Senate meets NLC, finance, labour ministers over unpaid salary arrears
• FG has no money now, says Ngige
• Rescinds decision, recalls eight TV stations
The Senate leadership yesterday met with the ministers of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, her Labour and Productivity counterpart, Chris Ngige to find ways of addressing the huge salary arrears owed federal workers.
But the Federal Government said it has no money to pay arrears for now. President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, who was also at the meeting listed fresh challenges to the new minimum wage, adding that the challenges include amendment of existing laws, as well as that of budgetary provision.
Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who presided over the closed door meeting with Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, urged stakeholders to brainstorm on how to arrive at a sustainable solution to the problems.
Briefing journalists immediately after the meeting, Ngige disclosed that the major obstacle was that government lacks sufficient funds to pay the arrears.His words: “We are here to discuss issues relating that could cause industrial disharmony in the public sector. As you are aware, the labour federations have said the governors have not been treating them well.
“One of the cardinal issues of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is to give our workers decent jobs and we decided to discuss with them. “It’s a tripartite negotiation. What we are doing here is tripartite plus because we have involved the National Assembly and when you do any such negotiations it is plus.
“We looked at the issues of salaries arrears, promotion arrears, debt benefits, location expenses and transfer allowances, which have accumulated overtime and had ran into billions and this is what are owed to federal public servant and we started the meeting today to find a solution.”
Ngige said some progress was made yesterday before the meeting adjourned to reconvene today at 4pm, adding all parties would come back with possible solutions to the identified issues which is that government does not have enough fund for now to tackle the issues.
Wabba said: “We have discussed issues bothering on arrears of allowances which have accumulated for some time and running into billions, which they have not paid.
“Also, alongside is the issue of pension particularly the issue of bonds and the fact that some of the contributions by workers have not been remitted for time.
He hinted that the challenges facing the demand for new minimum wage included the issue of amendment to laws, and budgetary provisions.Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday rescinded its earlier decision to bar eight television stations from covering its activities.
The Upper Legislative Chamber had last week reduced the number of cameramen from 14 to 6, a decision that led to the boycott of proceedings by all the television stations.
Speaking at a press briefing, Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi alongside Senate Clerk, Nelson Ayewoh and the Director of Information, Dibal Adamu said there was never an attempt to bar the media from the Senate and there would never be one.
He added that most of the cameramen should also abide by the rules and regulations guiding the journalism profession, adding that all the cameramen should adhere strictly to the ethical standard while in the chamber.
“We want to assure you of our total commitment to deepening democracy, rule of law and participatory governance. And we respect the fact that the media has that enviable responsibility of reporting whatever happens here to Nigerians.
“We have an accredited list of cameramen -14 of them – duly signed by the Chairman of Senate Press Corps for our guidance and we are totally committed to making sure that all of us play according to the rules of engagement so that we can have seamless reporting of what transpires in that chamber,” Abdullahi said.
Chairman of the Corps, Cosmas Ekpunobi said the interest of the union would be protected, stressing that all journalists must abide by the rules of the institution we cover.