VP Osinbajo At The 2019 Workers’ Day Celebration On 01/05/2019
ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT, THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, ON THE OCCASION MARKING THE 2019 NATIONAL MAY DAY CELEBRATION HELD ON THE 1ST OF MAY, 2019 AT THE EAGLE SQUARE, ABUJA.
I am delighted to be with you on this historic occasion marking the International Workers’ Day, otherwise known as May Day, which is also coming on the heels of the Centenary Celebration of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
These two events have far reaching significance for workers in particular and for the world of work in general.
One defined and regulated the world of work through the international labour standards and the other established the protection of the fundamental rights and dignity of the working people. These critical events have over the years defined employment relations globally.
Another uniqueness of this year’s celebration is that the International Labour Organization (ILO) as part of its arrangement towards the celebration of its Centenary, gave the Member States the opportunity to select their ‘Country Themes’ in the spirit of its Centenary.
It is in recognition of this our country chose its theme for this year’s May Day Celebration as “Another 100 Years of Struggle for Jobs, Dignity and Social Justice in Nigeria.’’ You may recall that at the attainment of independence, we became a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The early decision to join the ILO was predicated on the strong conviction that international labour standards as formulated by the ILO since its inception in 1919, aimed at promoting opportunities for decent and productive work under conditions of freedom, equity, security and dignity, was imperative in building a virile and strong workforce, which our young country at that time needed for its rapid socio-economic development. It is for this reason that the centenary celebration of the ILO is both emotive and sentimental for us as a country and in particular to workers.
It is of utmost importance for me to state here that the ILO has over the years supported our country in the development and implementation of labour related policies, action plans and programmes to tackle child labour, forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking.
Recently, ILO also collaborated with Nigeria in her affirmation as a member of Pathfinder countries on the elimination of child labour, forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking.
Pathfinder countries are pioneer countries of Alliance 8.7 who have decided to pull resources together and channel the same towards the achievement of Target 8.7 of Sustainable Development Goals. We shall ask and request the ILO to support further.
In addition, the ILO conventions, especially those ratified by our country, have been useful in the formulation of our national labour legislations and policies that govern employment relations and good conduct of industrial relations in general.
I am optimistic that we shall continue to leverage on these collaborations, to further strengthen our labour institutions, update labour legislation and policies, in tandem with international best practices as well as foster stronger ties among the social partners in the coming years.
Comrades, I am also convinced that the careful selection of the theme is a reflection of our collective commitment to job creation, protection of rights of workers, workers’ dignity and promoting social justice in our country as espoused in various provisions of our constitution.
Therefore, today’s event should provide us with the opportunity to reflect on our fidelity to these great goals and our fidelity to the common principles that underlie the social justice and dignity of labour across the world. Our administration is firmly committed to these principles.
On assumption of office in 2015, in spite of the daunting economic challenges, which confronted us at the time, we ensured that no worker was retrenched across the country. We further kept faith with this commitment by providing bailout funds for States unable to pay salaries and other benefits in order to pay accumulated arrears. We also released the Paris Club refunds owed since 2005 to make sure workers were not owed anything.
We also ensured the payment of outstanding benefits of retrenched Nigerian Airways workers owed for decades. We also ensured the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), also paid arrears owed to parastatals and Civil Service pensioners covering 101,393 Civil Service pensioners on all grade levels and 76,310 parastatals pensioners across 186 agencies.
This is in addition to arrears paid to pensioners in the Police and Customs Services in 2016 and 2018. Our administration also settled the issue of benefits of Nigerian Armed Forces and Paramilitary personnel who were dismissed and later pardoned for participating on the side of the secession in the course of the Civil War from 1967-1970. All of these veterans have now been paid their benefits.
Our Social Investment Programmes is the largest of its kind in Africa, and it is directed at ensuring that we are able to provide opportunities in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy.
