• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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Nigeria signs bilateral agreements with UAE, Qatar to protect 7000 workers

ASUU considers indefinite strike Monday

In a bid to prevent further exploitation of Nigerians working and residing in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, the Federal government on Thursday said it is signing employment agreements to protect its citizens working in those countries.

Nigerians working in Qatar had recently lamented inhuman treatments, denial of work permits, following “ a ban on work for Nigerians resident in those Arab countries.

Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment after President Muhammadu Buhari, said his Ministry is reviving some bilateral agreements on employment with the Republic of Qatar and with the UAE, adding “ that Qatar is ready to sign the bilateral agreements. So, I’ve come to brief the President on that.

A recent World Bank report had indicated that diaspora remittances from about 1.7 million Nigerians residing outside the country in 2020, amounted to about 4% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

Diaspora remittances to Nigeria were put at $65.34b in three years, including 2018, 2019 and 2020, according to the World Bank.

The figure shows that in 2018, Nigerians remitted 24.31bn, back home, but this dropped in 2019, to $23.81bn; while $17.21bn, was remitted in 2020.

The Minister said the government “wants to use the agreements to formalize Labour migration policy, so that Nigerians who are there, about 7,000 of them, in different spheres of work, will be assured of decent work.”

“We have an agreement that will specify what kind of work they do, protection for them and protection for even their employers over there.

“So that is online, I had to brief Mr. President because the agreement is nearing maturation and ratification.

“We go to UAE it’s also same, their level of components that are to be done by foreigners, we now have them, we want to use that information now, to go into our vocational training centers so that our people can also be trained and be exported in a civilized manner, in a decent work manner, to become legal resident aliens wherever they go, especially in the UAE. So that is on the international front.”

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He revealed that the President has also graciously approved payment of some wages owed to health workers.

“So tomorrow, we’re convening a meeting of the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages, where we’ll ratify the new pay hazard structure for health workers.

“As a first step, Mr. President has approved last week and I have the authority and letter, directing the Minister of Finance to release the funds of the resident doctors for September and October 2021, which was seized in conformity with the law”

The approval also covers members of the JOHESU who went on strike in 2018 for three months.

“After the first month, after March, when they couldn’t come back, we asked that their pay be suspended, this is in tandem with the ILO principles at work. You have a right to strike, but the employer has a right to stop your remuneration and if possible, use it to keep his enterprise going by taking new hands, where possible, especially in essential services”

Speaking on the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Ngige said efforts are on to resolve the brewing crisis.

“ASUU and their direct employer, which is the Ministry of Education, there’s a tango and the tango is running round the MoA, the Memorandum of Action signed in 2020. Refreshing your minds, they were on strike last year and they were at home for nearly nine months and last December, the President magnanimously gave them blanket clemency and we paid them their money for the nine months, spanning into January, February of this year.

He noted that ASUU was also given a revitalization fund for N40 billion, early this year, for the revitalization of the university system.

“In the MoA we agreed that they should get another revitalization this year and by last July, August, the money for revitalization was paid to them, for the university system that was entitled to that. N30 billion was paid. Last week, N22.127 billion was also released to the university system for the unions, workers university system to benefit in consonance with the MoA we signed in December 2020.”

“The altercation going on now and for which ASUU is asking their union branches to vote on is that a lot of them don’t know that we have paid this quantum of money.

The Minister said he expects ASUU to inform their people, “let them know that this is what has happened. They also have a grouse with the negotiation of 2009. The 2009 agreement was being renegotiated before Babalakin left and a new committee was set in place.

“That committee had advisors from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Labor and Employment, Minister of Budget and then Head of Service of the Federation and Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, because part of the renegotiation was the renegotiation of the conditions of service.