By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has boasted that the threat of protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) against the Central Bank of Nigeria, over naira scarcity and other forms of industrial action has been arrested by President Muhammadu Buhari led government.
Recall the NLC had given the Federal Government a seven-day ultimatum to cause the CBN and the commercial banks to end the cash scarcity, failure of which it warned of a nationwide protest and the picketing of the apex bank’s branches.
Ngige who appeared on the weekly Ministerial Briefing, organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the State House, Abuja, revealed that dialogues, coordinated by his ministry had happened and the CBN had taken steps to remedy the situation.
The Minister, who was accompanied by the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, and other senior officials of the Ministry, said as at the moment, the issue to be discussed by NLC in National Executive Council meeting would no longer be issues of protest, which he said had already been apprehended.
“Now they have all answered our calls because we are the Chief Conciliators. In my opening remark I said I’ve noticed that there’s already a dialogue going on and there’s also implementation and the Nigerian Labour Congress agreed that there was some thawing at the surface of the icing that was there.
“They said they will call up their National Executive Council meeting because the initial decision to give that ultimatum was given by this same Council. Members of the Council reside in the states and in the local governments, so that they will come up today, which is Tuesday, the 28th, to review the situation because much as it is, the important thing is that we have emphasised to them that we have apprehended this dispute.
“By Section 7:8 of Trade Dispute Act, once the Minister apprehends and starts conciliation on it, you maintain status quo ante bellum. So they have gone back now to review the situation. If they’re not satisfied with what they’re see, they will come back to me and I’ll invite the CBN again.
“But for now, the issue of discussion is no longer strike, the issue of discussion is implementation and how far it’s gone and how far it affects Nigerian workers and the general population.
“So that is it, the final decision will be done today by NEC and they will then do a resolution, of course, inform me and CBN what their resolution is. But like I said, we have apprehended and we are now conciliating”, the minister assured.
On efforts to tackle unemployment and create jobs, Ngige said the incoming administration of APC should consider the blueprint on Job Creation Office under the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
He said his ministry had 125 Skills Development Centres in six geo-political zones across the country apart from the 19 job centres in Bauchi, Kaduna, Lagos, Abuja, Edo, and Enugu among others where people received training on bricklaying.
The minister said his ministry was collaborating with United States Labour Department to stop child labour, adding that “They make available $75 million to fight poverty in cocoa and minerals producing areas in Nigeria.”
He defended the federal government’s handling of labour disputes, saying “We are proactive. We have conciliated about 4,000 labour disputes. We get Trade Dispute Notice (TDN) and call them for meetings especially in oil and gas industry.
“Our state offices are doing conciliation on permanent basis.”
Senator Ngige said the issue of pay rise for the Nigerian workers was being addressed and that the issue going on now is the quantum of money for the pay raise.
He also said the amount to be paid would be based on the availability of funds and the ability to pay.
On migration of Nigerian professionals to another country, Senator Ngige said nobody would stop migration.
According to him, “There is migration from one continent to the other. I am not against migration.”
The minister said his ministry was collaborating with International Organization for Migration (IOM) which helped to equip their Migrant Resource Center.
On what palliative measures would be made available with the plan to remove subsidy on petroleum products, he said “the new government would handle the challenge that will be there.”
While speaking, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN, said 760,000 persons eventually benefited from the 774,000 special public works scheme, adding N400 million was refunded after the implementation of the programme.