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.
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.