Workers across Nigeria, united in anger and frustration over unpaid wages, seized the occasion of the May Day celebration to make demands, issue ultimatums and threaten showdowns with their state governments.
In Adamawa State, the state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Dauda Maina, told workers at a rally to mark the May Day celebration that the state government should address all the problems connected with salaries and wages of its employees to avert industrial dispute.
The labour leader lamented that almost half of the total Adamawa workforce are without salaries for the past four months. Other problems affecting Adamawa workers, according to the NLC chairman, were non-payment of salaries to over 900 junior staff employed by the health services management board since November 2014. Others are non-payment of salaries to medical and health workers in the past 5 months; delay in the payment of salaries of primary school teachers for the past 2 years; and non-payment of salaries of journalists under the employment of the state print and broadcast media.
In Plateau State, the NLC Chairman, Jibrin Banchir, asked the state government to pay the five months salaries owed civil servants of tertiary institutions and four months’ salary arrears of primary school teachers.
Lamenting the lack of government commitment to the plight of workers, Mr. Banchir said “we have kept faith over the years, but unfortunately we have continued to be subjected to hardship and neglect.”
Gov. Al Makura attends rally in mourning dress
In a move interpreted as a pre-emptive strike to checkmate workers’ angst, Governor Al Makura of Nasarawa State turned up at the May Day rally wearing a mourning dress. Attired in an all-black outfit, Mr. Al-Makura said he was mourning the attitude of workers towards his government.
The governor, who described an ideal labour force as drivers of good governance, noted that the union should not be seen as opposition to government. He noted that from inception, his government has been labour friendly, hence, the domestication of the N18,000 national minimum wage in the state.
Mr. Al Makura berated the workers for observing May Day on a Sunday, an action he described as irreverence to the Christian faith. He said the unions were unfair to Christians as the celebration stopped many from going to church.
Biometric problem in Kano
An ongoing biometric exercise was the major concern of workers in Kano State. The NLC Chairman in the state, Kabiru Minjibir, insisted that the biometric verification exercise was fraught with manipulations and should therefore be reviewed.
Speaking at a parade at the Sani Abacha indoor stadium, Mr. Minjibir cautioned government against using the exercise as a ploy to retrench workers.
He exonerated Governor Ganduje of being against workers and instead blamed a top official in his administration. The labour chairman said he believed the governor will revisit the exercise.
Members of the National Youth Service Corps who were also at the parade ground commended Governor Ganduje for paying their allowances every month despite the cash crunch facing the state.
60-day ultimatum to Okorocha
In Imo, the Ndigbo Unity Forum, an Igbo socio-cultural group, seized the occasion of the May Day to give Governor Rochas Okorocha an ultimatum of 60 days to pay workers outstanding salaries and allowances.
A statement signed by the President of the forum, Augustine Chukwudum, and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria in Enugu on Sunday accused Governor Rochas Okorocha of diverting bailout funds received from the federal government.
“On South East, we observed that Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo state notwithstanding bailout funds that runs into billions that he received from the Federal Government that he still owes workers in the state many months of salary.
“We demand that Gov. Rochas Okorocha should pay workers in Imo state their salary within sixty days,’’ the group said.
The forum warned that coalition of civil societies would soon mobilise for “mother of all demonstration” in Imo, if the governor failed to heed to advice.
Similarly in Borno State, the NLC urged Governor Kashim Shettima to give top priority to workers’ welfare and demands.
Titus Abana, the state’s Chairman of the Congress, made the call at the May Day rally with the theme: “The Working class, and the Quest for Economic Revival”.
According to him, the 2016 May Day is coming at a time when Nigerian workers are experiencing the dark effect of bad leadership.
“It is on this note that we decided to join our colleagues nationwide to commemorate the day despite the security challenges.
“We want Borno government to focus on the workers’ demands, which include full implementation of the minimum wage, allowances for local government staff and primary school teachers.
“Your Excellency, over the years you have been magnanimous in releasing a sum of N150 million to service gratuities of retirees on monthly basis, but for some months now the amount is not released.
“The problem has continued to multiply because civil servants continue to retire and are not paid in time.
“There is a need to also consider the upward review of pensions and also payment of pensioners’ outstanding balance of 142 per cent arrears.
“The government should also implement the owner occupier housing system to enable our workers earned their own houses.
“Some local government councils like Askira Uba, Biu, Hawul, Asikira and Chibok are yet to benefit from the N18,000 minimum wages, the government should please look into their issues.
“Consequently, implementation of approved 30 per cent CONHESS to local government health workers is also still lingering which should be looked into,” Mr. Abana said.