The Minister of Labour, Chief Chukwuemeka Wogu, yesterday told Nigerian workers not to be worried over the call on the government by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, to cut the nation's workforce by half to help sustain economy. Sanusi had argued that the country was spending too much money on a negligible percentage of the population to the detriment of the overwhelming majority.
Wogu, who made the call at the 8th National Labour Relations Summit and Fellowship Award, with the theme, 'Social Policy, Labour Relations and the Transformation Agenda: Extending Social Protection In Nigeria', assured the workers that the federal government would rather create more jobs for Nigerians than sack workers.
The House of Representatives also raised objections to Sanusi's suggestion for a reduction in the number of lawmakers in National Assembly to save cost.
Wogu declared: "I speak authoritatively and I want to be quoted. Both the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) should not be agitated on the issue because federal government is committed to protecting and creating more jobs in the country."
The minister further disclosed that a committee had been set up to create more jobs in various sectors of the nation's economy, and would commence work next week.
Though, he contended that job creation was mostly driven by the private sector, he, however, said that the government was creating enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, adding that government owed the society the responsibility to do just that.
He also said that President Goodluck Jonathan was committed to implementing job creation policies, particularly in sectors like agriculture, construction, ICT, and tourism, among others.
In their separate remarks earlier, the presidents of the NLC and the TUC, Abdulwaheed Umar and Peter Esele respectively, had condemned the statement of the CBN governor, adding that with 50 per cent open unemployment and official 25 per cent unemployment rates in the country, revolution and youth revolt were imminent.
The labour leaders opined that Nigeria could move forward if government revived the real sector of the economy - manufacturing, transportation, textile, food drinks and beverages and other key sectors of the economy, adding that government should enhance the labour force with intervention fund to achieve more for the country.
However, a financial expert and executive chairman of the Society of Analytical Economics in Nigeria, Dr Godwin Owoh, has backed Sanusi, saying he was right in his assertions, but that he should be giving the advice to government and not to the general public.
According to Owoh, "The governor of the Central Bank is an economic and financial adviser to the government. This is part of his mandate. He has access, reach and scope to advise the government. What the governor needs to do now is to back his statement with data.
"He should provide data that says what the economy will gain, what it will lose if the number of civil servants and lawmakers is cut down, and what will be the social cost and financial cost of taking this action."
Reps blast him over call to prune NASS members
Similarly, Mallam Sanusi's call by for a downsizing of the number of federal lawmakers to reduce the cost of governance received scathing reactions from the House of Representatives.
The Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Victor Ogene, at a briefing with newsmen, described Sanusi's remark as typical of his penchance for generating "political turbulence."
On Tuesday, the CBN governor had, in his presentation at the second annual Capital Market Committee retreat in Warri, Delta State, urged the federal government to slash the civil service by 50 per cent as well as cut down the number of federal lawmakers and that of states in Nigeria to more manageable numbers.
Ogene accused Sanusi of rabble rousing and unnecessarily heating up the polity, just as he faulted many of the CBN governor's economic policies since he took the reins at the CBN in 2009.
He said: "I did not want to talk about the statement on the National Assembly by the CBN governor, because I do not know how to respond to him. But sometimes I begin to wonder whether this CBN governor is a political economist, with bias for political turbulence.
"We are of the view that he (Sanusi) has not been able to pull through on any of his policies; from the policy on N5,000 note to similar claims of profligacy in government, he has never pushed through any of his proposed reforms.
"But back to the issue, what is even the budget of the National Assembly for 2012that he will be calling for their reduction to save cost? Ogene queried. "N150 billion; and here is a man whose organisation (CBN) has a profile of over N300 billion spent and is not ready to put this before the Nigerian people to show transparency and accountability."
The lawmaker discountenanced Sanusi's resort to the CBN Act to shy away from legislative scrutiny, saying: "Yes he talks about the CBN Act, but you know that any Act that is inconsistent with the constitution remains inferior to the extent of the inconsistency. So, the Central Bank is not superior to the constitution which requires that every MDA must have its budget cleared by the National Assembly."
Ogene further disclosed that the CBN governor was not living by example, as the apex bank's workforce had risen by nearly 1,000 since Sanusi assumed office in 2009.
"At the moment, the staff strength of the CBN stands at 6,015 employees. When Sanusi came on board in June 2009, it was 5,022 workers. So, if within three years, instead of pruning down - since we are talking about reducing the cost of governance, he has employed about 1,000 more people," he remarked.