The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, salutes the crucial role played by the labour movements towards Nigeria’s independence and the Community Service Scheme of the SURE- P.
The 2013 May Day is a special one, what makes it so?
Organised labour is 100 years old this year and Nigeria would be 100 next year. So, we are celebrating the labour movement at the eve of 100 years of nationhood and there is no doubt that Organised Labour played a major role in the race for independence. If labour is 100 this year, that means the amalgamation, which was in 1914, will make Nigeria 100.
Pa Micheal Imoudu led the first agitation for a living wage, which caused the massacre at the coal mine; it marked the real agitation and the fight for Nigeria workers to have a living wage. Subsequently, they joined hands with their comrades who are fighting for independence: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ernest Ikoli, Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Herbert Macaulay, Jaja Wachukwu and a whole lot of patriotic Nigerians, including Mallam Aminu Kano.
Because of the repression of the colonial masters who repressed them at the agitation, they joined hands and saw the need to fight with other compatriots to achieve independence. We achieved that independence in 1960 and the crucial role of labour in that struggle cannot be over emphasised.
The Community Service Scheme (CSS) of the SURE-P has been transferred from the Ministry of Finance to Ministry of Labour, What is the focus of the CSS?
The Federal Government has a programme to facilitate employment of the unemployed youth of Nigeria. It is a robust programme for skills acquisition, which would assist the government tackle the incidences of unemployment. The unemployment scourge is a global one and it has affected us here also since after what was termed the global meltdown.
Under the SURE-P, we have the Community Service Schemes, we have the one for Public Works, and we have various other initiatives including the Graduates’ Intensive Scheme. All of them are targeted at creating employment for our teeming unemployed youths and the under-employed Nigerians
How many people have already benefitted from the scheme?
Already 3,000 persons from each state and the Federal Capital Territory have benefitted from the CSS since its inception. We are targeting 2,000 extra per state before the end of this year.
But let me state this clearly because of the rate of criticism in the media on the funds we are expending on this programme; as Federal Government, we are using our own portion of the savings from the partial removal of the fuel subsidy. We are deploying these savings to the areas that will create jobs, areas that will make direct impact on the people of Nigeria. The other 36 states which make up the federation have their own portion and they have been receiving it at the same time the federal government is receiving its share. They are therefore entitled to use their portion to develop their states.
It is heart-warming to discover that some states have found it necessary to replicate what we are doing at the federal level especially the schemes on youth employment and empowerment and it is working out well for them. We have led the way and they are following; that is the demonstration of a good federation. The Ministry of Finance took the CSS to great heights; we are going to take it to greater heights.
There have been some allegations of discrimination among beneficiaries based on their political affiliations. Any plans to put mechanisms in place for feedback?
We convene regular meetings for us to rub minds, to brainstorm and find a good way to move forward. There will be complaints, but how you tackle those complaints is a matter of administrative sagacity. At these meetings, we brainstorm and find ways of addressing those little and noticeable loopholes. but there are no discriminations, the conveners says it is for all Nigerians irrespective of political leaning because whether you belong to party A, or party B or party C; at the end of the day, we are all Nigerians.
This programme is meant for and targeted towards all Nigerians who are unemployed. The instruction is that you must not discriminate. So if there are remote cases of discriminations in some states, it will be corrected. You have my assurance on that. I want to assure you that the federal government has deployed this portion of the savings from the partial removal of subsidy to all these laudable programmes, targeted at creating job opportunity for our teeming youth, and we will succeed.
You can see the number of thousands of people that have already been engaged. Another hundreds of thousands of people would be engaged during our second tranche. We are equally planning an exit strategy to make sure that at the end of the day these people would be gainfully engaged.
Does the programme have a life-span?
For the first instance, one year and the beneficiaries will be resettled, and another group would benefit. It is a continuous thing, and as we move on, we will be able to inform the Nigeria public about our achievements on the scheme; this is the platform we are creating. My ministry officially took over technically on the 8th of April, and you can see the mileage we have been able to achieve.