The Nigeria Labour Congress on Sunday described the Federal Government’s silence on the N30,000 minimum wage proposal as provocative, stressing that it expected President Muhammadu Buhari to have sent a draft bill to the National Assembly weeks after report on the minimum wage was submitted to him.
Organised labour said it would not wait till eternity for the government on the issue.
In an interview with one of our correspondents, the General Secretary of the NLC, Mr Peter Ozo-Eson, said members of the union were becoming restless with the way the government had handled the issue, adding that unless government acted fast, the union might meet again to review government’s position and take necessary action to press home its demand.
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But he did not say when the leadership of the union would likely meet.
Ozo-Eson said, “The latest about the issue of the minimum wage is clear. We expect that since the Presidency had already received our report, the President should have drafted an executive bill to the National Assembly on it so that they can begin to legislate on it.
“That has not been done even though we expect that it should have been done already. We cannot continue to wait forever.
“The next step as I said is for the President to transmit a draft bill to the National Assembly. The FG’s delay on the issue is provocative, our members are becoming restless and the FG must act fast on our report.
“If the delay continues, our next step will be made public after we meet again to review the steps taken so far.”
Delay caused by disagreement – Presidency
However, lack of an agreement on the National Minimum Wage has stalled the presentation of a bill to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, investigations by The PUNCH have revealed.
Findings showed that up to Friday, there was still no agreement on the proposed N30,000, a development further delaying the presentation of a bill to the legislature by the President.
“There is still no agreement. There has to be an understanding between all the parties before the bill can go successfully to the National Assembly.
“This is one of the setbacks as we speak. But, when things are sorted out, definitely, the bill will go to the National Assembly and the passage should be smooth,” a presidential source told one of our correspondents in Abuja.
Recall that on November 19, the President and representatives of state governors had met in Abuja in a bid to resolve the dispute.
It was gathered that the closed-door meeting, which took place at the Presidential Villa, made little progress as the majority of the governors reportedly insisted that they could not afford to pay anything above N22,500.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and Governor of Zamfara State, Mr Abdulazeez Yari, led a team of governors to the meeting to speak for the governors.
At the meeting, the governors were said to have stated that the options were for them to either reduce their workforce or the Federal Government would have to review the revenue sharing formula to make more money available to the states.
Organised labour has since opposed any move to reduce the number of workers and has maintained that workers would not accept any amount below N30,000.
The source further informed The PUNCH that in the light of the disagreement, a hasty presentation of a bill would not resolve the dispute until all the parties reached “a certain level of understanding first.”
The official explained, “You know that in the matter of a National Minimum Wage, there are lots of procedures it has to go through.
“For instance, it has to go through some institutions like the Salaries and Wages Commission; National Council of State or National Economic Council; then there are constitutional provisions to be met.
“Again, since the minimum wage is for the states to pay, there has to be an agreement with the states. It is only when there is an agreement with the states that the President can make a proposal to the National Assembly.”
He added, “At the stage we are, the question really is not whether the President is ready with the bill, the question is, has there been an agreement?”
When one of our correspondents sought the comments of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, on the matter, he merely said at any time the bill was ready, the President would submit it to the National Assembly.
“When the bill comes, it will be read on the floor. That is what I know,” he replied.
When asked whether he was aware when it would be ready or there was a particular figure the President and the governors had agreed on, Enang responded, “I am not disposed to speak on a matter that I have not seen.”
Governors yet to yield ground
Also, investigations revealed that the governors had yet to shift their position to sack workers if they were to pay the amount demanded by labour.
A governor, who was at the NGF meeting in Abuja on Wednesday, November 14, where the governors said they would not be able to pay the N30,000, confided in one of our correspondents on Sunday, saying that nothing had changed.
He said the organised labour was asking for what he called “impossibility,” saying the leadership of the union was aiming at blackmailing the governors and President Buhari because of the forthcoming elections.
He said, “Let me tell you. Nothing has changed. We have not shifted from our position that we cannot pay more than N22,500.
“The fact is that labour leaders want to blackmail us because of the elections. If we promise them that we will pay now, and probably borrow to pay two or four months, what happens after that?
“We should continue to borrow and how do we pay? It is better we don’t succumb to the blackmail. We should rather sit with labour and face the reality.”
Fulfil your promises, PDP tells FG
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party has urged the President to fulfil its promise to workers.
It said the government must be ready to pay what it described as a “living wage.”
The National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Sunday, however, urged workers not to rush into strike over the issue of minimum wage.
He said, “We want to ask the Federal Government to fulfil its promises to workers.
“We know that we have a government that does not bother and it is not worried about fulfilment of promises. However, we want to appeal to the government to look at the workers and consider that N18,000 is too small to take our workers home.
“I also want to appeal to the sensibilities of our workers not to rush into taking decision on strike. They should explore all means of communication and negotiations. We just want to beg them to endure this government till February. Genuine change is coming their way soonest.”