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Editorial

May Day: Beyond The Celebrations

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Today, Nigerian workers join the global community in commemorating International Labour Day, commonly
referred to as Workers’ Day. The purpose of this day is to acknowledge the important role of workers in contributing to the growth and development of society. This occasion is celebrated with tremendous enthusiasm across the world. Ever since achieving independence, the labour movement in the country has persistently raised concerns regarding the country’s protracted battle for effective governance.
Nigerian workers face numerous challenges: poor living conditions, working in substandard firms, driving dilapidated vehicles, wearing second-hand clothing, eating food without meat at local eateries, receiving inadequate healthcare from rundown hospitals, and struggling to pay tuition fees for their children’s education. The worker’s wage is a reflection of the misery that comes with honest labour. Despite their hard work, there is no dignity in their pay.
Workers are notably disadvantaged in terms of their understanding and ability to avail themselves of middle-class securities and privileges. It is observed that basic amenities such as family vacations, social security, health insurance, and mortgage loans, which are common in other parts of the world, are considered to be a luxury in our country. As a result, workers are at risk of being transiently poor, and this implies that they are only a paycheque away from falling into abject poverty.
The loss of the ‘labour tradition’ in the past few decades is a cause for concern. The labour movement, which was birthed by labour leaders such as Chief Michael Imoudu, Nduka Eze, Wahab Goodluck, Hassan Sunmonu, Ali Chiroma, Pascal Bafyau, Adams Oshiomhole, and other quintessential labour leadership, needs to be revived. This will enable Nigerians to renew their belief in the capacity of the movement to lead popular struggles, as established by the founding fathers.
This year’s May Day presents an opportunity for Nigerian labour leaders to bring attention to the struggles of workers in the country. With rising inflation and soaring food prices, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the earnings of over 70 per cent of Nigerian workers. Job losses and wage cuts have become all too common. It is crucial that the government takes note of these challenges and acts to support the workforce.
According to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for Q4 2020, only 46.4 million out of 122.04 million economically active individuals aged 15–64 years were employed in Nigeria. Out of these, only 30 million were in full-time employment, while 15.9 million were under-employed. Additionally, the selected banking sector data for Q4 2020 revealed that about 8,584 workers were laid off by Deposit Money Banks in Nigeria following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those affected include 2,306 junior staff and 799 senior staff. If other sectors were included, the figures would likely be very high. Currently, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is almost 40 per cent. The worsening insecurity across the country, especially the conflict between farmers and herders in the food belt of the nation, has contributed to the increase in the prices of food items and other consumables.
Numerous states across the nation are encountering difficulties in paying the minimum wage of N30,000. Such difficulties are primarily due to the decreasing revenue generated from crude oil, inadequate internally generated revenue, and a meagre tax base. Nonetheless, through judicious resource management, we remain confident that every state can discharge the minimum wage obligation effortlessly. We advise states to curtail the cost of governance, particularly their security votes, to realise this goal.
In several states, there is strong disillusionment and discontent among the workers as wage payment fails while the cost of living soars. In contrast, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has consistently put the well-being of workers first, ensuring timely wages and pension/gratuities payments, and delivering on his promise to provide jobs for 10,000 youths. As Siminialayi Fubara prepares to take office, he should put workers’ welfare at the forefront of his policies.
We implore the federal and state governments to expeditiously attend to the situation of workers, specifically concerning the current minimum wage, in observance of May Day by Nigerian workers. Regrettably, merely a handful of states are equipped to remunerate the new wage. Workers’ future has progressively deteriorated since the previous May Day. Escalations in the cost of fuel and energy have exacerbated matters for the country’s labour force.
A suitable work environment, and the provision of a living wage, should be given utmost priority by all tiers of government. The growing number of strikes across Nigeria underscores the urgent need for the authorities to tackle the problem. It is distressing that the national minimum wage in our country is less than £100, which is below the estimated monthly maintenance cost of a typical pet dog in the United Kingdom.
The federal and state governments must use this year’s May Day to address the nation’s rising unemployment by developing strategies to create more jobs. By generating more employment in the agriculture sector, which has the potential to employ many people, the authorities can more quickly fulfil their pledge to help millions of Nigerians escape poverty.
The Nigerian government should endeavour to diminish its reliance on crude oil and prioritise the diversification of the economy by investing in agriculture and solid minerals. Furthermore, they ought to address the escalating insecurity resulting from conflicts between herders and farmers, banditry, and insurgency. Lastly, we extend our warm wishes to all Nigerian workers on this auspicious occasion of Workers’ Day.

