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Ministry of Labour and the wage crisis



Ministry of Labour and the wage crisis

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity recently renamed as Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment is one of the oldest ministries in Nigeria. It began as a Department of Labour in the then colonial office in 1932 and developed into a full-fledged ministry in 1952.


The ministry is established under item 34, Second Schedule of the Exclusive List, 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. The following have also served as Ministers or Ministers of State.


They are Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola (1952), Dr. Emmanuel M. Endeley (1952-1953), Mr. M.T. Mbu (1953-1954), Chief F. Okotie-Eboh (1954- 1957), Chief J.M. Johnson (1957-1964), Prince Adeleke Adedoyin (1965-1967), Chief Anthony Enahoro (1967-1975), Major General H. Adefowope (1975-1978), Mr. S.O. Williams (1978-1979), Mr. S.A. Ogedengbe (179-1982), Professor E.C. Osamor (1982-1983), Alhaji Ali Baba (1983-1984), Major General S.K. Omojokun (1984-1985), Vive Admiral Patrick Koshoni (1985-1986), Major General I.O.S Nwachukwu (1986-1987), Alhaji Abubakar Umar (1987-1990), Engr. Bunu Sheriff Musa (1990-1993), Prince Bola Afonja (1993), Senator Francis J. Ellah (1993-1995), Senator Mohammed Uba Ahmed (1995-1998), Dr. Emmanuel Onyemaechi Udogu (1998-1999), Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas (1999-2000), Alhaji Musa Gwadabe, Alhaji Zannuwa Husaini Akwanga, Dr. Hassan Muhammed Lawal (2004-2008), Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, SAN, (2008-2010), Senator Ibrahim M. Kazaure (2010), Chief Emeka Wogu (2010-2014), Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (2014-2015), Senator Joel Danlami Ikenya (2015), Barrister James Ocholi, SAN, (2015-2016), Prof. Stephen Ocheni and Senator (Dr.) Chris Ngige.


The ministry was created after the start of World War II to coordinate resources for war efforts. With growing workers’ agitation over cost of living, the Department of Labour was established on 1st October 1942. It was headed by a Commissioner and two Labour Officers, and was charged with dealing with labour movement issues, ensuring the orderly development of industrial relations and enforcing protective legislations. The organization grew as the war progressed, with offices opened in the industrial centres of Enugu, Kaduna and Lagos.


Later a Ministry of Labour was created in addition to the Department of Labour, and the two were merged on 1st April 1958. After Independence in 1960, the Ministry has grown steadily, renamed the Federal Ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity in 1979 and the Ministry of Labour in January 2007.


The outward-facing divisions the Ministry of Labour are Trade Union Services and Industrial Relations; Employment and Wages and Inspectorate. The Trade Union Services Division formulates policies on trade union organizations and manages disputes and complaints. It also assists in workers’ education, and keeps records on trade unions and their activities. Internally oriented departments are Human Resources; Finance and Supplies; Policy, Analysis, Research & Statistics.


The ministry is responsible for several parastatals (government-owned agencies): Michael Imoudu National Institute For Labour Studies (MINILS), Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), National Directorate of Employment (NDE), National Productivity Centre (NPC), National Industrial Court and Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP). In the early 60s and 70s it is the Ministry of Labour that employed workers especially artisans and then post the workers to ministries and government parastatals.


As for the graduates, they are employed by the Federal Civil Service Commission. The Ministry of Labour then used to be very powerful. Even trade centres were under the Ministry of Labour. Since the inception of the ministry only two ministers have secured minimum wage for workers. The first was Chief S. Ogedengbe, who served under President Shehu Shagari, while the other is Senator Chris Ngige.


The road to achieving the N30,000 naira minimum was not easy. The relationship between the Ministry of Labour and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has also not been easy. If there is one major achievement President Muhammadu Buhari can point to in his first term it is the minimum wage. And no doubt, the credit for this should go to Ngige. Every Minister of Labour will tell you that negotiations with the labour leaders especially the NLC has not been easy.


Arm twisting, threat, coercion and other forms of pressure come into play during negotiations. Sometimes you have to cajole, entrap, decoy, blandish or even manoeuvre during negotiations in order to achieve a final conclusion. For the degree to which negotiating parties trust each other is a major factor in determining whether negotiations are successful.


In the case of the minimum wage, both Ngige and NLC came to a conclusion. The various state governments have no choice but to implement the N30,000 minimum wage. I pity those that refuse to implement the minimum wage bill signed by President Buhari on April 18 this year.



•Teniola, a former director at the presidency, writes from Lagos.

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