Comrade Abubakar Al-Hassan Yakub is the newly elected Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In this interview, he speaks on housing and transportation challenges faced by FCT workers, among other issues.
As the newly elected Chairman of the NLC, FCT chapter, what was your message on the 2019 Workers Day? My message to FCT workers, just like I stated in my acceptance speech, is that we are going to go all out to see to the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage across board. All MDAs, local governments, FCT Administration (FCTA) and other employers would be pressured to implement.
Secondly, we are looking at pension matters because the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) is an affiliate of NLC. So their issues are some of the problems we also want to take up. Where they have unpaid pensions, gratuities or where their retirement benefits are not properly calculated, we want to look at them and make sure we rectify them. Thirdly, we are going to look at the issue of casualisation of workers in the FCT, especially by expatriates, as they are good at keeping people as temporary workers as long as they want.
So we are also going to look at that with the help and cooperation of the national headquarters of NLC to see how we can stem the tide of casualisation in the FCT. Also, we want to look at workers’ education because we need to train and retrain our officials.
The more you educate a union leader, the more you give him the opportunity to fight for what is right. So we are looking at those four areas and see how we can pursue the realisation of those objectives that we have set for ourselves. What is your agenda? Just like I enumerated, there are four key areas we want to look at: the N30,000 minimum wage, pension, casualisation workers’ education.
Those are the key areas we want to look at during our tenure by the grace of God. Housing and transportation are the major challenges of FCT workers, most of who live in satellite towns. What do you intend to do about these? In an address that we presented on May Day, those were some of the critical issues we mentioned.
Now if you look at the Abuja Mass Transit buses, take for example along Kubwa Road, you will see them parked at their base, with few buses on the road. So we are calling on the FCT Minister, Muhammad Musa Bello, to look at the possibility of bringing back those buses to the roads where you can now reengage the drivers and reduce the pressure on the commuters.
We are also looking at the issue of the light rail, which should not be constructed just within the city centre. We should look at the possibility of having rail from Zuba, Gwagwalada, Kuje, Abaji and Kwali to the city centre. These area councils should be linked to the rail so that workers can commute easily.
In terms of housing, I can say we have been promised housing for long, but here we are, even the 450 houses that were promised by the present FCTA have not been built. So we are calling on the government to look at the possibility of building these houses in the satellite towns and giving them to workers on owner-occupier bases
. And we are also calling on government to look at professionals in the building industry so that they can come up with building materials that are researched on, that are cheap but durable, so as to reduce cost of building the houses. If that is done it will enable workers own homes and it will reduce corruption in the workplace because a lot of workers have to cut corners in order to acquire houses.