2019: Buhari Sword Of Damocles

By Stephen Ubanna

President Muhammadu Buhari  of the ruling All Progressive Congress. APC , appears to have keyed into  the  strategy  adopted by former President Goodluck Jonathan  to win the 2011 general election by wooing the   Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, through an upward reviews   of the country’s national minimum wage in order to win their support against  the 2019 general election.

Buhari , according to Presidency sources believes that Labour needed to be carried along in his re-election bid to make  a headway in the 2019 general election. Jonathan  was said to have won the support of Labour in the 2011 general election  by acceding  to their  demand  for increase in the national minimum wage  during the election year which was approved with ease.

Going by the country’s Labour Law, the current national  minimum wage approved about  seven years ago ought to be reviewed. This is because the labour Law had provision for upward reviews of it  every five years, meaning that the  current N18,000.00 per month   was overdue for review.

Labour may have known that that the then President could not have revisted the  issue  because he had  nothing urgent  that could force  him to bow to Labour pressures . This may have downed on the country’s Labour leaders that the only time to  arm twist  the government  to increase  the country’s national minimum wage  was  during  election period  as the sitting President  who may be seeking  re-election into office may jump at the demand without hesitation.

Donald Trump, US President, Tired Of Buhari’s Propaganda

Ayuba Wabba, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and other labour leaders may have heightened the fear  of   the Katsina state born President Buhari  over his re-election bid    in the 2019 general election when he dropped hint of Labour going  ahead to  resuscitate the Labour party  to have a platform for elective positions across the country.

The policy statement may have forced  Buhri to set up an action plan  to meet the demand of the agitating  workers. He was said to have given the assignment to work on the Labour leadership to Chris Ngige, a former governor of Anambra and now minister of Labour and Productivity. Nigeige was said to have statrted work on the labour leaders as far back  as 2017 to prepare the ground to enter a negotiating table with Labour for a new national minimum wage ostensibly to win their support in the 2019 general election.

The fallout was   the inauguration of a 30-man  tripartite Committee on a national minimum wage  by him in Novemeber 2017 . The statement that was said to have been made by  him that Labour  deserve  a ”fair and decent living wage” because of the current state of the economy at the inauguration may have struck a chord in Labour .

Pronouncement  was said to have gladdened the heart of Wabba and his colleagues that  the Buhari government   meant well for Labour and would not hesitate to accede to  its demand on a new national minimum wage   which had been in the works over the years.

Labour was said o have  demanded from the Buhari led government  that the national  minimum wage should  be pegged at N72,000.00 per month. The proposed  national minimum wage was said  to have been based on the  current  exchange  rate of N360.00 to a United States dollar, equivalent of $200, in the country’s  official  foreign exchange market .

The demand of Labour may have forced Akinwumi Ambode, governor of Lagos state and a few other governors to propose to pay between N22,000.00 and N58,000.00  in their states to woe works to their side .

the   question on the lips of most people is: how could Buhari  have agreed to Labour’s demand for a new national minimum wage when the states were still finding difficult to pay the current bill of N18,000 per month minimum wage.

At the last  workers day celebration in the country,  Buhari, who is pursuing his re-election bid with vigour  was said to have reassured   workers  that there was no going back on the  new national minimum wage , stressing that it was a foregone conclusion.  because the state of the economy  had rendered  the  existing minimum wage  currently in force obsolete. His revelation that over N191 tn was loaned to the states between last year and now   to defray their salary arrears  was an indication that it was hasty decision taken to win the support of workers against the 2019 general election and not necessarily because  the money is there  to carry the extra -budgetary expenditure .

The Magazine learnt that the  proposed national   minimum wage was  extensively discussed at  last Wednesday  Federal Executive Council , FEC, meeting at the Presidential Villa,  presided over by  Buhari.  The  insistence of the president that  the new minimum national would be promulgated into Law as soon as the Committee  submits its report which would be sent to the National Assembly  as an Executive bill  for approval may have force the governors into an emergency meeting under auspices of the Nigeria  Governors Forum, NGF, in Abuja to deliberate on it.

The governors , according to a source fear that the monthly  allocations  from Federation Accounts  Allocation Committee, FAAC, and  internally generated revenue  may not be able to accommodate an  additional expenses  such as the new minimum wage .

the governors had blamed their financial woes on the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, because their failure  to remit the appropriate monthly  revenue into the Federation Account and wondeered how that would change  with the election by the  corner, meaning that the  not too viable states  may be pushed into owing their workers and going cap in hand to beg the Federal government for bailout funds to settle the salary that might be accumulated.

