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On government’s lethargy and labour’s vigour

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A kid might claim ignorance of the ongoing ‘tour’ recently embarked upon by the Nigeria’s government and labour as regards minimum wage but if a full-fledged adult displays such an attitude, he may be regarded as an imbecile.

From the onset, the teeming Nigerians have been watching with keen interest, though with soured physiognomies. In some quarters, many have opined that if care isn’t taken, the excruciating effects of the tour is liable to cripple the functionality of the system especially at this point the country is deeply concerned about the fast approaching general elections.

It would be very pertinent to appraise some key fundamental facts with a view to presenting a fair and objective analysis herein. Mind you; the fairness as mentioned above has to do with all concerned, not a particular party.

In accordance with the stipulations of the International Labour Organization (ILO) whose principle governs the relationship between the government and labour in any nation across the globe, the national minimum wage is meant to be upwardly reviewed once every five years.The current N18, 000 Nigerian workers are entitled to as minimum wage was fully implemented or signed into law by the government in March 2011. It suffices to say that the country’s wage threshold was last reviewed over seven years ago, which is against the ILO’s standing rule. Late penultimate year, the organized labour comprising mainly the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) came up with an agitation, reminding the government that onward increment of the workers’ minimum wage of N18, 000 was long overdue.

In line with the demand, after rigorous consultations, the Federal Government (FG) under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari set up a 30-man tripartite committee consisting of the representatives of the governments, the private sector and the labour union, though the Local Government wasn’t reportedly represented. The Ministry of Labour and Employment led by Dr. Chris Ngige informed Nigerians that the awaited new national minimum wage would be presented by the committee by the end of the third quarter of the ongoing fiscal year being September 2018. It’s noteworthy that prior to the setting up of the tripartite committee, the NLC was proposing N56, 000 as new minimum wage. Amidst the committee’s deliberations, N30, 000 was reportedly agreed by the sectors involved as was claimed by the NLC headed by Comrade Ayuba Waba.

It’s worthy of note that the committee couldn’t come up with any tangible resolution, not until the workers embarked on a warning industrial action. Another thing of worry is how the FG could be presently be proposing for N24, 000 contrary to the figure the committee allegedly agreed upon, knowing full well that the apex government was part of the deliberations. How do we reconcile these? Does it mean that the labour is lying or that the FG is being economical with the truth? As we dissect these questions begging for candid answers, it would equally be crucial for any sane observer to scold the FG over its quest to implement the ‘no work, no pay’ mantra with the aim of discouraging the workers from further embarking on strike as the bid for a new minimum wage lingers. By such intended action of the government, the workers are indirectly notified that they don’t deserve any wage let alone agitating for increment. It’s not anymore news that in most cases, workers in various quarters are being owed arrears of salaries, yet they don’t get despaired by such action of their employers.

They only deploy the strike mechanism whenever the ‘maltreatment’ becomes much unbearable or life-threatening. Could it be that the government is mistaken their patience cum patriotism for cowardice or inferiority? The various state governments under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) are currently offering N22, 500 as the new minimum wage, stating the government workers constitute merely about 5% of their respective states’ population; hence, if they end up receiving up to N30, 000, or N24, 000 as being proposed by the FG, their funds would be impoverished, which according to them, would be to the detriment of the entire populace or the common man who make up the majority.

The problem right now is that there’s already an element of deceit on the part of the benefactors, if not, I would have sincerely ask the organized labour to accept the amount being proposed by the state governments considering that at the moment actualization of N30, 000 minimum wage isn’t realistically feasible across the country.

For me, the states such as Edo, Benue and Bayelsa that have indicated interest to pay any amount, did so for political reasons; needless to assert that it was a mere political talk. We must note the dichotomy between implementation and actualization.

It’s pathetically noteworthy that till date, most establishments in the private sector are yet to pay most of their employees up to N10, 000 let alone the N18, 000 stipulated by law and no one is talking about it. From my candid point of view, N25, 000 would be tenable.
Comrade Fred Nwaozor is a Policy analyst & rights Activist

The government should equally not be reminded that the new national minimum wage is expected to be captured in the about-to-be tendered 2019 appropriation bill.No patriotic Nigerian wants a strike action neither do we want any form of deceit, hence all concerned needn’t be reminded to earnestly do the needful to salvage the country from this quagmire. Think about it!
Comrade Fred Nwaozor is a Policy analyst & rights Activist


In this article:
ILOMuhammadu Buhari‎NLC
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