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History of minimum wage controversy in Nigeria

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Befor the coming of Hassan Sunmonu as first president of the Nigeria Labour Congress in 1978, there was no history of a structured minimum wage for workers. It must be said that the Udoji pay package of 1975 was not regarded as a structured minimum wage, because it was not negotiated by workers’ representatives.

The then president of the NLC was encouraged to begin agitation for a minimum wage following a pay rise for political leaders at the time. He called for a N300 per month minimum wage in 1981. This led to a major strike , which culminated in President Shehu Shagari and the Hassan Sunmonu-led executive agreeing to a N125 per month pay package.

Those that led the negotiation on behalf of the Federal Government included the then Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the then Senate President Dr. Joseph Wayas, and Speaker Edwin Ume-Ezeoke.

Another negotiation came up 1989/90 when the late Pascal Bafyau was NLC President. Adams Oshiomhole led the talks as Bafyau’s deputy. The discussions resulted in workers receiving N250 per month.

An opportunity for another round of negotiation opened 1989/90, during the administration of General Abdulsalami Abubakar. The minimum wage was moved to N3,000. The team was not an organised labour body but a committee of industrial unions, led by Sylvester Ejiofor.

Another negotiation took place while Oshiomhole was NLC President between 2000 and 2001. Demands for N5,500 for state workers and N7,500 for their federal counterparts and oil-producing states were agreed to. There were unique features to this deal; provisions were made that the following year (2002) there would be a 15 per cent increase across board, and a 25 per cent increase in 2003. These, however, were not fulfilled.The current N18,000 minimum wage, due for a review since 2015, was negotiated under NLC President Abdulwahed Omar.


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