The hope of a new minimum wage for Nigerian workers has hit a snag as the federal government has aligned itself with the position of state governors who said they are having difficulty paying the current benchmark wage and, therefore, cannot afford the N30,000 figure proposed as minimum wage. The minister of labour and employment, Dr Chris Ngige, who gave the hint yesterday, said Nigeria could not afford rounds of labour crises, hence the need for the organised labour to accept a new national minimum wage figure based on the ability of both the government and the private sector to pay it in line with social dialogue and the overall interest of the nation. Sen. Ngige made the comment during a courtesy visit from the new director-general of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) Mr. Timothy Olawale, and his predecessor, Mr. Olusegun Oshinowo. He appealed to NECA to use its influence on the organised labour to get the labour leaders to accede to the new national minimum wage figure mutually agreeable to all the social partners.
“We need to arrive at a figure which the employers can afford to pay, as an employee cannot fix a figure for the employer. Rather, it must be based on collective bargaining and mutual agreement by the tripartite partners. It is not a function of moving motions or voting at the National Tripartite Negotiation Committee to insist that the figure must be as the organised labour appears to make it look. “There is absolutely, therefore, no need to heat up the polity. The government’s proposed new minimum wage figure is clearly based on critical facts and indices incapable of causing disequilibrium in the economy or upturning the national social order,” the minister argued.
The minister’s statement is coming amidst tension between government and organised labour over the amount that should be fixed as the new minimum wage. Ngige a few days ago announced that the federal government had offered N24, 000 to the workers, but organised labour had countered him, saying that N30, 000 was the amount agreed on by the tripartite committee saddled with the responsibility of arriving at a figure. However, state governors also proposed N20, 000 as the new minimum wage. Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, had on Thursday contended that the issue was not just on the agreed figure to be paid by the governors, but the “ability or resources to take care of that agreed minimum wage.”
The Zamfara governor remarked that states were struggling to pay the current minimum wage of N18,000, noting that some of the states were paying only 35 per cent or 50 per cent, while some states are owing workers. Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP Weekend learnt that organised labour will today declare its next line of engagement with the government. ur , comprising then Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC) had on Thursday met in Lagos and insisted on its demand for N30,000 as minimum wage. Speaking to his guests, Ngige urged the new NECA boss to exceed the impressive record of his predecessor. “You have an enormous task ahead of you. The need for the establishment of more NECA offices across the country cannot be over emphasised so that more employers’ association can register with you. This is in line with the focus of our labour administration and in tandem with the economic policies of the present administration. The numerous private sector employers who are informal need to be brought on board the formalised private sector employers’ body,” Ngige ststed. The minister urged him to ensure that numerous private sector employers who are members of NECA and those not yet registered but are defaulting in payment of even the existing national minimum wage of N18, 000 are made to comply with the law.
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