By SAMUEL OLOWOOKERE
The world over, labour and industrial sector is central and sine-qua-non of the government’s agenda. Little wonder countries like the United States of America, France, Germany and the rest of the advanced or developed countries do not take for granted the industrial sector of the economy because of the identified and known important roles the labour sector plays in the attainment of the government’s agenda and development of any nation.
In Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity is undoubtedly the ministry saddled with the major responsibility of the welfare of the human capacity that drives the economy and handling/settling any form of disputes, unrest, agitations and demands that may arise from the labour sector of the nation’s economy in line with the extant labour laws. It should also be noted that Ministry is in the exclusive list in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Though the it is always seen and perceived as a non-viable ministry with fewer activities, whereby individuals posted or deployed to the Ministry are pitied because it is never seen as a thriving sector. This is totally wrong!
Also, the Ministry plays the role of a catalyst in the process of employment generation as it is charged with the mandate of creating the enabling environment for national growth through intermediation in the use of best practices for labour administration and the promotion of peaceful and productive industrial relations, safe and decent work, social security and co-ordination of all employment creation activities in the country.
The Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has always emphasised on transforming the country and the need for the industrial sector to grow through various programmes such as wealth/job creation and sustenance of existing jobs and the general improvements in the welfare and status of its workforce in the transformational agenda of the government which is unarguably the mantra or what many people will like to call the watchword of the present administration.
It is, however, important to note that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity in the present administration has played a very significant and strategic role in ensuring that there is peace and harmony in the nation’s industrial sector through various successful dialogues, negotiations and programmes/strategies that have in no small measure sustained the present peace and tranquility being experienced in Nigeria’s industrial sector.
The man in the middle and the one President Jonathan has seen as a seasoned mediator, negotiator, conciliator and arbitrator par excellence to handle such important and sometimes volatile sector of Nigeria’s economy is Chief Chukwuemeka Ngozichineke Wogu, a lawyer who has in no small measure continued to prove his mettle in the area of handling disputes and mediating among the major players in the world of work (government, employers, employees, and the civil societies), better known as players in the industrial sector.
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity is placed in a very strategic position to contribute to the Federal Government’s efforts at ensuring and realising that Nigeria’s vision of attaining the height of belonging to one of the 20 economies in the world by the year 2020, better known as Vision 20:2020.
Chief Wogu has been working assiduously to ensure that the nation’s industrial atmosphere remains calm and peaceful. Worthy of mention was the recent successful negotiations and dialogue that lasted for hours and days just to rescue the country from continued black-out and what looks like a nationwide strike/down tooling by all facets/spheres of government and private sector employees.
With these, we can boldly say that Chief Wogu through the support of Mr. President and other social partners prevented what could have placed the nation’s economy in a great peril considering the attendant economic and manpower loss through industrial actions.
As a two-term Minister of Labour and Productivity, it goes a long way to confirm the trust President Jonathan has in the ability and capability of the Aba-born arbitrator to regulate and pacify the various stakeholders in the labour sector in the face of disagreement and where conflict of interests arise or discordant tunes rear their ugly heads as strike and industrial acrimony.
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity has been able to avert and curtail the pressure created by different workers’ agitations. The able and capable senior management personnel in the Ministry succeeded in dousing what looks like industrial acrimony.
This was achieved through hard work by a cool-head personality who can take labour’s tantrums in his stride; who can sit patiently for hours when labour unions abandon the negotiation table to consult or take unscheduled coffee breaks to annoy the adversary. In this aspect, Chief Wogu has been able to weather the storm.
Also worthy of note is the recent drive by the Minister to collate the statistics of unemployed youths in the country. This is done through the 36 states labour offices in the country. This remarkable considering the fact that employment generation is one of the cardinal transformation agendas of this administration.
Chief Wogu has also put pen on print to ensure that this monster called unemployment is effectively tackled to further stem youth restiveness in the country.
Recently, to be precise on Tuesday 16th of August, 2011, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its Trade Union Congress counterpart concretized the agreements contained in the deliberations between labour and government to implement the New National Minimum Wage that ensures that all cadres of Federal Government Employees from levels 1- 17 benefits from the approved minimum wage that was approved by the President in March, 2011.
The joint communiqué that was read to that effect by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, contained in it that the Federal Government would comply with the National Minimum Wage Act as signed by the President. He also said that government would apply the relativity adjustment to all federal workers across board and payment of the new salaries begins in the month of August, 2011.
This is however expected to serve as templates and a spring board for the state governments nationwide to follow suit to avert and subvert any possible strike action from the organized labour unions at the states level and the private sector.
The nation’s industrial sector that boast of the human capacity that drives the economy cannot be ignored or taken for granted if the transformational agenda of the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will become a reality that will have direct impact on Nigerians.
Mr Olowookere is an Assistant Director (Press), Federal Ministry of Labour & Productivity, Abuja