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Nigerian President says worst days are over

President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerian workers of the commitment of his administration to sustain the current economic recovery effort, declaring that the worst is over for Nigeria.

This was contained in his speech to mark the 2018 Workers’ Day at the Eagle Square, Abuja, where he was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

We believe that the worst is over for Nigeria. Accordingly we will do everything within our powers to sustain the current economic recovery efforts, he said.

President Buhari said his administration would continue to reinforce its macroeconomic policies to achieve sustainable economic stability and growth and to ensure that growth comes along with jobs and there is a just distribution of the national wealth.

Workers’ support

The president said his administration has come this far, counting on the support and goodwill of organised labour, and expressed confidence that together we will achieve our objective of building a united, strong and prosperous nation.

He also appreciated the organised labour for being a pillar of support in the anti-corruption agenda of government.

The government recognises the fact that, indeed, the first line real victims of corruption are Nigerian workers and working families along with the rural poor, he said, pointing out that the payment of salaries and pensions of workers would not have posed any challenge if revenue earned from oil was not mismanaged.

The president said that the Nigerian organised labour contributed largely and actively towards helping Nigerian get out in record time from an economic recession which bedeviled us especially through 2016.

He said Nigerian labour movement remained among the few organisations that have risen above primordial sentiments and have gone across tribe, ethnicity and religion to come together to unite in a common purpose.

New minimum wage

President Buhari urged the tripartite committee, comprising government, labour and the private sector, set up on November 27, 2017 to expedite its assignment to enable the government present an executive bill on a new national minimum wage to the National Assembly for passage into law.

He said the issue of national minimum wage was contained in the exclusive legislative list in the 1999 Constitution, giving only the government the power to make laws on it.

Although there are arguments regarding fixing minimum wage in a federation such as ours, it is the responsibility of government to establish the necessary social protection for all Nigerian workers based on the ability of each tier of government to pay.

The argument for a national minimum wage, therefore, cannot be faulted because the minimum wage is the minimum amount of compensation that an employee must receive for putting in his or her labour and as such should be anchored on the principles of social justice, equity and fairness.

We believe that those who can pay above the social protection floor are free to do so as many have been doing in many states and sectors of the economy, he explained.

Improved welfare

President Buhari said his administration has remained committed to improving the welfare of the Nigerian people and demonstrated it by paying a backlog of salaries and pensions owed workers in the states when he assumed office.

This is why we evolved mechanism to bail out all the 36 states of the federation to the tune of N1.91trillion so far, including Paris Club repayments in recognition of the shortfall in their finances, arising in particular from the oil shocks of 2015 and 2016, he stated.

He said the support was extended to states, irrespective of political party affiliations.

Social protection

The president said his administration would ensure the protection of the socially excluded and socially vulnerable people in Nigeria.

He said the Social Investment Programme of the government has, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, been implementing a full social protection programme through a youth employment scheme, N-Power, micro credit to small businesses, conditional cash transfer to the poorest and the home grown school feeding programme.

He said: So far we have employed 200,000 graduates in our Npower programmes and we are bracing up to doing 300,000 more. Today we are feeding over 7 million children in 22 states and we employed 70,000 cooks. So far we have given 362,000 micro credit loans and our target is to give 1 million micro credit loans especially to market women and artisans.We have also given over 300,000 of the poorest Nigerians our conditional cash transfers. Our target is to give this benefit to one million of the poorest.

According to him, government has also prioritised agriculture in its economic planning to ensure social inclusion.

He said the commitment in agriculture has started paying off with rice importation dropping to just two percent.

Criminal Elements

President Buhari said the insecurity in Nigeria at present is caused by criminal elements who want to stoke religious and ethnic crisis, who want to divide the country using all manner of excuses including the recent attacks.

He called on Nigerians to join hands with government to protect lives and property, saying it is the collective responsibility of all citizens to work for security and peaceful co-existence.

Our country is great because of the talents of our people from every tribe, tongue and religion. Our diversities are our strength. We must reject every attempt to divide us. Our focus must be on developing our economy, providing opportunities in industry, in manufacturing, in technology for our young people, he added.

Vice President Osinbajo also took the salute during the traditional match pass of the workers.

Source: Voice of Nigeria