Hammed Shittu in Ilorin
A trade unionist and member of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Issa Aremu, has faulted the recent Eid-el-Fitr holiday extended by the federal government.
He insisted that Nigeria cannot grow her economy and come out of poverty if institutions of government continued to compel worker to observe what he called “frivolous public holidays” when even developed nations of the world are at work.
Aremu who was also a former vice president of the NLC, stated this in his Sallah message to Nigerians issued in Ilorin yesterday.
The Minister of Interior, General AbdulRaahman Dambazau (rtd), had declared Tuesday and Wednesday as public holidays to mark the Eid-el-Fitri, but later extended it to yesterday due to the non-sighting of the moon to mark sallah.
But the labour leader described it as one “off-day too many for a country that is far behind in the global productivity/competitiveness index.”
Aremu said: “The key to the nation’s economic recovery is increased productivity and the antidote against poverty is work.”
The labour leader stated: “The effort of President Muhammadu Buhari administration to revive domestic industries and attract foreign direct investment will be undermined if existing local industries are forced to close down for almost one week on account of religious festivity.”
“With only 48 working hours a week, almost 120 days rest days (inclusive Saturdays and Sundays) in a year, Nigeria has the highest number of public holidays in the world compared to Malaysia, China and Indonesia which work 52 hours-seven days a week,” he said.
Aremu said it was unhelpful that both the federal, state governments and even legislative arms impose indiscriminate public holidays that undermine production in the private sector, adding that with endless outages and assault on gas facilities by militants, Nigeria is fast becoming an unproductive country.
“The real threat to our democracy is this idle capacity fed by official national shut down, called public holidays in whatever name,” he lamented.
He said as a labour leader, forcing workers to rest with pay seems attractive but he added that “enlightened workforce know that rest without adequate income means glorified poverty.
“When we are working we are poor due to income inadequacy, is it when we are compelled to rest through frivolous holidays that we get out of poverty?,” he queried
He said for Muslims who devoted more time for spiritual exercise during the just concluded Ramadan fast, one of the lessons of the Holy month “is that we should sleep less, work more to get reward in the hereafter and do more of selfless service and sacrifices.”
Extending public holidays in the name of celebrating Eid-el-Fitri therefore, he said, negates the lessons of the Ramadan fast.
Aremu however, hailed Buhari for the N500 billion social interventions projects contained in 2016 federal budget in five areas, namely 500,000 teachers recruitment, 100,000 artisans, school feeding for five million school children conditional cash transfers to one million poorest of the poor and education grant for 100,000 students in science, mathematics and engineering, among others.
He said that the provisions aimed at alleviating poverty among the poor were in line with the “Give-the-poor-spirit” of Ramadan and part of necessary social restructuring for the country.
He also hailed the federal government for the prompt payment of monthly salaries of federal workers and called on the State governors to emulate the good example.