The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige said Nigerians will not die but will adjust to the economic hardships in the country.
The minister who in a statement issued on Sunday noted that economic hardships were not peculiar to Nigeria alone but to the world at large also noted that the agitation by workers for more wages was not peculiar to Nigeria.
Ngige described the trend as a worldwide phenomenon caused by global economic shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.
Speaking after receiving the Business Day “Excellence in Public Service Award” in Abuja, the Minister noted that the labour sector world over faces threats from multiple and overlapping economic crises, giving rise to the clamour by workers for more wages.
He said: “The other day that I passed through Bailey, they said airport workers were on strike, only for four days. When I passed through London, the railway workers were on strike, only for three days. They are all demanding more pay.
“Workers’ demand for more pay is not peculiar to Nigeria but the problem everywhere in the world today as a result of global economic crunch, occasioned by COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and other things that make it look like everybody will die today.”
“We will not die today. We only have to adjust both as individuals and as a country in order to survive the crunch,” he said.
On how to stem the tide of perennial strikes in the country, Ngige said the International Labour Organization recognizes “social dialogue” as the best methodology for addressing industrial issues.
According to him, whether the problem is a demand for more wages or a quest for better conditions of service, once discussions commence on a round table, it must be given a social face.
He, however, regretted that in Nigeria, people choose to disobey the law, rather than do the right thing, while those who obey the laws and insist on due process were condemned as “odd”.
“In Nigeria, the man who implements the law is a very wicked and stingy man. He is seen as a man who does not understand what the law says. It is even worse in government.”
He warned that if Nigeria must make progress, people should not be made to look odd because they obey the laws of the land.
Ngige, however, expressed hope that Nigeria will make tremendous progress if Nigerians obey the laws and do the right things in all facets of their national life.
He thanked Business Day newspaper for finding him worthy, fit and proper for the award and assured that he would not let them down even after May 29, after which, he will no longer invoke the “No Work, No Pay” principle against those who want to go on strike.
Earlier, while presenting the award, the publisher of Business Day, Frank Aigbogun acknowledged Ngige’s meritorious service to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We congratulate you for how you have distinguished yourself. We congratulate not just you but your team in the ministry, including the Permanent Secretary, directors and staff. We thank you so much for the service and proudly say that you are an example.”