In line with the present administration’s avowed determination to diversify the economy by making agriculture the pillar for national growth and development, the International Union of Food (IUF), has called on the federal government to extend payment of the long awaited hazard allowance to all professionals in the agric and allied sector.
This call was made last Thursday during a meeting of the IUF at the secretariat of the National Union of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), at Valley Estate, Dopemu, Lagos.
According to the chairman of IUF, Comrade Leke Success, President Muhammadu Buhari must make genuine efforts to resolve all issues capable of hindering the smooth implementation of all necessary policies being designed for the revival of agricultural activities in the country.
One of this he noted, was the implementation of the hazard allowance for workers in the agricultural and allied sector, which he says will not only go a long way in motivating the workforce in the sector, but also fast track the implementation of the policy.
“We wish to state that the Agriculture and Allied Employees’ Union of Nigeria (AAEUN), a subsidiary of IUF, has for 15 years agitated for the implementation of the hazard allowance without success. This is perhaps because, rather than threaten government with industrial action or threats of strike, the Union has been civil and diplomatic over the issue. While professionals in AAEUN have been denied the hazard allowance, their counterparts in the livestock and veterinary subsector, incidentally categorized as health workers, have long been enjoying this benefit as negotiated by the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN).
“After the submission of demand for hazard allowance by AAEUN in 2009, the Management Services Office of the Head of Service conducted a research in some selected states, and the result reveals that from comparative analyses with other sectors, workers in the agricultural sector encounter more hazards in the course of discharging their duties. The Management Services Office therefore recommended that hazard allowance should be extended to agricultural, forestry and allied employees.”
Comrade Success averred that although it has been argued that technology has greatly reduced stress and hardship associated with agricultural activities, the changes brought about by improved technology invariably come with new risk, related not only to the operation of sophisticated machinery such as tractors and harvesters, but also intense exposure to pesticides and a variety of other agrochemicals which often account for high rates of illness, injury and even death of workers in the sector.
“It is in view of this and following the research submissions referred to above, that the National Council on Establishment met in 2011, debated and resolved, among other issues, that agricultural officers, begin to enjoy hazard and other related allowances, with the recommendation that the request for implementation be forwarded to the National Salaries, Income and Wage Commission, for appropriate action.
He indicated further that even though a joint memorandum was prepared by the three ministries (Water Resources, Environment and Agric/Rural Development) in which AAEUN members work, and forwarded to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation for onward presentation to the Federal Executive Council for approval, nothing was really done about it, until former President Goodluck Jonathan handed over to President Buhari on May 29, 2015.
The President of AAEUN, Comrade Simon Achaver emphasised that even though the issue of hazard allowance has lingered for quite some time, it has become necessary to make it public and where such fails, the Union will be forced to do the needful.
The national secretary of AAEUN, Comrade Ededuan Aitokhuehi, on his part noted that they are not just making demands for demands sake, that their members get involved in various forms of hazards in the course of performing their legitimate duties.
Outlining the names of AAEUN hazards victims, Aitokhuehi mentioned that Mary Audu of the Nasarawa State Ministry of Agriculture presently suffers from skin decolorisation as a result of constant exposure to chemicals; Isa Abdullah of the Niger River Basin Authority had a towing rope fall on him on a drilling site.
With various reminders written to the present administration, the Union is saying that they might be forced to adopt a different strategy, should that be the only language understood by the administration.