By Victor Ahiuma-Young
RENOWNED Professor of Industrial Relations, Professor Dafe Otobo, has called on labour unions in the country to be to be focused and more committed in the struggle to improve the living conditionsÂ ofÂ workers and masses in Nigeria today in the face of the changing socio-economic environment.
Professor Otobo, who lectures at the University of Lagos, UNILAG, also advised organised labour to shift ground and accept some level of deregulation in the downstream sector of the nationâ€™s petroleum sector,Â so that the inherent challenges in the oil and gas sector could be addressed.
Delivering a Paper on Impact of Economic Crisis on Employmentâ€, at a 2-day seminar organised by Labour Writers Association of Nigeria, LAWAN, in Ibadan, Oyo State,Â he posited that activities directed at getting all concerned to respect and protect rights of workers especially should be increased and encouraged.
He also urged political office holders to be transparent especially in the management of the nationâ€™s resources noting that if the current economic situation is worsened by lack of effective management, the poor shape of the economy would continue to take its toll on continuous loss of jobs, declining turnovers and profits of firms, among others.
According to him: â€œNo government should be allowed to insist on its own definition of â€˜â€˜human rightsâ€™â€™ of democracy or reduce elections to declaring the well-connected victors rather than votes determining the results. With a consolidating civilian democracy, the trade unions have to respond proactively and reactively to a more benevolent socio-political situation characterized by positive expectation from the citizenry.
Labour has a role to play in encouraging both private and public sector employers to create more decent jobs and reduce unemployment, particularly impacting on official socio-economic policies that should take on board deregulation, privatization among others.
The trouble here would be more in terms of general orientation and vision, than in formal education (not that this does not need to be beefed up) for, as I have pointed out, the bulk of those in government are not better educated than union leaders.â€ On the vexed policy of deregulation, Professor Otobo, advised organised labour urged to shift ground and accept some level of deregulation so that the inherent challenges in the oil and gas sector could be addressed
He argued that a situation where only a few people control the importation of refined petroleum products is not good for the country, lamenting that the oil and gas sector is dominated by highly inefficient publicly-owned companies.
The University don explained that no country had privatized all its public utilities and service providers merely on account of market forces being the most efficient way of determining prices and allocation of resources.
Professor Otobo said: â€œOrganised labour should encourage some degree of deregulation in sectors of the economy denominated by highly inefficient publicly-owned companies especially in the oil and gas sector.
It is not a question whether government officials or staff of the NNPC or workers in the refineries should be blame for the state of the refineries today. All of them are in the public sector, and if they owned any of the refineries as persons or investors, they would not have run them down.
â€œDeregulation and privatization may be carried out in different degrees; no country has privatized all of its public utilities and service providers merely on account of market forces being the most efficient way of determining prices and of allocating resources.
Even companies in the private sector collapse daily. A situation where only a few people control the importation of refined petroleum products is not good for consumers or the country-hence a degree of deregulation would be beneficial.â€