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Editorial

Nigeria: Need For Accurate Population Data

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This year’s World Population Day serves as a poignant reminder of the critical importance of accurate population data in Nigeria. The theme for the year, “Interwoven Lives, Threads of Hope: Ending Inequalities in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights,” brings to light the pressing need for the nation to address the repercussions of overpopulation and safeguard the fundamental human rights of all its inhabitants. It emphasises the necessity of implementing effective strategies and initiatives to enhance sexual and reproductive health services and ensure equitable access to these vital resources.
Population experts stress that the exponential rise in global population poses substantial challenges to human well-being and the environment. As India is on track to surpass China as the most populous country, Nigeria’s population of approximately 226.2 million underscores its significant demographic influence. However, the lack of recent census data since 2006 has left the actual figures subject to speculation, hampering efficient planning and resource allocation efforts.
The disparities in population sizes between India and the United States underscore the shifting dynamics on the global stage. With India projected to exceed China’s population by 2027, its expanding demographic weight will undoubtedly influence economic, political, and social relations worldwide. As the world’s largest democracy, India’s swelling population presents both opportunities and challenges, such as driving economic growth and innovation while also straining resources and infrastructure.
Conversely, the United States, with a smaller global population share, may encounter distinct obstacles related to an ageing population and diminishing workforce. Understanding and addressing these demographic trends are essential for policymakers and leaders in both countries to navigate the intricate issues of the 21st century effectively.
The unchecked population growth in Nigeria has engendered an array of socio-economic challenges that are becoming increasingly difficult to overlook. Instances of extreme poverty, food insecurity, and environmental deterioration stand as stark indicators of the urgent need for intervention. With over 133 million Nigerians grappling with multidimensional poverty, it is evident that targeted interventions are imperative to alleviate the plight of the most vulnerable segments of society.
A study conducted by various organisations in 2022 has shed light on the harsh realities of poverty in Nigeria, with a staggering 133 million individuals affected. This comprehensive assessment not only considers income levels but also incorporates critical dimensions like education, healthcare, living standards, and economic stability. The findings underscore the pressing need for strategic interventions aimed at tackling the underlying causes of deprivation and uplifting the most marginalised populations.
The anticipated reverberations of ending petrol subsidies and merging the naira exchange rates in 2023 are expected to push an additional seven million Nigerians into poverty, underscoring the unintended adverse effects of economic policies on the most marginalised sectors of society. Given this scenario, it is obligatory for the Federal Government to collaborate with pertinent stakeholders to devise and implement a comprehensive population plan that addresses the root causes of overpopulation and poverty.
At the core of Nigeria’s population predicament lies a complex interplay of factors, including child marriages, limited educational access, misconceptions surrounding family planning, and cultural and religious norms hindering women’s reproductive health access. To counter these challenges effectively, concerted efforts must be concentrated on raising awareness about reproductive rights, advocating for girls’ education, and ensuring universal access to family planning services.
Empowering women with the necessary resources and information is high-priority in reducing unplanned pregnancies and child marriages, which are compelling obstacles to achieving a more equitable and sustainable population growth trajectory. This can be achieved through comprehensive education and accessible healthcare infrastructure, which not only alleviate poverty but also contribute to the overall well-being of the population.
Moreover, Nigeria should place a strong emphasis on environmental conservation and a shift towards renewable energy sources to counteract the adverse effects of overpopulation on the ecosystem. By embracing sustainable development practices, Nigeria can ensure a future where its population can flourish while preserving the health of the planet.
With the advent of a new era marked by the leadership of President Bola Tinubu, the accurate collection, analysis, and utilisation of population data should become central to national policymaking. Only through precise data and a robust population plan can Nigeria effectively address disparities in sexual and reproductive health, empower its people, and lay the groundwork for a prosperous future for generations to come.
Undeniably, Nigeria stands at a precarious juncture where obtaining accurate population data is imperative to tackle the multifaceted challenges associated with overpopulation. Prioritising the collection of precise demographic information, implementing targeted interventions, and fostering a culture of empowerment and sustainability, will pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous future for Nigerians.

