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Oshiomhole seeks unification of labour centres, insists on new wage

By Collins Olayinka, Abuja
25 December 2018   |   4:15 am
The Chairman of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole has hinted that the present government is not interested in factionalising labour centres in the country. 

Adams Oshiomhole, APC leader

The Chairman of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole has hinted that the present government is not interested in factionalising labour centres in the country. 

Oshiomhole, who stated this at a reception organised for the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, who was recently elected President of International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), urged labour centres to forge a united front in its agitations for a better standard of living for the working class.

Besides the existence of NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC), Oshiomhole submitted that the current government would not approve the registration of another trade centre that would likely fragment the labour movement in the country.His explanation: “The slogan that united we stand, divided we fall will always be valid. I hope that the spirit of your (Wabba) election will touch the heart of those who seems confused. There can be no question that united we stand, divided we fall. There is only one organised labour and I am happy that President Muhammadu Buhari, speaking through the lips of the Vice President has reassured Nigeria labour movement that his government will not provide a platform for anyone to factionalise the organised labour movement.

“The President believes that we need more national institutions and that organised Labour is a potent bridge of unity that must be sustained. So, you have that comfort. People can try anything, but under this government, there will be no registration of another Labour Centre. We need to be fired by the spirit of our people to work together and deal with all the issues that are bedevilling our country.”

On the seeming nonchalance of the Buhari-led to facilitate a new minimum wage of N30, 000, Oshiomhole submitted that Nigeria as a country can indeed implement and sustain a new national wage. 

His words: “I believe that Nigeria is capable of paying N30,000 national minimum wage. I believe that the primary purpose of government is the welfare of the people and that payment of wages is not a process of prosperity. If Nigeria was to wake up tomorrow to find not even one barrel of oil, and you must employ a worker, you are obliged to pay. Wages is a consequence of work. He who must employ, must pay and even the Bible says a labourer is entitled to his wages. I believe in this view and I have continued to canvass it repeatedly. If contractors are not charging governments at various levels according to their level of income, the wages of workers cannot be subjected to the level of prosperity of governments.”

The former fierce labour leader maintained that the price of labour cannot be static if other prices are changing, adding that workers would face double squeeze of rising prices and stagnant wages. Oshiomhole insisted that current situation creates a vicious circle that cannot stimulate economic development.  

His argument: “When you lack purchasing power in an economy, how do you stimulate the economy to bring goods and services and create jobs? So, you create a vicious circle of people that are too poor to buy anything and so, those who produce cannot sell and because they cannot sell, they are closing shops and more people are being thrown out of work. We should be more bold and courageous.”

While restating his believe in the existence of a national minimum wage, Oshiomhole argued that the principle of federation cannot be applied at the convenience of some state governors.  

“I am a believer that Nigeria needs to have a National minimum wage. I do not belong to those who say, because we are in a Federation, we should have different wages. I join in amplifying that we cannot apply the principles of federalism separately.

“The primary purpose of government is the welfare of the people. The most portent asset of the people is the state that protects them from every forms of oppression,” he said. He urged labour movement to work with government not just to fix national minimum wage, but to ensure the implementation of the wage when it becomes operational. 

He added: “To change this country, it cannot be done with placards. Placards can generate the heat, win temporary concession, but it will not fundamentally alter the direction of state. You have to be in it and did it from within.”On his part, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha assured Wabba of the Federal Government’s support. 

He said: “I want to assure you that as a government, we will give you all the support that you desire to succeed because we believe that from this elevation, you have become ambassadors of Nigeria to the international arena. They will watch you as they will watch the President of Nigeria because by extension, every decision you take there within the context of the fact that you are first a Nigerian before leading the world class of the entire world.”