Indeed, the largest numbers of Nigerian workers are informal workers. Those comrades of ours who are petty traders, smallholder farmers, artisans and tradesmen also deserve our respect and the protection of all labour laws.
Our N-Power programme currently employs 500,000 young Nigerian graduates and additional 75,000 in specialized training as builders, automotive technicians and in other vocations. We have also expanded this programme to include technicians in animation and also specialists in other areas of technology.
Our Homegrown School Feeding Programme where we now feed 9.5 million children daily in 30 States, provides opportunities for over a 100,000 cooks and farmers across the country.
Our TraderMoni and MarketMoni schemes provide almost 2million loans to petty traders in all States of the Federation. At the Next Level of our administration, we intend to expand the scope of these micro-credit loans to traders and artisans.
Our Anchor Borrowers’ Programme has also provided over 1million loans to smallholder farmers across the country. Already, that scheme is being expanded to cover yet another 1million farmers all across the country.
So for this administration, the theme: “Another 100 Years of Struggle for Jobs, Dignity and Social Justice in Nigeria’’ is not merely a headline for this May Day celebration, we truly believe that the Nigerian citizen, especially those at the bottom of the pyramid, must be the central focus of all economic planning and budgeting.
The welfare and well-being of all these Nigerians who work everyday and render honest services every day is the true benchmark of our commitment as government and a people to social justice and dignity of all Nigerians.
We will continue to commit ourselves to the cause of improving the lot of every working Nigerian and providing for those who cannot work.
In this regard, the new National Minimum Wage, which Mr. President signed into law a few days ago, shall be fully implemented by the current administration.
Let me once again express our deep appreciation to the leadership of the Nigerian Workers for the understanding showed during and after the negotiations of the new National Minimum Wage. We shall continue to provide the enabling environment for higher productivity, industrial peace and harmony, as well as a congenial atmosphere for effective collective bargaining amongst trade unions and employers, while also protecting fundamental rights and other lawful rights of the Nigerian people and especially people who are at work.
At the just concluded general elections, Nigerians and indeed Nigerian Workers gave our administration another mandate to govern them. We shall reciprocate this electoral gesture by focusing on the critical issues that will advance speedily and improve the quality of lives and livelihoods of Nigerians. These include the building of infrastructure, roads, and rail, hydroelectric power, and also reforming key driving sectors of the national economy in order to put the country on a sustainable path of economic growth and prosperity.
We are especially committed to changing the narrative in the power sector. Today that sector, after it was privatized, still remains challenged in delivering power to many Nigerian homes and businesses. We must work as a matter of national importance and we are committed to doing so, to rework and re-engineer the sector for much more effective performance.
Workers shall be called upon to play greater roles in supporting the government to attain all these goals I have stated.
Industrial peace is central to economic stability. Every industrial disruption costs the national economy very dearly in money and man-hours that are lost.
It is for this reason that I urge all actors in the industrial relations system to be more circumspect, patriotic and ethical in the use of industrial actions as tools for resolving workplace crisis and addressing grievances. Industrial actions, because of the huge economic and social costs, must be the last, not the first option for resolving disputes.
Comrades, as we join the rest of the world to celebrate the 2019 International Workers Day and Member States of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on its Centenary Anniversary of the ILO, let me commend your resilience, tenacity, sacrifice and commitment in standing up against every form of oppression, exploitations, unfair labour practices, social injustice, especially the commodification of labour and the violation of the fundamental rights of the working people of this country and world over.
Finally, I want to thank you all for the support given to our administration in our first tenure and solicit for the greater support and cooperation of all our workforce to enable us to build a country, where our youths would be gainfully employed, there will be security of work and tenure for them and they will be assured of the protection of their fundamental rights and the fundamental rights of all working people in our country.
I wish you all a very Happy Workers’ Day.
Long live the International Labour Organisation; long live Nigerian workers, long live the Nigerian Labour Congress, long live the TUC, long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Thank you very much.