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YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – A leading Nigerian prelate said he wasn’t pleased with the situation of workers in Africa’s most populous nation, describing the situation as “pathetic.”
“In fact, working conditions in both the public and private sectors yearn for serious and urgent overhauling. Nigeria, so to speak, needs a moral blood transfusion,” said Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo said in his Labor Day message entitled: “May 1: Awaiting a Happier Workers’ Day.”
He complained that several factors have conspired to deny workers the joy and fulfillment which they should derive from the work they do.
“Regrettably today, conflicts, discrimination, unjust structures, scarcity of jobs, bad management and greed hamper the integral human development that work ought to bring to individuals, family and society. This, to say the least, is unfortunate and deserves urgent attention,” the bishop said.
He accused the government of insensitivity to the plight of workers.
“Government insensitivity to the plight and demands of workers like doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, and security agencies is nothing short of cruel, especially when compared to politicians’ remunerations. This sadly affects the entire masses who rely on the services which those workers provide,” Badejo said.
He described work as the “one indispensable resource by which God made man and by which man sustains the world. We are told that after all the work, God saw that what he had done was good. For this reason, we know that there is dignity in work and work is really love made visible. It is thus befitting to congratulate workers on this day, to congratulate all who provide work and do the same to all who provide the conducive environment in which work can be done.”
The bishop called on employers and employees to embrace a new ‘regime of merit’ and rebuild the crumbling labor fortress.
Workers’ unions in Nigeria used the May Day festivities to urge the in-coming government of President-elect Bola Tinubu to improve the working conditions of workers in the country.
Although President-elect Bola Tinubu hasn’t been installed as president yet, he seems to understand the enormity of the task ahead. Noting that labor is the backbone of the nation, Tinubu described Nigerian workers as “the daily unsung heroes of society.”
“The work they perform helps define our nation. The goods and services their efforts provide are the basis of our collective well-being,” he said.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said Nigerian workers deserved to be appreciated “for their contributions to the development of our country.”
“I also salute them for their patriotic cooperation with the government and other institutions in the collective efforts to address societal challenges.”
Badejo said the way forward for Nigeria and its workers can only come through dialogue and sensitivity which can guarantee “an escape from the quagmire of resentment and suspicion which currently characterizes the relationship between employees and employers in the country.”
The bishop said that without dialogue, it would be hard to attain “the ideal of all humanity”- it will remain a mirage “if contentious issues concerning work are not resolved.”
Badejo added that “the Catholic Church teaches that just wages are a legitimate fruit of work. It can be grave injustice to withhold or refuse it.
“Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social and cultural levels,” the bishop said.
He said failure to address such concerns can only lead to a situation of chaos.
“Governments and peoples cannot honestly desire peace or authentic development without ensuring just wages for work done. Exploitation of others or their resources, forcing down prices of raw materials, inhospitable conditions of work, unjustly taking over the property belonging to others or the like, impugn human dignity, damage social trust and offend the moral law of God, the bishop said.
“Conversely, at the personal levels workers too must do just work for the wages they receive in order to fulfill the social contract and in order not to be guilty of dishonesty and stealing” he continued.
“The Catholic Church has always taught that there is dignity in labor and that work is a vocation with a spiritual dimension. Every worker in some way participates in the divine project of advancing the work of creation,” the bishop said.