Perhaps   to ensure that the Corporation to remit appropriate revenue to the government, the leadership of the NGF, were  said to have sent an invitation to Dr. Barau Makanti, the Managing  Director to appear before the governors to explain the ”alarming fuel consumption volume and the subsidy deductions from their monthly allocations over the last two years  was turned down. Makanti may be acting out the script of  the President , who incidentally was also the minister of petroleum resources.

The failure of the Corporation to remit the appropriate monthly revenue to the government in recent years , the Magazine was informed had remained the major  complaint of  members of  FAAC .  Between January and May, 2018, the r Committee  was said to have disbursed about  N2.883.95 tn  to the three tiers of government, Federal, States and local governments., with the Federal taking the lion share.

A break-down of the revenue disbursed to the three tiers of government shows  that  in the month of January, N655.17 b was disbursed, February, N665.39b, March, N647b, April N626.8bn and May 289. 04 b. The May  allocation may have sent a signal to the states  that the era of being too dependent on the Federal government for financial bailout was not yet over.

Analysts believe that the only way the states  could implement  the proposed national  minimum wage without running into trouble is to tap from their internal resources, particular  taxes..     At  a recent interview by  Ngige, the minister of Labour  and Productivity, he disclosed that  the national minimum wage would be implemented by  the end of September, which is just about nine months to the  2019 general election. The minister’s optimism was informed by the work that was said to have been done so far by the tripartite Committee on the national minimum wage.

Insiders fear that  the frosty relationship between the national Assembly and the Presidency may delay the passage of the  bill which may likely  pitch Labour against the government over unfulfilled promise. They  fear that the national Assembly may  work against the implementation of the national minimum way to create bad blood between Buhari and the workers ostensibly to frustrate his re-election bid. The president’s problem with the national Assembly may not be unconnected with the  plot to rope Bukola Saraki, the Senate President  with the  Offa, Kwara state bank robbery attack. Saraki may not have recovered from the frame up  and attempt to smear his image by the Police, who he believes were acting out out a script of the Presidency.  Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of House of Representatives  may have thrown his weighht behind Buhari to protest the alleged link with Offa bank robbery attack. The trio may be seen together a holding meetings , but the closeness may not be there.

Notwithstanding the new national minimum wage which is hanging on him like the sword of Damocles,But Buhari ‘s other major problem  for now  was the too many killings in Benue, Taraba, Niger, Nassarawa and Zamfara states  which had dented his Administration security records. The most recent being  the  killings in Barkin Ladi local government in Plateau state by armed Fulani herdsmen. The killings may have provided ammunition to the opposition PDP  to campaign against his re-election bid.

Femi Adesina, former President, Nigeria Guild of Editors and now Senior Special Assistant  on Media and Populicity, may have known of the implication of the activities of the killer herdsmen to Buhari’s re-election bid  that he came out in strong defense of him that ”un ”wanton killings had been with the country”,  stressing that  Buhari was working towards finding  enduring  solution  to the problem and should  be given opportunity to do”  instead of distracting  his attention through , what he described as ”irresponsible politics by  the PDP ”.

A recent remark by Donald Trump, the President of the  United States may have  further strengthened the resolve of Olusegun Obasanjo , a former President and  Sponsor of African Democratic Congress to come hard on Buhari.  Trump reportedly said that Nigeria has become  the most  dangerous  place to live  as a Christian because of the activities of killer herdsmen in the country. The US President was said to have made an usual statement , ”we are  focusing on  how  to do a  peaceful  transition and  a democratic transition in Nigeria”, he had said. it is obvious that the Trump Administration  has a transition  at heart  in the  2019 general election. The US government  may have become tired of listening  to the political propaganda of Lai Muhammed, the minister of Information because of the IMF recent  statement describing  as becoming poorer under Buhari. Transparency International had said that  Nigeria has become  more Corrupt under Buhari.   This may have informed  why the US government is dillydallying to handover the war planes to the Nigeria government that had been bought and paid for   until after the 2019 general election.

There is no gain saying the fact that the  problem of  implementing the national minimum wage and the activities of the  armed Fulani herdsmen killer gang  coupled with the alleged withdrawal  of support  of Trump , the US, President to Buhari k re-election bid in the 2019 general election  may have  become  his major fears of losing the support of the people.

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