Nigeria was reported to have come out of recession in September last year. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Nigeria has exited its worst economic recession in more than two decades, notching up growth of 0.55 per cent in the second quarter of 2017. The report was further accentuated in other quarters shortly after the announcement.

However, as far as Comrade Adeyemi Ademola, the national president of Hotel and Personal Senior Staff Association (HAPSSA) is concerned, that report was simply a theoretical discourse, as the facts do not support the NBS’s claim.
Inthis interview, the HAPSSA president said Nigeria, specifically, the hospitality industry, has nothing to show that the economy has improved.

He also discussed several challenges facing the hospitality industry and the failure of government in supporting the industry to thrive.

Nigeria out of recession?

As a matter of fact, I do not feel we are out of recession up till today, because, in our sector, the economy is still biting, even harder than before. As far as the hospitality industry is concerned, noting has improved. In our revenue generation, it has not improved, facility-wise, it has not improved and when we talk of our membership strength, it has not improved. Even more are out of job in the hospitality industry. There has been restructuring here and there, and even in my own company, which is Lagos Airport Hotel, it is what we are facing as far as today is concerned. The management’s plan every day is to ensure that we are reduced drastically and there is no money to pay. It is equally affecting other hotels. So, I have not seen any indication to show that we are out of recession, unless the federal government comes out in clear terms and puts things in order that will ensure that, at corporate organisation and individual levels, we are out of recession. This is because 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population earns less than $1 a day. So, how can somebody convince me that we are out of recession? It is as a result of not being out of recession that we cannot implement minimum wage. So far we have not seen anything on ground to convince us that they are going to implement the new minimum wage. Though the committee said by, the third quarter, they are going to implement but, to me, I have not seen any sign of seriousness in it. In Nigeria, we are very good at planning, but when it comes to implementation, we have failed.

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Membership loss

I would say, we have lost more than one-quarter of the workforce and the employers have been practising illegality, which is contract staff, casual, which our union will never encourage. We can never encourage, neither can we support such a thing. That is why we have graduates being paid peanuts, N15,000, N25,000 in hotels in Nigeria; the same applies in the banking industry. It is not limited to only the hospitality industry. Banking is a sensitive sector that such a thing should not to be allowed, but it is prevalent in that sector.

Dealing with casualisation

We have not been able to organise any of the hotels for the past two years. Even the one we organised last year, at the end of the day, there was a plan against us, but we were able to inaugurate them and we are in court now. All these are as a result of the recession. That is why casualisation is being encouraged, even by the federal government. Constitution itself do not help matters. In the civil service, the moment you join the service, automatically, you are unionised. But in the hospitality industry, banking industry, the reverse is the case. We are not being encouraged. Even the employers would make you sign a letter that you will not join unions. As a result of economic recession, somebody that has been looking for job for some years, having found a job, he would just sign without thinking twice. Besides, most of the hotels in the country, are owned by senators, retired and serving generals, ex-police officers, royal fathers, and these are not encouraging their workers to be unionised. This is because they know that is where the workers’ strength lies. I don’t really know why they are afraid, because union has nothing against them, we are not asking them to pay us, check-off is from the salary of workers that make up the membership of the union. We are against casualisation and, so far, casualisation is being encouraged by the government.

Plan against casualisation

There are two ways to being a leader, we have individual responsibility and we have collective responsibility. It depends on the individual disposition to it. The crop of the National Administrative Council, members that we have presently, we have not been seriously fighting casualisation. We have not made it clear enough to the public that we are against casualisation. That is why it is rearing its ugly head in the hospitality industry, in the banking industry, even in the health sector, it is all over the country. I believe it calls for serious concern. There is no house that one will enter now that you will not see an unemployed graduate. It is a serious problem.