THIS year’s May Day fell on a Saturday, May 1, 2021, but the Federal Government set aside Monday, May 3, 2021 as a public holiday. May Day, also called Workers’ Day, is celebrated all over the world and used to draw the attention of policy makers, governments and employers to the need to keep the workforces that produce wealth equitably accommodated within the wealth-sharing ecosystem.
The May Day celebration made its debut in Nigeria on May 1, 1980 when the now late radical socialist Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, introduced it. The following year (May 1, 1981) the Federal Government controlled by President Shehu Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria, NPN, made it an annual national public holiday.
This year’s edition came at a time when, not just the workforce but Nigeria as a country, is faced with great national economic and security uncertainties. There is hardly any state in the country that is not menaced by serious insecurity concerns such as Boko Haram terrorism, banditry, herdsmen landgrab, insurgency and the new but sudden upsurge in the targeted killing of our military, police and security personnel as well as the destruction of their stations in the South East and South-South.
In addition, the workers are also burdened by the fact that as of July 2020, eleven states – Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Benue, Ekiti, Kogi, Plateau, Imo, Nasarawa, Osun and Taraba States- had not implemented the new National Minimum Wage, while Bauchi, Oyo, Yobe, Kebbi and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, were implementing it partially. The situation appears set to worsen if the utterances of the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mele Kyari, is anything to go by.
Kyari recently disclosed that after deducting about N111 billion from our oil earnings for petrol subsidy payment, there would be nothing for it to remit for sharing among the three tiers of government at the Federation Account Allocation Committee, FAAC, meeting for May 2021.
The import of this is all-too clear: workers at all levels may have to go without their monthly pay altogether! Yet, if the Federal Government is forced to return to its policy of total subsidy withdrawal, Organised Labour may also return to strike as prices and inflation will balloon beyond the reach of most Nigerians.
As the Labour Movement savours the patriotic and valiant performance of the frontline health workers in the combat of the subsisting coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, it must ponder the strategies it must adopt to force our political class to cut down the cost of governance, devolve more federal powers and diversify the economy to increase productivity and prosperity.
Organised Labour must take more responsibility to ensure good and effective governance rather than abandon all leadership initiatives to politicians.