INTERNATIONAL WORKER'S DAY

SpringAid International Development (SAID), Nigeria aims to fight the root causes of poverty and their consequences. Creating work, that is employment is the primary vehicle to achieving this vision of a world without poverty. Therefore, we join the International community and especially Nigeria workers in celebrating this May Day.

 In many cities across the world, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators are on the streets participating in massive May Day events protesting the plight of workers and the unemployment pledging many people in many countries and highlighting worker’s light. It is marked with marches and rallies in many countries across the globe. In many countries like Nigeria, it is a day used by labour Union leaders to ask for better conditions and salaries for workers. The leaders of labour in Nigeria as in other past years are asking for raised minimum wage for civil servants.

May Day — also known as International Worker’s Day.  This day is also called Workers’ Day in many countries. While other countries name it ‘Labour Day’. It is a public holiday in Nigeria and in many other countries. Its origin dates to Europe as a spring celebration welcoming the summer season. It began in Europe as a traditional spring celebration to welcome Summer. The first Monday of every May is usually a bank holiday for labourers and workers.

Nigeria government as it has become its tradition, and top government officials and politicians issue statements applauding the sacrifices and contributions of the working class in Nigeria. Of course, we know that this is lip service and playing politics with people’s life which the government and elites of Nigeria a very good at.

This day offers us opportunity to reflect on the meaning of work and a few pertinent challenges confronting workers in Nigeria. Within the Catholic Church, 1 May is dedicated to Saint Joseph the worker. St Joseph was the foster father of Jesus, a carpenter who taught his son, Jesus carpentry.  Catholic Social Teaching holds that work is dignified and an intrinsic good, and workers must always be respected and valued. Work is essential to the dignity of the human person.

SpringAid International Development, SAID is convinced that one of the major businesses of government if not the primary duty is to create employment for its citizens. The government has also the primary responsibility to protect the rights of individuals and groups to work. In this light, labour interests must always take precedence over those of capital. It is sad that Nigeria government and many industries and companies within the nation are putting the interests of capital over that of human dignity and human life. This is of course the problem with the development paradigm that dominates our world this day, which places profit over human life. To truly appreciate the dignity of the human person, our development paradigm must be ‘people centered’.

Pope Francis has helped us articulate the dignity of work and he wrote: "We do not get dignity from power or money or culture. We get dignity from work." He noted: "Work is fundamental to the dignity of the person. Work, to use an image, 'anoints' with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us similar to God who has worked and still works, who always acts."

Work confers dignity on the human person. This means that an individual that lack work, an unemployed person suffers from a lack of dignity, the individual’s self-esteem is poor and a general lack of self-confidence pervades this individual. SIAD is aims in all its programmes, projects and activities to fight the root causes of poverty and their consequences. An unemployed person cannot escape the bark of poverty. To fight extreme poverty, an individual must have work to take care of his or her basic needs.

No fewer than 15 states are still owing their workers a backlog of salaries and allowances, despite the different bailout funds from the Federal Government. Some states are owing their workers as many as 15 months and some others are owing workers 2 years’ salaries and allowances. The Federal Government can hardly fight corruption effectively when workers are owned in this way and many people are unemployed. Many workers are being paid unjust salaries that dehumanize.  In this regard, Pope Francis said: "We are running the risk of having a generation that does not work. From work comes a person's dignity." Francis underscores a point found in the social teaching of John Paul II that dignified work not only implies remuneration sufficient for adequate housing, food, medical help etc. but also involves a kind of justice as participation.

Nigeria has a high population growth rate of 3.5 per cent per annum. It is estimated to have a population of over 170 million people. Sadly, there are no vibrant and innovative industries to absorb the graduates that are added yearly to the poll of unemployed youths and persons in the country. Over 60 percent of youths in the rural areas are unemployed. Unemployment of youths is one of the major challenges of Nigeria as a country. Unfortunately, serious commitment has not been shown to the issues by successive governments except on papers.  Through work we participate in society and have an active voice.

It is also important to mention that workers have a duty to deliver for what they have been paid. In Nigeria, both state and private workers tend to show a lack of commitment to their work. This is where workers in Nigeria at all levels need to develop and cultivate responsible work ethics that support solidarity and social development of all our people. Many teachers and lecturers in our schools and institutions of higher learning show little or no commitment to ethics of work. Many simply use their work to exploit students, while some show no accountability and leave their paid work to engage in private work. Many universities are under lock for many months and lecturers are happy doing their private work. This is also what is seen in many government hospitals, where doctors show poor commitment to their work within the government facility where the same parents are referred to their own private clinics or hospitals where they could charge them large sums of money. Whether it is within the police forces, armed forces, public and private sectors, the story is the same.

We are calling on all Nigerians, to show solidarity and cultivate respect for the dignity of the human person so that we can build a sustainable society where extreme poverty has no place and there is shared prosperity for all.  We are convinced that Nigeria has more than enough resources to give work to all her citizens who are willing to work if wastage of national resources is curtailed through effective, accountable and responsible management and individuals and groups invest in financing for development.

Teddy Ihens, Director of Operations

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