By Oji Odu
It is seven days to “Armagedon,” 168 hours to the industrial strike of all strikes. Organised labour has vowed to implement its threat to shutdown the country from January 23, 2019, if the Federal Government refuses to send the proposed N30,000 minimum wage to the National Assembly for deliberations and approval. This in effect will truncate the democratic process and the 2019 general elections which are days ahead.
The body comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress, TUC, and the United Labour Congress, ULC, have threatened that there is no going back to shut down the economy on January 23, if President Muhammadu Buhari fails to transmit to the National Assembly an executive bill for the enactment of N30, 000 as the new National Minimum Wage.
Labour argued that the President has no reason not to send the proposed new N30,000 minimum wage to the legislature for legislation following the tripartite process leading to the agreement by the social partners on the new national minimum wage was thorough with all participants- labour, government and employers of labour having input. Labour reminded that in the course of deliberations over the new minimum wage, it initially demanded for N56,000 as the new minimum wage, then backed down to N30,000.
Speaking, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba accused Federal Government of dilly-dallying on the issue, which he said had strained government -labour relations and warned it could trigger a major national strike which would be regrettable.
However, in abid to avert this looming threat, the Federal government agreed on Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to transmit the new national minimum wage bill to the national assembly on or before January 23rd.
In his reaction, Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige assured labour leaders that the federal government will do all to implement religiously all the processes to transmit the bill within the stipulated time.
“We have a target time of January 23, 2019, and we hope that all things being equal, the executive will be able to do so. We will take on the statutory meetings of Federal Executive Council (FEC), National Economic Council (NEC), and the Council of States to enable us transmits the bill on the new national minimum wage.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said that the extraordinary meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on National Minimum Wage had been postponed until after the National Economic Council’s (NEC) deliberation on the matter. He said that the Federal Government is waiting for the final position of the NEC on the proposed new wage regime, adding that FEC deliberation on the issue is work in progress.
NEC is the nation’s highest economic-decision-making body, chaired by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, with the 36 state governors, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma and FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello, as members.
The composition of NEC without labour which is the third interested party on the issue, according to the Magazine’s findings, has reduced the optimism by labour that the N30,000 will be adopted, thus, the threat to embark on the indefinite strike from January 23, 2019 if iotherwise. It also picked holes at the Presidents stance on the minimum wage issue.
“I want to make it clear that there is no question about whether the National Minimum Wage will be reviewed upwards. I am committed to a review of the minimum wage.
“Also, it is important to explain that even though the subject of a National Minimum Wage is in the Exclusive Legislative List, we have been meeting with the state governors because it is imperative that the Federal Government carries the State Governments along in determining any upward review of the minimum wage for workers.
“This is especially necessary considering the prevailing public sector revenue challenges, which has made it extremely difficult for some of the governors to pay workers as and when due,” the President said while inaugurating the advisory committee.
He added that the Federal Government on its part had made adequate provision for the increase in the Minimum Wage in its 2019 Budget proposal, which was submitted to the National Assembly on Dec. 19, 2018.
It is seven days to armagedon. What figure will government send to the National Assembly for deliberation- N30,000, N24,000 or what? Meanwhile, findings by the Magazine show that majority of the people are so stressed and tensed up be problems that even the learned seem to have lost track of this issue. “ They will wake up if the strike takes effect-fuel scarcity, blackout et cetera,” Kaliwo John, a Sociologist told the Magazine.