A trade union activist, and member, National Executive Council (NEC) of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Issa Aremu, has criticised extension of eid el fitr holiday by the Federal Government.
Speaking with journalists in Ilorin on Thursday, Comrade Aremu said Nigeria cannot grow her economy and come out of poverty if institutions of government continued to compel workers to observe what he called “frivolous public holidays” when even developed nations of the world were at work.
It is recalled that the Minister of Interior, General AbdulRaahman Dambazau (rtd) had declared Tuesday and Wednesday as public holidays to mark the Eid el Fitri, but later extended it to Thursday when sallah was not celebrated on Tuesday, a decision the labour leader described as one “off-day too many for a country that is far behind in the global productivity/competitiveness index.”
The former NLC Vice President said “that the key to the nation’s economic recovery is increased productivity and that the antidote against poverty is work.”
Aremu said “the effort of President Muhammadu Buhari administration to revive domestic industries and attract foreign direct investment will be undermined if existing local industries are forced to close down for almost one week on account of religious festivity.”
“With only 48 working hours a week, almost 120 days rest days (inclusive Saturdays and Sundays) in a year, Nigeria has the highest number of public holidays in the world compared to Malaysia, China and Indonesia which work 52 hours-7 days a week,” he said.
Aremu said it was unhelpful that both the federal, state governments and even legislative arms impose indiscriminate public holidays that undermine production in the private sector, adding that with endless outages and assault on gas facilities by militants, Nigeria is fast becoming an unproductive country.
“The real threat to our democracy is this idle capacity fed by official national shut down, called public holidays in whatever name” he lamented.
He said as a labour leader, forcing workers to rest with pay seems attractive but he added that “enlightened workforce know that rest without adequate income means glorified poverty.
“When we are working we are poor due to income inadequacy, is it when we are compelled to rest through frivolous holidays that we get out of poverty,” he queried?
He said for Muslims who devoted more time for spiritual exercise during the just concluded Ramadan fast, one of the lessons of the Holy month “is that we should sleep less, work more to get reward in the hereafter and do more of selfless service and sacrifices.”
Extending public holidays in the name of celebrating eid el fitri, he said, negates the lessons of the Ramadan fast.
Aremu, however, hailed President Buhari for the N500 billion social interventions projects contained in 2016 federal budget in five areas, namely 500,000 teachers recruitment, 100,000 artisans, schools feeding for five million school, conditional cash transfers to one million poorest of the poor and education grant for 100, 000 students in science, Mathematics and Engineering among others.
He said that the provisions aimed at alleviating poverty among the poor were in line with the “Give-the-poor-spirit” of Ramadan and part of necessary social restructuring for the country.
He also hailed the Federal Government for the prompt payment of monthly salaries of federal workers and called on the state governors to emulate the good example.