Entertainment & SocietyWhy I upload my movies on YouTube - Ruth Kadiri

Why I upload my movies on YouTube – Ruth Kadiri

June 17, (THEWILL)- There has always been a worrisome dimension to national protests, especially strike actions by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC). And this is where several voices have converged in condemnation of the labour congress.

Let’s get it. The labour movement in Nigeria, comprising the Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, is legally right to deploy its most potent bargaining tool -industrial action- to force the government to yield to its demand for what it called a ‘living wage’.

The call, in itself, makes reasonable and logical sense, given that inflation in Nigeria, put at 33.69 per cent by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), as of April 2024, makes rubbish the current monthly minimum wage of N30,000.

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The practical reality is that no family, given prevalent economic realities and price rage in the markets, can survive on that amount monthly, no matter how frugal. One can afford to be miserly and deny oneself certain requirements but when health challenges arise, even for ordinary malaria, the basic wage comes to nothing.

This, therefore, means that it makes sense to adjust the minimum wage upwards and to such a level that even the lowest of workers can afford the basic family daily needs like food and medicine, shelter and clothing.

I was dumbfounded when the Governor of Zamfara State, Mr Dauda Lawal, disclosed on television that until the end of May, the state paid N7,000 as minimum wage to workers. “As of last month, people were still receiving N7,000 as salaries; we just now implemented the N30,000. When we took over, we cleared a four month backlog of salaries and pensions pending since 2012 for about N13.6 billion,” the governor said. Sadly, two past administrators of the state are alleged to have embezzled more than N180 billion. Note that what constitutes a ‘living wage’ is not defined. However, it is an omnibus phrase that captures the feeling of workers and their desire for something much more appreciative rather than one that continually spreads poverty.

I guess this is why a majority of Nigerians empathised with workers and supported their suspended indefinite nationwide strik,e especially when played against the opulence and affluence recklessly and ubiquitously displayed, as a nuisance, by political leaders.

However, the support that Nigerians gave to the labour movement was grossly abused. By shutting down the national power grid, labour showed high insensitivity to certain fundamental realities of life, especially as it affects life and the living.

Shutting down the national grid ought not to be the power of a few. Letting it pass suggests that a few workers have the power to throw Nigeria into darkness as it pleases them, even when the power sector is deregulated and managed by private investments.

This was the same level of recklessness displayed by organised labour in disrupting flight operations to Owerri at the height of its debacle with the Imo State government in 2023; even when the airlines neither had a dispute with the Imo government nor its workers. The implication is that a few workers could, for instance, press the nuclear button in solidarity if they were in a position to manage a nuclear facility. This is dangerous.

The national power grid does not just ensure power supply to the government secretariat. It powers the economy. Shutting it down was a most unpatriotic act for which a charge of treason could be sustained because it was an action taken to undermine the country’s security and national interest. I guess this was the point that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume, was making when he condemned the decision to shut the national grid.

Akume had said that there is “nowhere in the world has labour ever tampered with the national grid. It is treason. A treasonable felony is an economic sabotage, you don’t do that.” I believe that Akume spoke an uncomfortable truth which is also something of a vox populi. This is because the act of shutting down the national grid comes against the negative impact of such action on national security, including hospitals which may even impact patients on life support and other medical emergencies.

Therefore, Akume raised an issue that labour leaders may have glossed over in their bid to push a genuine concern. It simply says that there cannot be a wrong way to do the right thing. While demanding higher wages is legitimate, shutting the national grid to achieve that is criminally wrong.

Whatever point labour scored by the strike was lost to that decision. The cost implication of that action alone would be in the negative if properly calculated against the cost of keeping the power grid on. This is the reason many Nigerians raised their voice on Monday, calling on the labour movement not to shut down the power grid again, should the strike continue after the five-day moratorium.

Those in the electricity unions ought to see their tasks as essential services. Workers on essential services understand that the outcome of every collective bargain of the labour movement impacts them too.

This is one truth that Labour leaders wouldn’t want to hear. For saying this uncomfortable truth Akume has come under the hammer of the labour movement.

The labour movement had picked the fight against Akume for his honest and patriotic comment. But that does not make shutting the national grid right. It is still wrong. It is still an act of economic sabotage. It is still an action taken to undermine national security and plunge the country into more problems. It is an act that could empower non-state actors to take advantage.

Beyond the condemnation by Akume, one believes that this is an issue that ought to return to the National Assembly. There seems to be a lacuna in the law empowering labour unions to declare industrial actions to press home their demand. That lacuna ought to be fixed to protect critical national infrastructure from being tampered with during nationwide industrial actions.

The necessity for amendment of the law that empowers the labour movement to invoke its powers to go on strike stems from the fact that some certain jobs/services are critical to national security which would consist of acts of economic sabotage if forcefully shut down. Such services/jobs ought to be listed as essential and as such cannot join any national strike call. This is what it should be. No sane society would allow certain critical jobs to down tools over wage negotiations.

Wage negotiations are continuous exercises and as such need not be avenues to destabilise an economy. I guess this is why Akume describes it as a treasonable felony which is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as an “overt act to depose or levy war against the sovereign to compel changes of policy or to intimidate or overawe parliament.”

There is no doubting the fact that the labour movement needed the nationwide strike to salvage its already battered image, but going as far as shutting the national grid was off the mark and that action needed to be addressed for what it is – an act of national sabotage.

And, this is where the National Assembly is urgently needed. The law empowering labour movements to go on strike ought to be amended to criminalise the shutting down of the national power grid.

This would guard against the possibility of psychotics and manic depressives masquerading as labour leaders, drawing on their legitimate powers to call for nationwide strikes, to drag the country into a crisis that may destabilise the federation.

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