The Federal Government has called on the Organization of Trade Union of West Africa (OTUWA) to be at the forefront on the campaign for the diversification of the economy of the ECOWAS sub-region, in view of the current global economic downturn.
Labour and Employment Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, disclosed this when he declared open a three-day strategic Planning workshop of OTUWA in Abuja.
Ngige said the diversification of the economy of the ECOWAS sub-region was imperative, adding that the mono-economic bases of West African countries were largely responsible for their current economic crisis.
Ngige noted that there is a big threat to the economy of the ECOWAS sub-region because of its largely mono-economic base, while expressing happiness that OTUWA has been able to live down its challenges.
“The revived OTUWA must, therefore, help the governments and employers in the sub-region to look elsewhere”, he said.
“In Nigeria, we must look for other sources of revenue and the most easily identifiable one is agriculture and mining.
“We are also diversifying in trade and services. And because of the availability of fertile land in West Africa, the same thing goes to sister countries.
“OTUWA, which is our regional component of the World Union of Trade Unions, must, hence, lead this campaign for the diversification of the West African economy, ” the minister said.
Ngige called on the union to help the governments in the region develop the requisite skills for the full maximization of the utility of their cash crops.
He said this would enhance local processing of the raw forms into finished products.
He urged the workshop to be the starting point of this line of thought by getting the people to move from the area of white collar jobs to blue collar jobs in agriculture and mining.
He enjoined OTUWA to be “the catalysts in entrenching decent work environment in line with the ILO Convention which all are signatory to.”
In his speech at the occasion, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, called for the reposition of OTUWA in order to meet the challenges confronting it through the collective support of workers for the integration process within the sub-region to foster economic, social and political consolidation for sustainable development.
The NLC chief posited that the proliferation of trade unions, which weakens union power for collective action, must be checked as it constitutes a threat to trade union unity and development.
He called on the Trade unions within the sub-region to show more interest in interrogating spurious bilateral and multilateral trade agreements signed by governments that seek to further enslave rather than make African economies robust and independent to serve the interest of the working people and the poor.
Earlier, the President of OTUWA, Mr Mademba Sock, listed challenges facing labour in the sub-region and said the organization was revived to fight the cause of the workers.
Also, Mr Dennis Zulu, ILO Country Director in Nigeria, said ILO had asked member states to organize national dialogues to come up with suggestions that would be useful for its development initiatives.
Zulu said that the initiatives would focus on work and society, decent jobs, the organization of work and production as well as governance of work.
He called on social partners in the respective countries to contribute to the ILO Future of Work Initiative.