Farming policy: What Okorocha introduced in Imo is forced labour – NLC

According to the president of the Nigerial Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, the union is displeased with, and has strongly condemned, the Imo State Government’s three-day work, two-day farming policy for workers recently introduced by Governor Rochas Okorocha.

Wabba, speaking in Abuja on Sunday, at a News Agency of Nigeria forum declared that the new policy introduced by the government goes against the International Labor Organisation (ILO) Convention and also against the rules and procedures in service.

He said, “First, we have condemned in very strong terms what the Imo State governor tries to do by forcefully sending workers to the farm.

“Don’t forget that the public service rule is very clear about what trade a worker can actually do to join to his normal routine services.

“It provided that on your own volition, you can join farming as part of your normal routine activities and that is allowed by law.

“But to criminally now go to the State House of Assembly to pass a law overnight without public hearing, without consultation is against the ILO convention; against our rules and procedure in service.

“To say that you want to force workers compulsorily to go into farming two days a week is the height of not even understanding how governance and how public service is run.

“I am sure that is condemnable.”

Furthermore, Wabba revealed that what Okorochas introduced in his state is way different from what other governors are instituting in theirs even as he accused the governor of pushing the workers in the state into forced labour.

According to Wabba, while other states encouraged their workers to go into farming, the Imo government’s policy on the other hand made it compulsory.

He further explained that the ILO Convention and the International treaty made it clear that working hours should not be more than eight hours a day and 40 hours per week- a treaty which Nigeria is a signatory to.

He said, “What the governor is doing is forced labour; we are not slaves; even under slavery, you cannot force a worker to work against his volition. Employment is a contract between the employer and the employee and therefore, they are rules of engagement; even what you earn is through a collective bargaining process; it cannot be imposed or forced on you.”

“How can you for instance ask a teacher not to go to school to teach pupils for two days a week or a health practitioner; disease doesn’t give notice.

“You don’t give notice before you fall sick; so at the time when you are going to farm an epidemic can actually come up; how you can address all of this?

“Or you want to put two standards in place; you ask one category of workers to come to work three days a week and another category to go to farm.

“That is not done; there are better ways to do that; he can encourage farmers; he can allocate lands give them fertiliser, give them incentives.

“You can put laws in place and encourage workers to go into farming but not through a very cruel process of working against the law and forcing them to go to farm which is against our law; against our convention,” he said.

Wabba also said the NLC had already written officially to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, which has the responsibility to make sure labour laws are enforced.

The ILO would also be written.

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