By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – MINISTER of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige has said that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress, APC, on assumption of office a year ago met economic recession which has affected its programmes.
Senator Ngige who disclosed this in his text to mark the nation’s democracy day and one year in office of the present administration at the federal level also said that his ministry was liaising with the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development for the conversion of countless illegal mining going on in many parts of the country into legal business.
Besides, the minister said that as an important step in protecting the national interest, his ministry was matching efforts with the Ministry of Interior to look at the expatriate quota provision to make sure that expatriates do not displace qualified Nigerians.
To that effect, he explained that already his ministry has a working relationship over the strict observance of this, so that jobs meant for Nigerians would not be lost to expatriates for any reason.
He said: “Since assuming office, I have quietly but relentlessly been active in dialoguing with all social partners to ensure conducive atmosphere for national productivity.
“I have unambiguously placed government intentions, positions and challenges on the table for all partners to appreciate and make necessary adjustments in their expectations in the over all interest of the nation.
“The tenor of last week’s general strike, carried out only by a section of the labour community and its decision to call it off in matter of days speak a lot of our persuasive mechanism and openness which no patriotic organization could ignore.”
Speaking further he said that the government had put in place measures to kick-start self reliance and job loses, which he said had yielded positive results.
According to him: “Notwithstanding the prevailing economic down turn, government is doing its best in the provision of jobs, with emphasis though on blue-collar.
“The main agency of job creation is the National Directorate of Employment, which is under my ministry.
“The NDE has over one hundred skills acquisition centres across Nigeria, apart from the ones owned by some Federal ministries, agencies and states.
“Since I came in, we have embarked on the rehabilitation and re-equipping of these NDE skills centres to enhance their training capacity. We are establishing a liaison with other skill centres owned by other ministries, agencies and state governments so as synchronize and standardize their operations.
“We are working to institutionalize them as training centres whose certificates – Trade Test 1, Trade Test 2 and Trade Test 3 can be recognized internationally just like the City and Guild certificate of the old.
“Trade graduates of these centres such as in tiling, mechatronics, metal works, welding, plumbing, mason, POP production and laying, Info-technology technics among others will primarily find opportunities in the formal and informal sectors and arrest a situation where a dominant percentage of such low cadre skills are provided for us by Ghananians, Togolese and citizens of other west African countries.
“Besides, our liaison with the International labour Migration of the European Union will soon enable this category of Nigerians export their skills as legal migrants to other countries. Our target is to train not less than 300,000 per year and trainings are already on-going in most of our centres.”
On the economic situation that the government met on assumption of office, Senator Ngige said, “It is my firm conviction that the general over view of the polity, especially the extant economic situation is important for us to clearly situate and achieve an unbiased review of the efforts of the present administration in the last 12 months.
“At present, our OPEC production quota is 2.2 million barrels per day but the reality is that we are far away from meeting this target. As we speak, the nation produces between 1.4 – 1.5 barrels per day, meaning that about 800, 000 barrels per day of the quota allocated to us by OPEC is lost.
“So, where other countries battle with over production and being sanctioned by OPEC, we are under-producing, unable to meet our quota. Unfortunate, you may say. This means that when we assumed office, we already had economic recession, crude oil being the major revenue earner for the country.
“Without enough money to take care of the needs and welfare of the citizen, which is the primary purpose of government, the prospect of swiftly fulfilling campaign promises faces serious challenge. Nevertheless, the administration trudged on and has recorded immense successes in many areas.
“In the Ministry of Labour and Employment where I have been in service as the Minister since November 11, 2015, a period of about seven months, we have taken significant steps and achieved quite a lot.”