The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has said the federal government is basing its implementation of past agreements with various labour unions on availability of funds and capacity to fulfill their demands.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by the leadership of Federal Character Commission, led by its Chairman, Dr. Muheeba Dankaka, the minister lamented that the harsh economic situation in the country was creating serious labour unrest thereby increasing the ministry’s work load.
The Minister’s explanation came just as a delegation of the House Representatives’ Committee on Health held a closed door meeting with him on the industrial crisis currently rocking the country’s health sector.
“Economic situation has worsened our labour disputes, peoples’ pockets have been eaten into and they are now remembering that they are being owed some money, that there were agreement reached in 2009, and like our president has said, we are alive to our responsibilities, we are not owing any federal worker salaries. The president is strong on that and that is why we have not retrenched any worker.
“He is also strong on the fact that government is a continuum, if they now remember that previous government was owing them in 2009, we would not say no.
“We would say yes, but we will pay you based on the capacity to pay and ability to pay. So those allowances can be stretched and we pay them in tranches. That is what we have been doing with ASUU and NASU, JOHESU, doctors, everybody.
“They are remembering 2009 agreements, when late President Umaru’ Yar’adua did some and President Goodluck Jonathan did some. But we have not repudiated any of the agreements, we said we will pay but we negotiate with them and tell them to have patience,” he added.
Ngige furthermore, insisted that none of the striking resident doctors duly engaged were being owed salaries.
He drew the attention of the Commission to complaints by Nigerians who apply for jobs in the federal civil service and fail to secure employment while some others with lower qualifications were given jobs.
In this regard Ngige urged the Commission to make parameters very explicit to Nigerians so as to dispel any misgivings.
“The Commission should also help us and get involved in the informal sector. Your efforts are concentrated only in the formalised sector or public sector. You have to get into the private sector.
“Nothing says that you cannot enquire, there are some areas in the informal sector that you may need to look into, especially if the constitution is silent about it. The primary mandate given to you is to do things in a way that will promote national unity and loyalty.
“So, if you look at the area of public sector, why should some states in Nigeria employ foreigners, give them bogus salaries, which is five times of what they would pay a Nigerian for him to do that job?
Ngige said that checking such abuses was the work of the Immigration Services.
“It doesn’t add up, it doesn’t make for national unity and loyalty,” he insisted.
According to him, there are places where doctors were employed from countries like Egypt, Cuba and Pakistan and are paid five times what their Nigerian counterparts get.