President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday assured workers that his administration will expedite action on the proposed minimum wage.
This is even as the federal government hinted that the minimum wage negotiating committee will start functioning within the next 3 months.
The president made the assurance at the 2017 May Day celebration at the eagle square, Abuja where aggrieved workers disrupted the event, while insisting on the immediate implementation of the N56, 000 new minimum wage.
In this address to the nation, President Mohammadu Buhari who was represented by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, also assured the workers that the backlog of promotion arrears and repatriation allowances, relocations allowances and other allowances that are due to them as emolument will be paid soon.
The president’s speech could not be read as a result of protest by the workers who started chanting various solidarity songs at about 12:15pm, two hours after the commencement of the event.
The angry workers refused to listen to the minister who was represented by the acting permanent Secretary at the ministry, maintaining that Ngige who was to represent President Buhari should come down and address them himself.
After about 30 minutes of trying to persuade the workers to calm down, Ngige eventually showed up and confronted the workers who were now insisting that the federal government begin immediate implementation of the minimum wage.
The chaos forced top dignitaries such as the Speaker of the House of representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to leave the venue of the May Day celebration abruptly.
Policemen were quickly deployed to restore law and order, just as most of workers deserted the eagle square.
In the president’s address which was obtained by our correspondent, Buhari said the federal government was expediting action towards the implementation of the the minimum wage.
He said, “I’m happy to inform you that government will expedite consideration to the proposals contained in the technical committee report which was submitted to it on the 6th April 2017.
“Government will take the neccessary steps to implement the final recommendation of the main government/labour committee as it relates to the setting up of the new National Minimum Wage committee and the needed palliatives in order to reduce the discomfort currently being experienced by the Nigerian working class.
I want to assure you that government will continue to do all at its disposal to better the lots of all Nigerians and more importantly to provide a commensurate welfare for all Nigerian workers”.
The president further said he was aware that the economic recession in the country has huge implication for the seamless conduct of industrial relations.
He noted that this is arising from the fact that the economic recession by its nature was characterised by a substantial risk of the “vicious circles of low- productivity”.
He listed others to include mass retrenchment of workers and closure of workplaces due to high cost of doing business, unregulated subcontracting and outsourcing with its consequences on welfare of workers among others.
Addressing journalists after the incident, the Labour minister regretted that the action of the workers did not represent the mind of Nigerian workers.
He said, “Federal government has been fair to workers and it showed it by releasing bailout funds to state governors. And part of this government fairness era have been demonstrated by our firm commitment in making sure that no worker is laid off.
“What happened today is simply that this place was infiltrated by non-workers and as you know, there are some factionalisation within the Labour federation in Nigeria. So, what is playing out here today as I was made to understand from intelligent report is that this May Day gathering was infiltrated by people who do not belong to the Labour Union”.
“My message for the workers is that they should be patient, they should give us some time. The Minimum Wage Committee will start functioning within the next quarter which is in the next 3 months. Backlog of promotion arrears and repatriation allowances, relocations allowances and other allowances that are due them as emolument will be paid”.
In his address, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, said the immediate consequences of the recession on Nigeria’s economy include crippling budget short-falls, massive devaluations of the Naira and shortage of foreign currencies.
Others, according to him, are a steep rise in inflation, job losses, non-regular payment of workers and pension entitlements and significant drop in social spending and capital expenditure, all of which he said have combined to make life very miserable for the majority of workers.
Wabba said, “We call on government without any further delay to constitute the tripartite minimum wage negotiating committee with a time lag to submit a new minimum wage for the Nigerian workers”.
Also speaking to journalists, NULGE president Ibrahim Khaleel said workers are not happy as a result of nonpayment of salaries.
“The truth is that workers at local government level are really not happy. We feel sidelined in so many areas. We are not happy because we are not getting our salaries as at when due. Workers at local government are the most affected when it comes to issues of non payment of salaries”.
N18,000 Minimum Wage An Insult – Shehu Sani
Meanwhile, Senate committee chairman on local and foreign debt, Senator Shehu Sani, has described the paltry N18,000 minimum wage currently being paid to Nigerian workers as an insult.
Sani who represents Kaduna Central senatorial district made the statement during this year’s workers Day in Kaduna yesterday.
He said, “The N18,000 minimum wage is an insult. There is no security man in the house of a politician that earns less than N18,000; there is no dog in the house of a politician that is fed with N18,000; there is none.
“I think it is high time Nigerian workers pegged their minimum wage in dollar term. Stop agitating for N56,000 minimum wage, say $300. $300 minimum wage is over N140,000. It is unfair for a nation that can afford to sustain the political class from the local government to the presidency to be unable to pay workers as at when due”.
Senator Sani lamented that despite the commitment, effort and struggle for a democratic government, the Nigerian workers have not been appreciated by the ruling class.
“The working class do not just represent workers, they represent the whole of society, they represent the downtrodden, the weak, the marginalised and the voiceless. The working class have always championed the struggle for freedom and liberation globally”, he added.
The lawmaker added that the Nation must reform its laws to give respect and dignity to workers.
Gov Bello Pardons Erring Workers In Kogi
Meanwhile, Over 2000 civil servants in Kogi who erred during the state government staff screening exercise have been granted pardon by the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.
Governor Bello offered pardon and amnesty to 11 out of 44 various offences committed by some of the workers in the state .
Addressing stakeholders at Government House Lokoja, the state governor said, “Truly, the screening exercise passed through a turbulent journey, but state government was able to end the exercise and has achieved a wonderful and resounding result.”
He said the decision of the government to pardon some workers who erred and whose punishment ought to have been dismissal was to reassure the people of the state that the screening was not aimed at downsizing the work force or witch hunt any body.
Bello disclosed that those who benefited from the pardon are 350 staff of the state government who absent themselves from work for part time studies and NYSC programme without any approval, adding that the certificates obtained by the affected workers will not be recognised by the government.
He noted that 771 civil servants also erred in the area of disparity in date of birth contained in their declaration of age, primary school certificate and West African School Certificate.
He stated, however, that even though the erring workers have been pardoned, the earlier age used by the workers at the point of entry into civil service will be used.
He said, “102 staff are affected by the use of non accredited certificates; these certificates are only required for proficiency and not for carrier provision which is again against the service rules. They will be graded accordingly.
“16 teachers are culpable for employment or secondment to ministries, Departments and Agencies where their experiences are not been utilized. This category we offered them pardon but they should be transfered back to classroom for efficiency”.
Also pardoned, according to Governor Bello, are 43 workers found wanting in improper carrier advancement and promotions as well as 103 staff who lack the requisite academic qualifications upon which staff promotions were premised.
Governor Bello, however, directed the commissioner for finance, the Accountant General, the acting Head of Service and the ministry of local government and chieftaincy affairs to put the financial implications of those granted amnesty together and pay them before the end of this month.