By Victor Ahiuma-Young
NATIONAL Union of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees, NUFBTE, has raised the alarm that automated machines and robots are increasingly taking over the jobs of members across the country, worsening the employment crisis in the country.
The union is concerned that if not checked, more Nigerians may be thrown into the unemployment market. The union has already petitioned the Federal Government through the Minister of Labour and Employment over the matter.
Speaking, President of the union, Lateef Oyelekan, said the present drive by the multinationals operating in Nigeria to use robots instead of human beings, would soon boomerang as it would further increase the unemployment figure in the country.
He said: “Nigeria is not mature enough for automated machine or robots to be used in our local industry instead of people. Presently, we have the challenge of unemployment in our hands where half of the population of our youths are unemployed. We are insisting that it would further increase the unemployment problem in the country and more Nigerians will lose their jobs. This is because where 200 Nigerians are supposed to be working, with automated machine, we now have 30, and where 500 were working before, we have less than 50.”
Calling on the Federal Government to prevail on the companies already using robots to stop, he argued that “countries with employment problems in the world are not using robots. If a country like China that manufactures robots is not using them, India is not using robots, even in our continent here, Ghana and Kenya are not using robots, why should Nigeria allow it then?”
Oyelekan also said though the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari that jobs Nigerians can do should not be given to expatriates, was commendable, he insisted that the government must urgently make a pronouncement on the robots issue.
“This is how Nigeria can develop. We commend Mr. President for that because in some companies, we have expatriates as line managers, sales managers, what does such a person know about our culture, our market and other socio-cultural values of our people?” he asked.
The NUFBTE president also called on the Federal Government to reconsider its position on the upward review of the excise duty on alcoholic beverages and tobacco.
Noting that government must be seen to be formulating policies that would secure jobs and guarantee more employment, Oyelekan warned that over 20,000 jobs might be lost to the recent increase in excise duty.
He said: “This new policy of the government will increase the cost of production and if that happens, the employers would have to look for a way of cutting cost, and workers are always the first option.”
According to him, the new tariff would equally make Nigerian companies uncompetitive with their colleagues outside the country and would further encourage importation instead of local production.
Oyelekan said: “We can recall that Dunlop, Mitchellin relocated to Ghana due to unfavourable policy and now produce there and still bring the products to Nigeria because this is where the market is. That means Nigeria is providing employment for foreigners while our people walk on the streets daily looking for jobs. It is sad.”