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Editorial

Enough Of The Terrorist Threat

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For over a decade, Nigeria’s security forces have been fighting insurgent groups and bandits to restore peace in the country. The military leadership in Abuja regularly meets with stakeholders to discuss progress in their counter-terrorism efforts, highlighting successes such as eliminating insurgents, capturing perpetrators, rescuing hostages, and seizing weapons.
The Strategic Communications Interagency Policy Community (SCIPC), operating under the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) in Abuja, has recently released a comprehensive report detailing the huge accomplishments made by security, defence, and response agencies within the past year. This report serves as a testament to the unwavering efforts and dedication of these agencies in safeguarding the nation and its citizens.
It highlights the remarkable progress made in intelligence gathering and surveillance capabilities. Security agencies have deployed cutting-edge technologies and strengthened international partnerships, resulting in the timely detection and prevention of potential threats.
The Nigerian military has made giant strides in combating terrorism and other security challenges in the country, according to the Director of Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba. In the past year alone, troops operating in the northern parts of the country have neutralised over 9,300 terrorists and apprehended nearly 7,000 more. Additionally, over 9,500 Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters, along with their families, have surrendered to security forces.
In an update on the security situation, Maj. Gen. Buba highlighted the rescue of 4,641 hostages, demonstrating the military’s commitment to protecting civilians. Furthermore, authorities have arrested over 1,400 suspected oil thieves and recovered stolen crude oil products worth an estimated N91.2 billion, effectively curbing illegal activities in the energy sector.
Over 1,700 kidnap victims were successfully rescued by the police. They have recovered a substantial number of vehicles and motorcycles, as well as firearms and ammunition, effectively disrupting criminal networks and enhancing public safety. These achievements underscore the unwavering determination of the security agencies to ensure the well-being and security of the Nigerian populace.
The one-year report presents an overview of the ongoing efforts by security operatives to combat the pervasive threat posed by criminal elements in various regions of Nigeria. Particularly noteworthy is the diligent work being carried out in the North-East, where extremist groups such as Boko Haram, ISWAP, and Ansaru continue to sow the seed of crises and insecurity. In the North-West and North-Central regions, the proliferation of bandit cells has turned these areas into volatile conflict zones.
Also grappling with separatist violence orchestrated by groups like the Eastern Security Network (ESN), affiliated with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), is the South-East. This multi-faceted security challenge has prompted coordinated military operations across all 36 states of the nation, aimed at neutralising the diverse threats posed by criminal organisations and extremist factions.
However, the recent reports, detailing the activities of ISWAP in Borno State, raise serious concerns. In specific instances, ISWAP has been reported to have conducted open court sessions in villages near Lake Chad. During these sessions, the group attempts to recruit residents by propagating its extremist ideology and urging individuals to join their violent cause. Disturbing images have surfaced of masked terrorists addressing local residents and persuading them to back the establishment of a caliphate.
ISWAP members are promising potential recruits better governance, security, and basic amenities in their envisioned new state. They are also distributing welfare packages to households to recruit new members. These tactics show the dangerous nature of the organisation and the vulnerable situation of communities in the region. The spread of extremist ideologies and false promises are a serious threat to peace and stability in the area.
Numerous communities in Nigeria continue to face security problems as they are under the control of terrorist groups, despite the efforts made by the military in the fight against terrorism. Kukawa Local Government Area, known for its fishing and farming activities, is particularly vulnerable, with reports indicating that most areas in the region are currently under the control of ISWAP terrorists. In January, two fishermen in the Marte area of Borno reportedly had their hands severed by the terrorists over suspected theft.
In the North, farmers and fishermen have to pay taxes to terrorists to access their land or risk being brutally killed. Nigeria must address both the ideological and military aspects of the conflict to defeat groups like ISWAP. Simply citing numbers of terrorists neutralised or arrested will not end the prolonged insurgency.
Given the country’s current economic crisis and the difficulty in sustaining the ongoing warfare, the Office of the National Security Adviser, in collaboration with the military high command, should formulate a strategic plan with achievable objectives and deadlines to eradicate the terrorist threat. However, this task cannot be accomplished without disrupting the supply chain of the insurgents, including their sources of manpower and funding.

