•Says unemployment more than quadrupled since 2015
•Labour suspends planned industrial action
Deji Elumoye and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government has disclosed that it has stopped the planned protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over the hardship being faced by Nigerians to access the naira from their banks.
This was just as the organised labour has extended the deadline given to the federal government to restore normalcy in the availability of cash for transactions in the country by two weeks.
The two labour centres – NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) who addressed a joint press conference in Abuja, yesterday, said there had been some noticeable progress in the effort by government to solve the problem of cash squeeze across the country.
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 had warned of a nationwide protest and the picketing of the apex bank’s branches from today.
Speaking at a news briefing at the State House, Abuja, yesterday, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, stressed that the threat of the 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.
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 last 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 per cent 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 the 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.
Meanwhile, addressing journalists at the Labour House in Abuja, on the decision to postpone the planned industrial action by two weeks, NLC President, Joe Ajaero said the meeting of National Executive Council of the congress assessed the situation around the country and concluded that although there has been some level of compliance by the CBN in flooding the banks with cash.
Owing to this, he said there was need to extend the deadline in order to monitor and ensure that the tempo of operations by banks is sustained
Consequently, both Ajaero and the TUC president, Festus Usifoh said the picketing of the CBN offices scheduled to hold today nationwide has been put on hold.
Explaining the engagement with the CBN Governor, the NLC president said, “A day or two after we briefed you here the CBN deputy governors came here and we had a fruitful meeting with them and we gave them proposals on how best to solve the problem, immediately after that they swung into action and they have done averagely well.
“With reports coming from all the states of the federation, and local governments on the level of compliance of banks, we’re happy to tell you that yes, there is compliance by the CBN.”
Ajaero said at the NLC NEC meeting, the congress still doubted the sustainability of the compliance.
“We don’t want to be calling you back after two days, we want to monitor this compliance for the next two weeks to see whether it is sustainable because they are forced to move money to commercial banks and some of those commercial banks are getting empty again, queues are returning in some of them, so it will be very naive for the congress to hurriedly call off the action, whereas we’re not shutting down tomorrow.
“We want to loosen up for another two weeks, with committees set up at the national level and in all the states of the Federation to coordinate the level of compliance”, he added.
On his part, Usifoh said the union completely aligned with the position of NLC in extending the picketing ultimatum by two weeks.
“We are completely aligned on that and we have to sustain the push. We have to sustain this pressure for another two weeks because when the report came from the various states, it showed that there have been some level of compliance and as we hear about how CBN provided cash for them and we encouraged them that they should sustain this because the quantum of money they need now is a lot more than the money that they would have required if this panic has not come in because an average Nigerian today will withdraw money.
“The confidence in the system has been eroded. The CBN needs to do much more. They need to put much more money into the Nigerian economy. If they withdrew N2 trillion, that means much more than that.
“That confidence has to be restored back so that we can return back to normalcy. We have moved it for another two weeks and we will continuously monitor across the length and breadth of the country and we will review it after that and also come back to you.”