance, maintenance of the Great Green Wall nurseries and orchards in Borno, Jigawa and Katsina states, traffic control, street cleaning, cleaning of public infrastructure like health centres, schools and others.
Bylate June, the ministry constituted a committee to supervise the activities across the country. This led to uproar between the National Assembly joint committee on labour and employment and Minister Keyamo. But in July, the ministry announced the commencement of recruitment processes.
The ministry is also probing alleged N3.4 billion financial infractions levelled against suspended Managing Director of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Adebayo Somefun, and others.
One of the major failures of the ministers is their inability to resolve the incessant strike actions from unions.
PREMIUM TIMES understands that the Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU) has been on indefinite strike since March following the enforced enrollment of the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS) – a government’s accountability software that has been made compulsory for all public institutions, mainly for personnel payroll.
In his last interview with this newspaper, Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU president urged the federal government to inaugurate a taskforce to look education sector challenges which include revitalisation funds for universities.
The country is also battling with a high unemployment rate which National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently said has risen to 27.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2020. It is an increase from 23.1 per cent unemployed in the third quarter of 2018.
Before now, Mr. Ngige himself has decried the alarming rate of unemployment in the country.
For two public affairs analysts, the two ministers haven’t done badly in the last one year.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, Jide Ojo, a public affairs commentator, said the ministry might not have been proactive in dealing with the workers crisis, but the ministers haven’t done badly in other sectors.
“The ministry of labour and employment does not generate employment but on issues around employment, the ministry has done well except in the aspect of resolving some crisis. You cannot hold the ministers accountable for issues of unemployment because there are many factors that shaped that”.
“For instance, the 774,000 jobs idea is fantastic even though it has generated furor. COVID-19 on the other hand has hampered the scorecard because it never helped in reducing unemployment rate. If we want to be fair, the ministry has tried. It is like a system. Keyamo and Ngige have done well, so far.
“No one envisaged COVID-19 and I think that is why the ASUU crisis is yet to be resolved. They never envisaged that when they came on board. I think it is COVID-19 that is also delaying the ASUU crisis.”
Speaking on the way forward, he said “much as IPPIS is not principally under the labour ministry, they must look at complaints of workers and also find solution to other issues as well. They should be proactive and not wait for workers to down tools before taking necessary actions.”
Another commentator, Ademola Owolabi, told our correspondent that the ministry most times carries the burden of the failures of other ministries.
“If industry closes down because of a finance ministry decision, there will be job loss. So, the labour and employment ministry is in the limelight. The ministers appear to have failed in dispute resolution,” the lawyer said.
He also commended the government for the 774,000 jobs it offered.
“It is a good one but it can be more transparent. Largely, cronavirus has impacted negatively on labour in rating them. They just need to be more proactive in dealing with issues affecting workers’ unions and not talk down on them when they protest or express their displeasure on some policies.”