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Saturday, 16 May 2015

THE MUCH ADO ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT: THE CURIOUS CASE OF CITIZEN OKON

Okon the is proverbial Calabar house boy, whose quest for greener pastures has taken him to Lagos. He is lucky to have found the type of job he wanted at the house of a certain "oka madam" and seems to enjoy doing his assigned house and other related chores for a nominal salary of N8,000.

His perpetual contentment with his lot as pertains to his job only suffers infraction whenever  the month ends and his wages are due. During this period, his madam suddenly becomes quarrelsome: picking holes in all the tasks he undertakes for her.

Terms such as Idiot, bastard, moron, stupid boy etc replaces his hitherto popular Okon nomenclature. In extreme instances, he is physically assaulted and starved of food. All in the bid to avoid paying the young man his deserved wages. When he is not smart and fortunate enough to avoid madam's litany of flimsy reasons why she would not pay him the agreed sum, his pay is delayed as long as the madam deems fit. Reasons such as; Okon overfed the dog; Okon returned from the market too quick; Okon has helped himself with the pomade madam's kids have thrown away etc could each fetch him a salary slash. So he has also become overtly cautious of his dealing with his boss.

Prior to finding his present "employment", Okon was sacked without pay for having the affront to request for his two months salary arrears from his former employers.

He sometimes wonder whether it is his fault to be born poor. Once he heard over the radio how a house boy murdered his madam for unjustly been so tough with him but he is too good a christian to even conceive this idea. So he has resigned to fate, hoping things would change for him someday.

Now enters the federal and state governments unsuccessful quest to create employment to her citizens. Its curious to know that a government that makes so much fuss about creating jobs for her teeming youths has never thought it wise to enact laws that could protect the likes of citizen Okon: not only to give him job security but also the much needed dignity of labour that is also a catalyst for increased output.

A government that does not include secondary leavers in her collection of unemployment statistics hasn't even started the process of addressing this challenge yet and incoming Buhari administration must take this serious.

The N18,000 minimum wage must also cover the likes of citizen Okon. A body or union should be established or mandated to entertain and address the complaints of such cadre of workers, arising from contractual disputes with employers.

The bosses who find the mandatory wages too exorbitant would be left with no choice than to employ the likes of citizen Okon on hourly basis, thereby giving him the opportunity to explore the possibility of a return to school as it is done in other climes.

Most importantly, citizen Okon would no longer be left at the mercies of the wicked and exploitative bosses.

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