Showdown appeared inevitable as governors yesterday offered to pay N22,500 instead of the N30,000 demanded by Organised Labour as the new national minimum wage.
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Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Governor of Zamfara, Abdul’aziz Yari, who read the decision of the governors as contained in the communique at the end of the emergency meeting, last night, said the acceptable minimum wage must be done in such a way that total personnel cost does not exceed 50 percent of the revenue available to each state.
“The welfare of all Nigerians is our ultimate concern. In all our states, we are concerned about the deteriorating economic situation experienced by the vulnerable segment of our population.
“In agreeing to a national minimum wage, however, the Forum is even more concerned about development, particularly in the health, education and infrastructure spheres.
“It is therefore our considered position that since the percentage of salaried workers is not more than five percent of the total working population, our position must not just reflect a figure, but also a sustainable strategy based on ability and capacity to pay, as well as reflective of all our developmental needs in each state. “Afterall, Section 3 of the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission Act provides that ‘the Commission shall recommend a proposition of income growth which should be initiated for wage increase and also examined the salary structure in public and private sector with reasonable features of relativity and maximum levels which are in consonance with the national economy.’
“It is in this sense that we feel strongly that our acceptable minimum wage must be done in such a way that total personnel cost does not exceed 50 percent of the revenue available to each State.
“Governors therefore agreed to pay a national minimum wage of N22,500.”
However, Organised Labour comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC) has vowed not to accept anything less than N30,000.
The workers unions which took to the streets across the 36 states and Abuja, yesterday, to mobilise workers, ahead it planned industrial action billed to commence on November 6, accused the Federal Government of slowing down the process of enacting a law to back up new minimum wage for workers and governors of selfishness.
Apart from grounding the nation, organised labour also threatened to stop the 2019 elections from holding should the Federal Government fail to implement the N30,000 recommended by the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage.
The notice by the Labour centres to call out their members was taken on October 24 after the Labour Minister, Chris Ngige, said no agreement was reached on the figure of what the minimum wage would be.
The minister had said the Federal Government offered N24, 700 and governors N20,000 as minimum wage.
But the Organised Labour countered that the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage had since completed its assignment for onward submission of its report to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Organised Labour rally in Abuja, which took off from the Labour House at the Central Business Area, through Ministry of Finance, Federal Secretariat and terminated at the Villa gate was led by the President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba and other leaders of the two trade centres.
Tagged “National day of mourning and outrage”, the workers who carried placards with inscriptions such as “No minimum wage, No work from Nov. 6”, “Minimum wage of N30, 000 not negotiable”, “Minimum wage will boost Nigerian economy, “Upward review of minimum wage will not trigger inflation”, sang solidarity songs denouncing the roles of the labour minister.
Wabba frowned at the manipulation and bending of facts in an attempt to delay or derail the processes needed to promulgate a new national minimum wage act by the minister.
TUC President, Mr. Bobboi Kaigama, warned governments not to underrate the resolve of workers to fight for their rights, noting that implementation of the national minimum wage was imperative as workers in the country were faced with hard times.
Bayelsa Edo, Jigawa ready to pay
The governments of Bayelsa, Edo and Jigawa states have assured its civil servants of their willingness to pay the new minimum wage.
The Bayelsa State’s Head of Civil Service, Mr. Wellington Obiri, gave the assurance when he received leaders of organised labour after a peaceful protest to the Government House, Yenagoa.
Obiri said Governor Seriake Dickson had already directed a committee to work out modalities for implementing the new minimum wage.
Meanwhile, Governor Mr. Godwin Obaseki has assured Edo State workers that his administration would be the first to implement the resolution reached at the emergency meeting between the Federal Government and state governors over the new minimum wage for workers in the country.
Obaseki gave the assurance while addressing members of the organised labour who were on a protest march to the Government House, in Benin City to sensitise the people on the planned labour strike.
