Obiora Ifoh, Abuja
The Federal Government has said it is ready to present an Executive Bill on a new National Minimum Wage to the National Assembly for passage into law, as soon as the tripartite committee comprising government, labour, and the private sector completes the harmonization assignment.
The government also said it is regrettable that despite the enormous revenues Nigeria earned from oil in recent past, it still have problems with payment of salaries and pensions of workers due to mismanagement and corruption.
This was disclosed by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja at the 2018 May Day celebration organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and Trade Union Congress, TUC.
President Buhari who was represented by Vice President Osinbajo also noted that the government has continued to demonstrate its commitment to the welfare of Nigerians by ensuring that it protects the socially excluded and socially vulnerable.
“For the first time in the history of our country we are implementing a full social protection programme, through a youth employment scheme, NPOwer, micro-credit to small businesses, conditional cash transfers to the poorest, and a home grown school feeding programme. So far we have employed 200;000 graduates in our NPower programme, we are bracing up to do 300000 more. Today we are feeding over. 7 million children in 22states and we employ 70,000 cooks. So far we have given over 300000 microcredit loans our target is to give 1 million of such loans in this cycle. We have also so far given cash transfers to over 30000 of the poorest Nigerians. Our target is also to give this benefit to one million of the poorest.”
According to the Vice President, it is the responsibility of government to establish the necessary social protection floor for all Nigerian workers based on the ability of each tier of Government to pay. He added that their administration has no intention of presiding over the dismantling of the gains organized labour secured for its members almost four decades ago.
“The argument for a national minimum wage, therefore, cannot be faulted because minimum wage is the minimum amount of compensation an employee must receive for putting in his or her labour and as such should be anchored on the principles of social justice, equity, and fairness. We believe that those who can pay above the social protection floor are free to do so, as many have been doing in many states and sectors of the economy.
“It is my hope, therefore, that the Tripartite Committee comprising government, labour, and the private sector will expedite its assignment to enable the Federal Government to present an Executive Bill on a new National Minimum Wage to the National Assembly for passage into law, as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Federal Government and the state governments will continue to work together to improve the conditions of workers across the country.
“The President’s concern for workers is not a theoretical or rhetorical one , but one borne out of experience and respect for the sweat of the working classes, This is why we evolved mechanisms to bail out all the 36 states of the federation, to the tune of N1.91 Trillion, in recognition of the shortfalls in their finances arising from the oil shocks of 2015/2016. We have extended this support regardless of party affiliation, to enable them to settle the backlog of arrears of salaries and pensions of workers.”
He stressed the need for a united organised Labour that will serve as a bulwark against divisive forces, internally and externally while also advising that the Nigerian labour movement, and any group for that matter, always to employ its leadership skills of conflict resolution and utilize the internal mechanism to resolve conflicts; as factionalization is not the answer.
He called on the workers to appreciate the enormous work the government is doing to check corruption and arrest insecurity in Nigeria. He said the government is engaging in rigorous stock taking with a view to restructuring the security architecture to meet the challenges of the mindless killings in some parts of the country including Marauding Herdsmen, cattle rustlers and bandits.
Earlier in their speeches the President of the NLC Comrade Ayuba Wabba and his counterpart in the TUC Bobboi Kaigama lamented the plight of the workers particularly on the issue of improved conditions of service, standard of living, and welfare despite the enormous contribution of Nigerian workers and the Labour movement to national development.
Wabba said, “From the first Minimum Wage of N125 which was equivalent to $200 in 1981 to the current Minimum Wage of N18, 000, Nigerian workers have always been forced to bargain so hard, wait for too long and at the end made to endure very little returns that tend to mock their input to national development. This year’s May Day address seeks to inspire strength in every Nigerian worker and pensioner that the only path to victory over the forces of oppression and slavery is to rise above the odds and dare to struggle! The challenges threatening our collective survival as workers, as a movement and as citizens must mobilize in us the courage to dare and the will to win!”
He said that the economic realities in Nigeria and particularly the spiraling inflation has continued to erode the living standards of Nigerians
“The punch of rising living costs in Nigeria is made worse for the average worker by the absence of cushioning measures or palliatives such as increase in the minimum wage, upward adjustment of salaries and improvement in social conditions. Unfortunately, the living conditions of many Nigerian workers and pensioners have been further decimated by arbitrary lay-offs and retrenchment of workers in the private sector. Even some state governments now find it convenient to activate mass retrenchment of workers as their first line of ingenuity to cutting down on the cost of governance.”
On the issue of corruption, the NLC president demands for specialised courts to speed up the prosecution of all corruption cases even as he noted that cases must be dispensed with in a specified period of time.
The Labour Union also condemns in strong terms the recent violation of workers and trade union rights by the Kaduna State Government where over forty thousand workers from various ministries, departments and agencies, tertiary institutions and the local government were issued sack letters without respect of our labour laws and court pronouncements.
According to Wanna, this was with the intention of avoiding the payment of the terminal benefits of these workers and he sees this action of the government as an act of cruelty and inhumanity to fellow humans and citizens.
“Also condemnable is the desperate attempt by the Kaduna State Government to deny the sacked workers and the trade unions their fundamental right to protest. The right of citizens to peaceful protest is a universal constitutional right that cannot be denied or wished away. The only requirement according to our legal jurisprudence is to inform police for coverage. No permission is required nor prior approval from the security services. The deployment of over eight thousand security agencies to stop workers’ protest in Kaduna protesting their illegal sack is an aberration and undemocratic especially in a situation where pro government sponsored protests in Kaduna are held regularly.”
The TUC president, comrade Kaigama also lamented that four months into 2018, the national budget has not been passed. He said that this is counterproductive to the economy and makes Nigerians a laughing stock in the eyes of the world.
This year May Day was witnessed by top government dignitaries including the Senate President represented by Senator Victor Umeh, vice chairman Senate Committee on Labour, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Minister of Labour, Senator Chris Ngige amongst others.
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