Govt renews concern on unemployment crisis
The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Adetokunbo Kayode, disclosed this in Abuja where the Draft National Employment Action Plan was presented to the National Council on Employment for consideration and subsequent approval.
The minister recalled that the challenge of employment generation in Nigeria had spurred him to commence the implementation of the national employment policy on assumption of office.
He noted that the implementation of the policy which was approved in 2001 was part of the ministry’s contribution to the realisation of the wealth creation mandate within the framework of the seven point agenda of the Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration.
To achieve this, the minister convened the National Employment Summit between April 21st-23rd, 2009 with a theme “Meeting the Employment Challenges of the global Economic Crisis” which drew stakeholders, experts, policy and decision makers in the field of development of employment generation within and outside Nigeria.
Ministers of Labour of Ghana, Sierra-Leone and Liberia attended the summit. This also led to the identification of eleven sectors of the economy, which would provide huge prospects for employment generation for the teeming unemployed persons in the country.
Upon approval, the plan is expected to mainstream employment generation into companies’ operation and may even determine whether a foreign firm gets license to operate in Nigeria. Presently, firms get approval based on considerations that do not include the capacity of such firm to generate local employment. The Guardian learnt that the plan was aimed at involving more Nigerians in the oil and gas sectors where there had been overbearing of foreign presence of experts and equipment that could be fabricated in Nigeria.
Apart from the Ministry of Labour and Productivity that is driving it, Ministries of Commerce and Petroleum Resources will also be actively involved in its implementation to generate jobs that are inherent in the activities of the two ministries that have been hitherto latent.
Meanwhile, Adetokunbo stressed that the nation might continue to witness strikes and lock outs until an institution that was saddled with the responsibility of fixing the minimum wage for workers was created, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Kayode Adetokunbo has said.
The minister who was speaking in Abuja at the meeting of the National Employment Council said that the primary duty of the ministry was job creation.
The minister who decried the lingering strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) said that his ministry was more concerned with job creation than dispute resolution.
Employment generation will surely take the nation to greater heights, adding that Nigeria needed people who had the interest of the country at heart while people with proven competency should be involved in the process of job creation and capacity building.
He stressed that Nigeria needed millions of jobs to confront the unemployment challenge. He added that with massive job creation, there would be low level of crime in the society. Kayode submitted that there were more serious issues for the ministry to tackle especially in the areas of employment generation, social security, productivity and efficiency, while the trade relations came last.
The minister stressed that in any environment where the economy was in difficulty, the first victim was the employee in the form of job lost. He regretted that it was unfortunate that stakeholders did not follow the procedure for dispute resolution, which the end result always led to conflict and industrial action.
His words: “As a minister, I have done my own job which is to mediate in industrial disagreement between government organs and unions. But in this case, there is a clear case of system failure and we must condone system failure in Nigeria. In trying to resolve industrial crisis, the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) is a tripartite party that has been established to adjudicate on industrial disagreements.
“And if any union disobeys the ruling of the IAP which is meant to be obeyed the question to ask is why is the IAP ruling disobeyed? We must collectively ask the president of ASUU why the union disobeyed IAP ruling?”
He berated ASUU for continually holding out for the implementation of its 109 per cent despite government’s approval of 40 per cent saying the union’s insistence was the major clog in the wheel of a renewed negotiation between the two warring factions.
While justifying the institutionalisation of salary increment structure in Nigeria to forestall constant and uncoordinated call for salary increase by public workers, Kayode reiterated his call for setting up of a national wage policy that would spell out what should determine workers’ salaries and when to adjust them and how such adjustments should be made.
“What minimum wage should be at what time and under what economic circumstances? I am aware that in some countries minimum wage is not flat. For people that are below 18 and 26, their minimum wage is lower than people that are between 26. And those that are above 55 have their wage higher than any other age group because of the enormity of their responsibilities. I believe that we can work together to fashion out a workable national wage policy,” he said.
He stressed that how to provide jobs for the unemployed Nigerians was his priority and not settling one industrial crisis or the other.
“It is easier to get ASUU back to school than get jobs for the unemployed. ASUU has the door of negotiation and discussion open to them but the unemployed persons do not have the door to decent employment open to them and that is why we in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity must continue to work assiduously to ensure that policies that can deliver jobs to our teeming unemployed persons are generated,” he stated.
From Collins Olayinka, Abuja