As the current year is significant to Nigerians – being the build up to 2019 elections, workers in the country are also looking forward to the implementation of a new minimum wage regime as recently promised by the Federal Government. Sunday Ojeme reports
The commitment by the Federal Government to implement the proposed minimum wage was again reaffirmed early in the week with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, placing the possibility of having it executed this year at the doorstep of the tripartite committee set up to look into the process.
Having battled the Federal Government and other employers of labour for years, the leadership of labour movement finally made a positive headway last year as the struggle to increase the current minimum wage of N18,000 is becoming realistic.
The onus, according the minister, now lies on how fast the committee is able to fast-track the process as the Federal Government is set to pay the enhanced package without hindrance.
While the leadership of the various labour unions had assured workers of the government’s seriousness in the current dispensation, what is, however, not certain is whether the employers would pick any of the much-touted N56, 000 and N96,000 wage proposals by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the factional United Labour Congress (ULC) respectively.
Although the new wage is yet to be made public, a member of the committee, however, disclosed during an interaction that the committee was not likely to pick either of the wages put forward by labour.
He made it clear that it would, however, present an acceptable proposal that will be acceptable to both government and workers.
Going by the minister’s promise, the National Tripartite Committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari would likely conclude arrangements on the exercise in the third quarter of this year.
“We had our inaugural meeting on 14th December and we did a framework for our work. We will finish our job before the third quarter of this year, but we may finish earlier,” said Ngige.
“Minimum wage is a national matter and only the federal government can legislate on it. Labour matter and the issue of national minimum wage are in the Exclusive List.
“President Buhari is monitoring it strictly, and I am monitoring it too.”
Despite the assurance, there are, however, fears that the National Assembly might delay the process and possibly push it further into 2019. The apprehension stems from the fact Buhari while inaugurating the committee had said that after the completion of the work of the committee, an executive bill would be sent to the National Assembly “to undergo scrutiny before being passed into law.”
Known for its delay tactics and political infusion into matters of this nature, one of the labour leaders, who is the President, Medical and Health Workers Union, Mr Biobelemoye Joshua, said the organised labour would not allow the government to use the minimum wage issue to score political point. He said that if the government employed delay tactics for any reason, labour would waste no time in reacting.
Having expressed satisfaction over government’s position, the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, believes that the quick implementation of the process will go a long way in filling the gaps workers had lost in the past
Wabba said the inauguration of the new minimum wage committee was long overdue, stressing that the committee should work immediately to cover the times that have been lost.
“This is something that workers have long anticipated and our expectation is that we want a speedy process now that the facts of the issues are very obvious. “The current minimum wage of N18,000 approved in 2011 has waned over the years in terms of its purchasing power,” he said.
“If you look at the exchange rate, the N18,000 minimum wage of 2011 when we signed the agreement, it was almost equivalent to N110 dollars; today, the N18,000 is less than 46 dollars. So, this is the reality and with the purchasing power of ordinary Nigerian worker, with the high cost of transaction, our expectation is that the committee should look at the conditions of the Nigeria workers and pensioners.”
President Buhari had earlier corroborated Wabba’s position while inaugurating the committee when he said that the new national minimum wage had become imperative as the current wage instrument had expired, noting, “minimum wage must be consensual and generally acceptable and should be anchored on social justice and equity.’’
The 30-member tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee include governors Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi and Simon Lalong of Plateau, Nyesom Wike of Rivers and Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe.
Also involved are persons from the public sector (federal and state governments) and the private sector made up of the largest private employer group, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME).
The committee has a former Head of Service and Minister of Housing, Ama Pepple, as chairperson, while the current Minister of Labour and employment, Chris Ngige, is deputy chairman.
On the Trade Union side are the President of NLC, who leads a team comprising Peters Adeyemi, Kiri Mohammed, Amechi Asugwuni and Peter Ozo-Eson.
The Trade Union Congress is led by its President, Bobboi Kaigama, and other members including Sunday Salako and Alade Lawa.
The President, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Igwe Achese, is also a member.
On the employers’ side are Olusegun Oshinowo, Director General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, as well as Timothy Olawale and Chuma Nwankwo.
The Director General, Federation of Construction Industry, FOCI, Olubunmi Adekoje; Chairman, Kaduna East Branch, Manufacturers Association, MAN, Ahmed Gobir; and Francis Oluwagbenro also from MAN are members.
As the Federal Government shifts the next line of action to the committee, it is expected that the members, who are known to be committed to the welfare of workers, work speedily in order not to give room to more delays.
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