BY VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
CHEMICAL and Non-Metallic Products Employer’s Federation, CANMPEF, at its 35ft Annual General Meeting, AGM, in Lagos, decried the worsening unemployment rate in the country, saying the unfriendly operating business environment has impeded members capacity to create jobs.
Investigations revealed that the harsh operating environment has seriously affected the number and strength of the federation.
Addressing members and other guests at the AGM, President of the Federation, Chief D.V.G. Edwin, said the meeting afforded members the opportunity “to brainstorm on the needs of member companies and to chart a common course for ourselves for the coming year.
As one of the largest employers of labour in Nigeria, affected by the dwindling fortunes of member companies due to the unfavourable economic policies, I believe, there is need for us to find a way of making our voice heard at the corridors of the Government, to create awareness on the need for the Government to revive the economy through sound policies that will enable manufacturing industries to contribute its quota in reducing the unemployment rate’ in the country.
“Every year, our universities churn out graduates without commensurate employment opportunities, since most industries are at best, running below 20% of capacity utilization, at the brink of closing down or had closed down already.
Gone are the days when employers of labour like our Federation would flock the corridors of the universities, wooing fresh graduates and offering them employment opportunities fresh from the university.”
Speaking further, he said “We are ready to work with government to solve the employment crisis in the country. There is no doubt that the unemployment crisis has been responsible for the rising crime wave in the country. The problem of Boko Haram, armed robbery and other crimes would be of little consequence if those involved are gainfully employed. We need conducive environment to do this.”
Jump-start the manufacturing sector
On the economy, he said the year under review witnessed a further decline in business activities within the country, saying a review of business activities showed that the economy was yet to get out of the doldrums.
According to him, “The decay in infrastructure, system collapse in the power sector, non protection of manufacturers due to liberal import policies, smuggling at its unprecedented height, insecurity in all parts of the country, all these continued to impact negatively on the business environment. Statistical records released very recently by the Minister of Finance & Coordinating Minister for the Economy had put Nigeria’s GDP at US$510 billion over the last 24 years – putting Nigeria ahead of such countries as South Africa, ‘Colombia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, including Demark.
“But what positive effect does that have on the manufacturing industry as well as on an average Nigerian? In contrast however, the economic and statistical records coming from World Bank indicates that Nigeria ranked the 5th poorest country in the world with about 70% of her citizens affected. Unless and until the Government policies jump-start the manufacturing sector, the academic exercise of Nigeria on the ladder of GDP Growth Rate will not make economic sense.
Mr. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister was said to have faced this situation about eight years ago and said: “it’s time we admitted that there is more to life than money, and it is time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB – General-Well-Being. To achieve real GDP, the real sector of the economy- Manufacturing Sector must be seen to be an active contributor to the economic growth.”
Corroborating, CANMPEF Executive Secretary, Mr. E. F. Alli, noted that “apart from the poor infrastructure within the country, other factors that hindered the growth of the economy during the review period included the political and ethnic unrest. Capacity utilization in many manufacturing outfits dropped and this contributed to the dismal development in the country.
If our manufacturing sectors must compete with the outside world, government has to address the various problems that make the cost of doing business in this country so high. If the government can support the manufacturing sector and help to re-activate the medium and small scale industries, it will enable us to fight the threat of cheap imported goods as alternative to home made goods.”
FG tasks employers on workers’ rights
Speaking, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, commended the employers’ federation for members’ efforts at providing employment for Nigerian youths.
Represented by the Lagos State Controller of Labour, Dr.Ifeoma A. Igweze-Anyanwutaku, the Minster said everybody was aware that the nation’s tertiary institutions had been graduating thousands of youths into the job market, and said government was very grateful to the employers for providing jobs for them.
He however, urged the employers to ensure that workers rights were not denied them as that would breach the law which the government would not accept.
According to him, while providing jobs and in your operations, you must ensure that the rights of workers are not denied them because that will be a breach of the law and no responsible government will accept that. You must ensure decent job safe working environment for your employees.” Wogu equally implored the employers to key into the employee’s compensation scheme, to ensure that in case of industrial accident, the victims were not only well treated, but also adequately compensated where necessary.