MY MESSAGE OF SOLIDARITY TO
THE WORKERS OF AKWA IBOM STATE ON THE OCCASION OF MAY DAY – 1ST MAY, 2020
1. It is my pleasure to join the Organized Labour today, to mark this day which in the calendar of the Organized Labour is set aside to celebrate the huge contributions of workers all over the nation and indeed the world over.
2. Today’s celebration, however, is decidedly different. Instead of the festivities that usually attend this event, the march past and the convivial atmosphere of comradeship at the Uyo Stadium, this message is being released without the fanfare steeped in camaraderie and bonhomie. The reason is the new reality that has dawned upon us, brought about by an otherwise innocuous virus that started in the industrial city of Wuhan, China last December, but which today, has changed the world as we know it, bringing in its wake, death and infection rate of epidemic level.
3. Today, from the most powerful economies – the usual standard bearers of hard and soft power, to the emerging economies and those that are still putting the fundamentals of growth together, the world lays comatose, with the streets of major cities around the world, desolate and deserted. Our mode and model of engagements have changed, possibly forever. We now have new lexicons of daily usage: Social-distancing, lock-down and facemask.
4. The world’s economy is in dire straits, nations where unemployment were in low digit now are looking at spikes in unemployment of up to double digit, major corporations are laying off workers in thousands, small business owners who are the engines of growth in any economy are strangulated and groaning under the debilitating weight of Covid-19. Some economists in the Developed Nations for instance, are talking of the coming depression that may equal or surpass the Great Depression of 1929. Here in Nigeria, the economic forecast and prognostications remain dire and alarming.
5. Our nation which is mono-economy sustained by oil needs strategic reengineering. There is glut in the market and our oil today sells under 30 dollars per barrel – far below the budgetary benchmark of $57 barrel per day. This in simple terms means our budget earlier passed and assented into law by me would have to be revised downward. With this revision will come some challenges in the implementation of capital and recurrent expenditures. I know I can always count on your support and understanding as we deal with this new reality.
6. In spite of this dire and challenging economic times, we were able to pay the salary of our workers on April 24th – a clear one week to the end of the month.
7. My Administration’s commitment to the welfare of our workers remains strong and abiding. Last year in my May Day speech, I had stated that once the modalities for the payment of the new minimum wage were worked out, that we will commence the payment.
8. As you can attest, we commenced the payment of the new minimum wage last December. Our Affordable Mass Housing Scheme for workers is on-going. We are also making concerted efforts at clearing inherited arrears of gratuities, the first set of such, which was done upon my assumption of office, in May 2015, where a ten-year backlog was cleared to the joy and eternal gratitude of the workers. Also, we are facilitating prompt handling of promotion processes alongside human capacity development through strategic trainings.
9. Let me end this speech by assuring our people that the Corona virus pandemic did not meet us unprepared. Our huge investments in healthcare delivery services through reconstruction, re-modelling and re-equipping our secondary healthcare facilities today have shown our provocativeness.
10. Our world class isolation centres at the Ibom Specialist Hospital and the one at Ikot Ekpene have made our management of Covid-19 a hugely successful affair, leading to the low rate of infection and recoveries we have achieved. Our brand new 300-bed isolation centre at the Methodist Hospital, Ituk Mbang, will soon be operational. Our contact-tracing has been celebrated by the NCDC who recently scored us 99 percent. Contact-tracing, it bears repeating, is the major means of containing the spread of this deadly virus.
11. As a responsive and caring Government, we have provided relief packages to all the over 2,274 recognized villages across the State and other groups to cushion the harsh effects occasioned by the Covid-19 imposed lock-down. We urge you to stay tuned for further developments on when we may relax some of the restrictions on movements we have imposed and open up the economy.
12. Finally, let me again commend the leaders of the Organized Labour in the State for the industrial harmony we have enjoyed in the past five years. I know we can always count on you in our determined and committed desire to leave this State better than we met her.
13. Let me also commend the passion and commitment of our health care workers – the physicians, nurses and others for working tirelessly to ensure the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic is reduced to its minimum. You all truly deserve our eternal gratitude.
14. The Greek dramatist – Sophocles couldn’t have been more prescient and apt when he stated that “Without labour, nothing prospers”. Together, in one accord and unison, we will work to bring lasting prosperity to our dear State in good health and great strength.
15. Thank you and God bless! Aluta Continua!