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Nigeria Has Averted Labour Unions’ Planned Protest Over Cash Crisis, Says Labour Minister Ngige

Unemployment more than quadrupled since 2015, he revealed.

Nigeria’s Federal Government has disclosed that it has apprehended the planned protest by the organised labour centre, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), over the hardship being faced by Nigerians to access funds in the wake of the currency swap.

The NLC had last week given the federal government a seven-day ultimatum to cause the CBN and the commercial banks to end the cash scarcity, failure of which it warned of a nationwide protest and the picketing of the apex bank’s branches from Wednesday.

Speaking at a news briefing at the State House, Abuja on Tuesday, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, stressed that the threat of protest by the NLC against the Central Bank of Nigeria, over naira scarcity, has been arrested. 

According to him, dialogues, coordinated by his ministry, had taken place between the parties involved and the CBN had taken steps to remedy the situation.

The Minister said as at the moment, the issue to be discussed by NLC at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on Tuesday would no longer be issues of protest, which he said had already been apprehended.

His words: “Now they have all answered our calls because we are the Chief Conciliators. In my opening remark, I said I’ve noticed that there’s already a dialogue going on and there’s also implementation and the Nigerian Labour Congress agreed that there was some thawing at the surface of the icing that was there.

“They said they will call up their National Executive Council meeting because the initial decision to give that ultimatum was given by this same Council. Members of the Council reside in the states and in the local governments, so that they will come up today, which is Tuesday, the 28th, to review the situation because much as it is, the important thing is that we have emphasised to them that we have apprehended this dispute.

“By Section 7:8 of Trade Dispute Act, once the Minister apprehends and starts conciliation on it, you maintain status quo ante bellum. So they have gone back now to review the situation. If they’re not satisfied with what they’re see, they will come back to me and I’ll invite the CBN again.

“But for now, the issue of discussion is no longer strike, the issue of discussion is implementation and how far it’s gone and how far it affects Nigerian workers and the general population. 

“So that is it, the final decision will be done today by NEC and they will then do a resolution, of course, inform me and CBN what their resolution is. But like I said, we have apprehended and we are now conciliating”.

Ngige also revealed that as a result of the recessions the economy suffered in 2025 and 2020, unemployment in Nigeria has more than quadrupled in the lat eight eight years. 

He, however, stressed the need to make efforts to stem the negative impact on the economy and the active population of the country.

Said he: “The triple issues of unemployment, poverty and economic disempowerment have remained a disturbing feature of the Nigerian Life. Unemployment rate in the country has more than quadrupled since the economy slipped into recession, first in 2015 and later in 2020.

“The unemployment rate in Nigeria rose to 9.9% in 2015 as the current administration came on board. 

“In the context of ILO definition of unemployment, there is need to make concerted efforts towards stemming down the negative impact of unemployment on the economy and the active population of the country.

“It is in the light of the foregoing that the Federal Government recently inaugurated a Technical Working Group (TWG) on Youth Employment and Skills Development to handle the increasing Youth Unemployment and skills development in the country”.

Commenting on need to tackle unemployment and create jobs, Ngige said the incoming administration of APC should consider the blueprint on Job Creation Office, under the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

According to him, his ministry had 125 Skills Development Centres in the six geo-political zones of the country, apart from the 19 Job Centres in Bauchi, Kaduna, Lagos, Abuja, Edo, and Enugu, among others where people received training on bricklaying.

Ngige also disclosed that his ministry was collaborating with United States Labour Department to stop child labour, adding “they make available $75 million to fight poverty in cocoa and minerals producing areas in Nigeria”.

He defended the federal government’s handling of labour disputes, saying “we are proactive. We have conciliated about 4,000 labour disputes. We get Trade Dispute Notice (TDN) and call them for meetings especially in oil and gas industry.

“Our state offices are doing conciliation on permanent basis”, he said.

Ngige said the issue of pay rise for the Nigerian workers was being addressed and that the issue going on now is the quantum of money for the pay raise.

He also said the amount to be paid would be based on the availability of funds and the ability to pay.

On the reported migration of Nigerian professionals overseas, the Minister said nobody would stop migration.

According to him, “there is migration from one continent to the other. I am not against migration”.

He said his ministry was collaborating with International Organization for Migration (IOM), which helped to equip their Migrant Resource Center.

On the palliative measures to be made available with the plan to remove subsidy on petroleum products, he said “the new government would handle the challenge that will be there”.

Also speaking, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, said 760,000 persons eventually benefited from the 774,000 special public works scheme introduced by the Federal Government during COVID-19 period.

He added that N400 million was refunded after the implementation of the programme.

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

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