The Nigeria Labour Congress on Thursday attacked the Nigeria Governors’ Forum for saying that there would be economic crisis in Nigeria if President Muhammadu Buhari went ahead to present an executive bill on N30, 000 minimum wage to the National Assembly as demanded by organised labour.
A governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity for the NGF, had claimed that 30 states would be affected adversely by the new minimum wage, stressing that the wage should be pegged at N22, 500.
The governor had said, “Now, if the President goes ahead to send a bill that will contain N30,000 to the National Assembly without considering what we have told him, there will be crisis in the country. We will wait to see what will happen. I’m sure that the National Assembly will not pass the bill this year.”
But in an exclusive interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Thursday, NLC’s Head of Information and Public Affairs, Mr Benson Upah, said the governors were not being fair to President Buhari’s intention and Nigerian workers.
According to him, the governors would do Nigeria a great favour if they cut down on their financial excesses that were not accounted for.
He reiterated the NLC position that there was evidence of governors who could pay more than N30,000 during negotiation for the new minimum wage.
Upah said,“The governors who are pushing that agenda are not being fair to Buhari, the NLC and their own people that they sought through elections to serve.
“The first thing to note is that the tripartite process that produced this N30,000 minimum wage remains unimpeachable. It is clear, transparent and cannot be subjected to another round of arguments.
“In fact, the governors should apologise to the citizens for frustrating the process up to this moment. They should be ashamed.
“We will tell them not to come to Abuja to complain, they should stay in their respective states and tell the workers that they will not pay N30,000. They should not hide under any association because it (NGF) is not recognised by the constitution. Let that governor go and address his workers.
“When on Tuesday, labour mobilised its members to all government houses on this matter, why did the governors not tell them that they cannot pay. Anyone that cannot pay must not seek re-election. I am happy Buhari also said this.”
While explaining that the new wage was not the same as having a uniform pay structure for all states in Nigeria, the NLC noted that the proposed wage was not a favour for the workers.
“What we did on Tuesday is a fraction of what labour is capable of doing. We will continue to mobilise against governors that we suspect will not fall in line with us.
“We have the number, the will and the resources to ensure that such governors will not succeed. The national minimum wage is not a favour.
“It is the irreducible minimum wage that the least worker in Nigeria can take. It is not the same as having a uniform pay structure across the country. Most governors seek to create wrong impression about it.
“The Minister of Internal Affairs told us that every prisoner is fed with N14,000 a day. Do workers who contribute to national development not deserve better?
“Some states like Rivers and Kano voluntarily offered to pay more than N30,000. Governors should have the free will to pay workers, reduce corruption and cut down on the cost of governance.”
We don’t have problem with Rewane panel – NLC
Meanwhile, the NLC has said the Federal Government’s advisory committee has no relevance to the new national minimum wage agreement.
The NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, who spoke in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Abuja, said the committee had no bearing with the agreement reached on the minimum wage.
NAN recalled that President Buhari had on Wednesday inaugurated a technical advisory committee on the implementation of the new national minimum wage and reiterated his commitment to its payment.
He said the committee would recommend “modalities for the implementation of the new minimum wage in such a manner as to minimise its inflationary impact, as well as ensure that its introduction does not lead to job losses.”
According to Wabba, the advisory committee on minimum wage has no bearing with the agreement reached on the minimum wage.
“The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, had told us that the committee was an internal process of the Federal Government.
“I think it is their own way of facilitating and mobilising their own resources for the implementation and also making sure that nothing is left undone and we do not have any problem with that.
“So, it is normal, I think, because initially we were thinking it is a committee that will renegotiate the new national minimum wage, but they said no, it is an internal process of government.
“So, it is not our problem, but essentially their own and it does not in any way affect our interest. Government has the right to set up any committee and we are not even members of that committee, “he said.
He, however, said that he was informed that the committee was strictly on their own to guide government on how to implement the minimum wage, adding, “so clearly if it is how to implement, we do not have problem with that.”
Wabba also said that the advisory committee would not in any way affect the timeline of the January 23 agreement reached between organised labour and the Federal Government on the transmission of the minimum wage bill to the National Assembly.
Oil sector has its salary structure, says PENGASSAN
But reacting to the President’s view on the possible review of salaries of government workers in agencies such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Department of Petroleum Resources, the spokesperson for the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Fortune Obi, told one of our correspondents that the oil sector had an already established salary structure.
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He said, “Basically for every sector there is a specific structure in that regard. The government agencies in connection with the oil and gas industry operate within the confines of what the law stipulates. Their earnings and those of their counterparts in the civil service are not the same.
“And secondly, there is an existing legal reason within the structures to have their collective bargaining agreement reviewed as and when due. So, in line with that I believe that anytime it is due for them to go back to the table to discuss the benefits of their workers and entitlements, that will happen.”
Obi added, “So there is a structure in the oil and gas sector. Whether it is for the NNPC or any other company in the sector, we have an already established statutory payment structure which is quite different from what is seen in many other sectors.
“But the reality is that we have an existing mechanism to resolve new pay or increment based on the structure. And when the time is due for them to sit around the table and discuss this, I don’t think there will be any issue about that.”