Nigerian workers and the anomaly of working without wages


Nigeria, as a country is blessed with able-bodied men and women, who always want to go all out to work and make a living for themselves and their loved ones. Despite the myriad of challenges faced by the workforce in Nigeria either in public or private sectors, one thing remains sacrosanct, the “hardworking” spirit of the average Nigerian can never be put into doubt.

But despite these rare and uncommon traits, besides the fanfares, colourful uniforms and the lacklustre parades from Nigerian workers on every workers day (May 1), the day usually brings to fore the challenges faced by the ‘labourers’.

Many have argued that over the years, the vibrancy and firmness that have trailed the leadership of labour in Nigeria have gradually declined with some level of political affiliations and the increasing corruption in the country.

Despite the resounding unison in labour during such memorials, there are discordant and hush tunes from some quarters on poor conditions of service, unpaid wages, workplace harassment and more.

These were even made worse by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which crippled the global economy and depleted resources leaving workers at the receiving end of cut wages and outright wagelessness.

So many employees have also lamented outright ban by their employers from forming labour related associations at the workplaces.

Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of the N30, 000 minimum wage, several states have refused to comply with the directive. This had led to series of protests by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), especially as it was discovered that 11 states have refused to comply.

In February, the Secretary-General of TUC, Comrade Musa Lawal, had lamented the development as many have used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse for non-payment of the new wage.

At the outbreak of the pandemic, so many banks sacked massively with the affected hitting the streets jobless and dejected. The streets, especially in Lagos, got saturated with skilled persons roaming without income and a large chunk of them embracing negative vices. The lockdown with its restrictions made matters worse as many were forced to stay indoors. The global economy literarily shut down and changed the timeline of economic survival.

It has gradually eased off with the reopening of businesses, companies that went online have gradually come back alive. Sadly, several companies have either refused to pay salaries or owe arrears. This is just as the states that have refused to pay the stipulated minimum wages have left the workers to groan under the harsh economy of the country.

There have been renewed hopes on the Industrial Court by some protesting workers as hope for unpaid wages, with some mounting huge pressure on the learned gentlemen of the judiciary. Others seem to rely on fate as the confidence in justice for the common man fades by the day.

So many have actually from reports available paid for the services of lawyers much more than the owed money.

In fact, some have abhorred the courts saying the judiciary is not independent and do not seem to have hopes insight.

Until there is a change of status quo and return to normalcy, so many workers are going wageless.


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