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Why The Nigerian Labour Force Needs More To Celebrate May Day

Since 1981, International Labour Day has been celebrated in Nigeria. May Day as a holiday in Nigeria was first declared by the People Redemption Party (PRP) Government of Kano State in 1980 and became a national holiday on May 1, 1981.

International Labour Day is observed every year on May 1, to mark the achievements of the workers and to spread awareness about exploitation. Also known as International Workers’ Day and May Day, it is observed in several regions across the globe.

International Workers’ Day originated in the 19th century as a way to honour efforts to win an eight-hour workday, at a time when factory labourers in industrializing countries would regularly clock 70 hours or more per week, and conditions were frequently terrible.

There has been a long decline in the agricultural sector as Nigeria’s oil and gas resources stand as the major focus for government revenue and foreign exchange earnings. Nigeria labour force has recently experienced increasing strike actions and protests, across various sectors, ranging from ASUU strike to ASUP, JUSUN, NARD strike, etc. amidst the struggles of the covid-19 pandemic as a result of different agitation for the welfare of workers.  

As Iyayi (2008) contends, labour movements in Nigeria have evolved into a robust, intellectual, vibrant, militant, national liberator movement in the country, taking on successive military and civilian regimes. Such issues include, among others, minimum wage, the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), electoral reforms, political party issues, education-related issues, fuel price hikes, better conditions of service for workers, external debt, cost of living and corruption.

Nigeria, as one of the most populated West African nations with an estimated population of 200 million people, an average home survives on a minimum wage of ₦30,000 monthly, spending more than half on food. A data from World Poverty Clock in November 2020 showed that Nigeria with a total population of 205,323,520 people, about 105,097,856 representing 51% now live below $1.90 or N855 a day. This means that more than 105 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty.

The government and different sectors have made so many agreements, and today those sectors are protesting that the government has failed legally, to honour their part of the agreement. And these breaches in the agreement have necessitated different strike actions by some of these sectors. Some have been called off while some have not. That is to show that there is a lot that the workers are agitating for.

In a report by The Cable news network, the Labour Force Statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, reflected that a total of 23.18 million persons in Nigeria either did nothing or worked for less than 20 hours a week, making them unemployed during the fourth quarter (Q4) 2020, as Nigeria’s unemployment rate hit a new record high at 33.3 per cent in the fourth quarter (Q4) 2020 from 27.1 recorded in the second quarter (Q2) 2020. Similarly, Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has been ranked third on a list of countries with the highest unemployment rate globally.

Workers are faced with the issue of the minimum wage which the workers have been agitating for the increase of minimum wage, which up till now the government has failed to implement.  There is the issue of financial autonomy of the judiciary, which the judicial workers are agitating for, coupled with agitation from the education sector for the welfare of lecturers and other infrastructural development, pensioners welfare, increase in the cost and standard of living, inflation which has left most households hungry, as their income level cannot take care of their needs.

An increasing number of Nigerian households have become food insecure as a result of the downturn of the economy, rising inflation and escalating food prices that erode their purchasing power with an increase in Nigeria’s unemployment rate to 33.3 per cent in the fourth quarter (Q4) 2020.

This interprets that the working conditions in Nigeria as a public servant have faced tremendous deterioration over the years,  leaving workers across the country to battle for survival.

This opinion story has been published on CAMPUS REPORTER with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author. CAMPUS REPORTER does not bear any responsibility for the contents of this story, all views belong to the author.

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