Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday presided over the Economic Management Team meeting, specially convened to resolve the contentious minimum wage issue.
Those in attendance at the meeting included the ministers of Finance, Zainab Ahmed; Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma; Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah; Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, and Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachukwu.
Also present at the meeting were the Executive Chairman, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Richard Egbule; Director General, Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, and Comptroller General (CG) of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali.
Ngige had, last week, told State House correspondents that he and the Chairman of the Negotiation Committee, Ms Amma Pepple, a former Head of Service of the Federation, briefed President Muhammadu Buhari on the progress so far made by the committee and that the Special EMT meeting would focus on minimum wage.
Pepple hinted the committee will submit its report before month end, adding, however, that they need a definite figure from both the federal and state governments to conclude their report.
This was as the labour and productivity minister, Chris Ngige had accused the organised labour of blackmailing the government following a two-week ultimatum given by the latter for the conclusion of negotiation on the matter.
According to him, labour leaders were unnecessarily blackmailing and intimidating government to pass a new minimum wage that it may end up reneging on.
He blamed certain factors including the inability of governors to provide their figures to be debated by the committee negotiating the new minimum wage as one of the reasons for the delay, just as he assured that government was still within the time frame it promised to deliver on a new minimum wage and was not stalling the process as alleged by labour.
According to Ngige, the organised private sector had initially proposed a figure of N42,000, but later brought it down to N25,000, taking into account the current economic situation, ability to pay and ability to enhance and create new jobs.
The organised labour had in May 2016 demanded a pay raise from the current N18,000 national minimum wage to N56,000, and Buhari in November 2017 inaugurated the National Minimum Wage Committee with a mandate of arriving at a new national minimum wage.
The Federal Government had assured workers during the 40th anniversary celebration of NLC earlier in February that they should expect a new national minimum wage by September.