The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has warned that unemployment and lack of decent-paying jobs in Nigeria are huge incubators of insecurity in the country, urging employers of labour and labour unions to pay greater attention to the formalisation of workers in the informal sector.
According to a statement issued by his spokesperson, Charles Akpan, Ngige made the call while addressing a joint visit by the leaders of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria(IPMAN) and the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) Monday in Abuja.
‘Insecurity as you rightly pointed out is caused by people who feel cheated by society. They carry arms and weapons to vent their anger on the elites. So, the elites in Nigeria are in danger, including me, all of us. Hence, the sooner we start talking to elites in employer organisations like yours (IPMAN) the better. So we can curb this malady and prevent it from escalating,’ the minister said.
‘When you refer to the nexus between job vulnerability and insecurity, you hit the nail on the head. A lot of insecurity problems we have today is caused by unemployment and underemployment. In underemployment, people are not making up to the National Minimum Wage or working up to 8 hours a week which is the ILO standard for full employment. There is a lot of danger if we fail to effectively tackle this. But we are doing our best.’
The minister commended IPMAN for putting its house in order and for being thoughtful of the condition of workers in its employ through decent jobs and formalisation.
‘The good news here is that workers you seek to formalise are in the informal sector. You intend to do a micro pension for them and bring decency to their work. Of course, the ILO principles of decent work enjoin member states to do stage by stage formalisation of the informal sector. But I must tell you that it is very difficult here, because a lot of workers in our informal sector are not in unions. They are not unionised. IPMAN has therefore taken the bull by the horn.
‘Here we are talking of pump dispensers, cashiers and others doing mechanical work like vulcanisers, those doing wheel balancing and alignment, among others. They are informal but with them being captured and formalised gradually, the nation is aligning with the ILO decent work agenda, requiring all nations to work towards the total actualisation by 2030. I, therefore, commend IPMAN for this good step forward,’ Ngige said.
The minister reminded IPMAN that formalising these category of workers comes with an attendant burden of compliance with the payment of the N30,000 National Minimum Wage.
‘You must comply with the National Minimum Wage of N30,000 for each of those persons dispensing fuel, those who are doing allied works there. The Minimum Wage Act gives a number of persons in an organisation that draws such an organisation into the Act. It is 25 or so. Any place where you have more than 25 persons, the Act says you must formalise. It is in your own interest and in the interest of the workers, too.’
Ngige called on private school proprietors in the country to formalise the teachers in their employ and pay them decent wages.
‘I use the instance of your effort and this visit to call on private school proprietors to come forward and formalise their teachers. Those teachers are neither formalised, protected nor have pensions. As a matter of fact, their salaries at times are below the Minimum Wage and that is wrong. In these schools, you see people earning N20,000, N25,000 yet they are teachers. You ask yourself: what is the quality of teaching and the quality of pupils, students therefrom?’
In his speech, IPMAN National President Elder Chinedu Okonkwo said their visit was to seek the collaboration of the Ministry of Labour in keying into the Federal Government’s Micro Pension Plan for millions of workers in its employ, hence the place of the National Pension Commission in the visit.
‘We want to get the drivers, depot representatives and other ancillary workers enrolled into this scheme so as to add value to their welfare and enhance the status of their employment. If achieved, it will help the country curb insecurity, reduce restiveness through creation of wealth and its reductive effect on poverty,’ he stated.