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Editorial

Learning From Kenya’s Protests

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In an effort to consolidate the fiscal framework and strengthen Kenya’s economy, President William Ruto introduced a controversial bill laden with punitive taxes. This bill targets essential commodities, inflating the cost of living through increased fuel prices, imposing additional duties on exports, and controversially taxing sanitary pads, a move that is antithetical to gender equity. This legislative measure, intended as an economic panacea, instead thrusts the dagger deeper into the vitals of an economy already reeling from decadent living standards and systemic inequality.
The incremental taxes included in the bill are in line with Keynesian economic principles, where government intervention is required to regulate economic activity. However, such intervention is intended to be facilitative, not oppressive. In the case of Kenya, the controversial taxes would have reverberated through the socioeconomic strata, exacerbating unemployment, increasing inflation, and squeezing the already meagre incomes of the working class.
In the face of these oppressive measures, the streets have become a place where Kenyans are strongly protesting against the oppressive actions of the government. The youth, who represent the future of the country, are passionately exercising their democratic right to protest against the injustice they face. This is not just a reaction to economic troubles, but a powerful statement of their fundamental right to live with dignity and free from poverty.
Following weeks of peaceful demonstrations against the proposed legislation, protesters rampaged through the parliament in Nairobi. Subsequently, Ruto authorised the deployment of both police and military forces to suppress the unrest. Regrettably, it has been reported that 13 protesters were killed and many others injured by the police. Such excessive force against civilians is completely unjustifiable. Rather than engaging in finger-pointing, the security officials responsible should face appropriate sanctions.
In 2022, the Ruto’s administration emerged victorious in the general elections in Kenya, coming into power with a commitment to enhance the living standards of the underprivileged and improve the overall conditions of millions of citizens. Notwithstanding the initial promises made during the election campaigns, the government faced the stark challenges of limited financial resources, considerable debts, and the consequent inability to promptly execute its promised agenda.
Undoubtedly, the sombre economic conditions compelled the government to implement the financial bill last year, introducing a housing tax and elevating the top personal income tax rate. This action incited dissatisfaction among substantial portions of the population, leading to public displays of outrage, street demonstrations, and in some cases, legal challenges against the government’s policies.
This bill that caused a lot of public demonstrations and unrest may suggest that Kenya’s political system is not properly representing and including all groups in society. This also raises questions about the role of parliament in making sure proposed laws are thoroughly discussed and debated, to prevent protests from turning violent. However, attacking the seat of legislative power does not help the cause of protestations. Instead, it undermines the very structures that allow people to participate in the political process and seek change.
Despite the withdrawal of the bill by Ruto and his accusation towards security forces for inaccurate intelligence, the protests have continued without pause. This situation highlights the lack of genuine democratic principles in Africa. The crisis is primarily related to the economy, as the government, with a GDP of $113.4 billion and a population of 54.03 million, has acknowledged being in debt and facing financial constraints. To address its $78 billion debt, the government contemplated raising taxes.
The government said the country would have a $31.1 billion budget deficit if it cancelled the planned tax increase. This is made worse by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) recommendation that the country should expand the number of people and businesses that pay taxes; improve how well people and businesses pay their taxes and have a stricter financial policy to reduce the country’s debt problems. Similar to numerous African nations, Kenya is closely connected to the IMF.
Regrettably, many African leaders exhibit poor management of their nation’s economies, resulting in appalling hardships for the populace. The citizens are left to bear the consequences of their irresponsible handling of both domestic and international loans. It is necessary that African citizens exercise their voting power to remove ineffective and incompetent governments from office.
Nigeria has faced challenges due to past IMF advisories, like the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in the 1990s. The actions taken based on IMF recommendations, such as removal of petrol subsidy and floating of the naira, have harmed the economy and led to negative impacts like job losses and poverty. African leaders should give priority to implementing locally-developed policies to drive economic growth rather than relying on external financial agencies like the IMF and World Bank.
Regardless of President Ruto’s concession, some protesters still insist on continuing demonstrations until the government collapses. This would be unwise as it could lead to a disproportionate use of force, escalating tensions and potential fatalities. Protesters should avoid creating conditions for anti-democratic forces to disrupt the democratic system that allows citizens to peacefully demonstrate. In a democratic society, political change can be sought through the ballot box in the next elections.

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