Similarly, Governor Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, has promised Jigawa workers that he would implement fully any agreement reached with labour.
“As the discussion continue we keep our fingers crossed and hope that beautiful outcome will come after the meeting. I assure you whatever the outcome of the meeting
in Abuja, Jigawa will fully implement the decision of the governors.”
His statement was interrupted by thunderous applause from workers.
Chairman of NLC, Usman Ya’u had earlier commended Governor Badaru for prompt payment of salary, pension and gratuity.
He called on him to convince his other colleagues to agree to the proposed N30,000 as the national minimum wage in the country.
In Delta State, organised labour faulted Ngige’s claimed that state governments cannot pay N30,000.
Chairman of NLC, Jonathan Jemiriegbe while briefing Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, vowed that labour would shut down the nation’s economy if the Federal Government reneged on the agreement.
Jemiriegbe advised Nigerians to stock their homes, noting that the November 6 strike would be total and indefinite.
Okowa who was represented by the Chief of Staff, Mr. Tam Brisibe assured that Delta State Government is ready to pay any amount agreed upon as minimum wage.
The union in Nasarawa State has insisted that both federal and state governments have the capacity
to sustain N30,000 new minimum wage.
Secretary of NLC, Silas Acharm, who stated this yesterday in Lafia after the meeting of the state executive council of the organise labour, accused the governors of selfishness.
“The money to pay this new minimum wage and sustain it is there, but corruption among the governors is high. Nigeria is the richest country in Africa yet least in payment of workers salaries,” he said
‘No minimum wage, no 2019 election’
Lagos State was practically shut down as workers marched through the long stretch of Ikorodu roads.
The workers, singing and carrying placards commenced their march as early as 7 a.m. from Ojuelegba in the Surulere area through Onipanu, Anthony, Maryland before terminating at the Freedom park at Ojota.
Deputy President of NLC, Amechi Asugwuni said labour would do all it could to frustrate the 2019 election if the governments at all levels continued to take workers for a ride.
“Besides, we believe that any governor that cannot pay the new wage should resign and allow those that can pay take the mantle of leadership.”
According to Amechi, the minimum wage is a legitimate right for Nigerian workers.
Labour laud Fayemi’s commitment to workers welfare
Union leaders in Ekiti State have expressed confidence in the government of Dr. Kayode Fayemi to implement the N30,000 new national minimum wage when signed into law.
The state chairman, Prince Ade Adesanmi, warned that the nation would witness a major strike if the minimum wage was not signed into law, urged Fayemi to join others to prevail on the Federal Government to effect the new package.
Governor Fayemi who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr Biodun Oyebanji, assured the workers that the state government was not only interested in increasing their wages, but also to promote friendly environment that would enhance their productivity.
Similarly, River State leader of the NLC, Beatrice Itubo, advised workers to prepare for the strike, which is in their interest. She said Nigerians should not see the protest as sudden, as ample notice had been given to members of the public preparatory to the march.
Kogi Workers In Street Protest
In Kogi State, hundreds of workers stormed the Government House, Lokoja, and submitted a letter to Governor Yahaya Bello for President Muhammadu Buhari urging hm to accede to the demand of labour.
Chairman of NLC, Onuh Edoka accused Ngige of frustrating efforts of labour, noting that the N30,000 being demanded was not enough to feed the dog of a top government functionary.
Governor Yahaya Bello, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja promised to pay four months salaries to staff of tertiary institutions and three months to other categories of workers from the proceed of the N15.1 billion Paris Club.
Workers to Enugu govt.: Prepare for new minimum wage
In Enugu, Labour said workers would no longer accept a pay chart other than the centrally prepared minimum wage.
Chairman of the NLC in the state, Mr. Virginus Nwobodo, said the implementation of the 2011 minimum wage in the state was a far cry from what was done in other states, adding that workers in the state were the least paid in the country.
He wondered why state governors live flamboyant lifestyles but toy with the welfare of the workforce.