By Our Correspondents |
Organised labour comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) yesterday took their protest to the National Assembly to demand a halt to the plot by the lawmakers to decentralise the minimum wage structure by introducing a Bill seeking to remove it from the exclusive to concurrent list.
The workers led by president of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and his TUC counterpart, Quadri Olaleye, warned that unless the action is halted, labour will shut down the country by declaring a nationwide strike.
LEADERSHIP reports that the workers, armed with placards, started assembling at the Unity Fountain, Abuja as early as 7:20 am yesterday before proceeding on a peaceful protest to the National Assembly to officially deliver a document containing workers’ demands from the government.
Some inscriptions on the placards read: “On minimum wage we stand’, ‘No to minimum wage on concurrent list’, ‘Yes to minimum wage on Executive list.’
Delivering the document to representatives of the Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives, the aggrieved workers warned the lawmakers that failure to do the right thing would amount to a total shutdown of the nation’s economy.
President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who insisted that politicians were the problem of the country, stressed that the national minimum wage was a standard set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which the Nigerian government ratified since 1961.
He said the lawmakers cannot reverse what the workers have earned through hard labour for 40 years over night.
Citing President Joe Biden whose first statement on assumption of office was the need to carry out an upward review of workers minimum wage to $15 per hour as example, he said rather than lead a progressive leadership, Nigerian politicians were raising false arguments against the National Minimum Wage being in the exclusive list.
According to him, the minister of labour and employment had already clarified that the lawmakers were going in a wrong direction that could attract sanctions given Nigeria’s signatory to the ILO Convention on minimum wage.
Wabba further warned that should the governance structure in the country persists workers would have no option but to pray down fire to consume politicians responsible for the calamities befalling the country.
He said, “The Bill that seeks to remove the minimum wage from the exclusive list to the concurrent list is not accepted.
“The issue of national minimum wage is a standard set by the International Labour Organisation and the ILO is the first agency of the United Nations formed in 1919 after the First World War.
“Your argument is that because they want federalism, the issue of the national minimum wage should be moved to the concurrent list; that is wrong. In countries of the world today, we have 26 federal nations that have minimum wage in their exclusive list including the United States of America.
“The argument about federalism is false, also, the argument about the ability to pay. How can we degenerate to remove an issue that the workers have earned through hard labour for 40 years and want to remove it over night?”
Speaking further, the president of the TUC, Quadri, urged the National Assembly to lead by example by taking the decision to receive their salaries from their respective local government area councils.
But receiving the document on behalf of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the House leader, Alahassan Ado Doguwa, advised the labour leaders and Nigerian workers to lobby their respective legislators to kill the Bill they were agitating against.
He said, “The presentation and recommendation of the Bill was only an opinion and a proposal but from what I am seeing now it appears to me that the leadership and organised labour are against the Bill and you have your rights and reasons to reject that Bill.
“We will still invite you to the relevant committee of which I am a member, the constitution review committee, to come and make your position formally, and members representing your respective communities will be on the ground to do justice to that Bill.
“I can understand that the only thing you want is to kill that Bill but I would like to advise, go ahead and lobby the members that you elected, tell them you don’t like that Bill and your elected members will stand for you.”
Also receiving the document on behalf of the Senate president, Ahmed Lawan, the deputy chief whip of the Senate, Senator Abdullahi Sabi, appealed to the workers to have confidence in the lawmakers whom he said would do everything possible to ensure workers’ rights and demands were respected.
“Denying you minimum wage is something I personally as a senator do not support but we are in a democracy which is about a process. You have read your point, you are standing tenaciously to ask for what is your right but I want to assure you, there are a lot of progressive lawmakers in the 9th Assembly.
“In the past we have stood toe to toe with Nigerian workers, there is nothing that suggests we are changing from that direction rather, we will stand by you to ensure that the fundamental right of every worker is not only ensured, but enforced and guaranteed.
“We are going to ensure that we are going to do justice to everything you have brought to us, wait to see the action.”
Meanwhile, there were massive protests by all the state branches of the NLC over the planned transfer of minimum wage from the exclusive to a concurrent legislative list.
In Kano, the chairman of the Organised labour, Kabiru Ado Minjibir, while presenting their case to the speaker of the Kano state House of Assembly noted that the letter carried the concerns of the workers in the state on the issue.
Similarly, the Kaduna State chapter of the NLC and TUC presented their protest letter to the Kaduna State House of Assembly for onward presentation to the National Assembly.
Kaduna state chairman of NLC, Comrade Suleiman Ayuba and his TUC counterpart Comrade Abdullahi Danfulani led members in their numbers in a peaceful protest to the state Assembly complex where the letters were respectively presented to the House speaker, Hon. Yusuf Ibrahim Zailani.
In Rivers State, it was a peaceful protest to the State House of Assembly, as labour leaders presented their letters to the leadership of the House demanding a halt to the proposed Bill to transfer minimum wage from the exclusive to the concurrent list.
It was also a similar scenario in Anambra, Bauchi, Oyo, Ekiti, Abia, Sokoto, Kogi and Cross River States.
Labour leaders who had embarked on the protest described the Bill seeking the transfer of minimum wage from the exclusive to concurrent list as retrogressive.
In Kogi, the organized labour gave the state government a 12-day ultimatum to implement the N30,000 minimum wage or they would be forced to begin an indefinite strike.
The workers said if their demands were not met on or before March 22, 2021, they would embark on industrial action.
The NLC) and the TUC while on a peaceful protest in Lokoja presented their letter to the Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly on the transfer of the National Minimum Wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list.
Speaking on behalf of workers, the Kogi State chairman of NLC, Comrade Onuh Edoka, said since the state government set up a 17-man committee in 2019, nothing has been heard from them.
Noting that Kogi workers are suffering in the state due to the unfriendly economic condition of the country, the labour leader said, “We therefore want to plead with You, Distinguished Speaker, to use your good office to prevail on the committee set by the state government on the implementation of the Thirty Thousand naira (N30,000.00) New Minimum Wage in Kogi State to expedite action on her works in record time, so as to guarantee industrial harmony and further strengthen peace in the state”.
Edoka and his team who were received by the clerk of the House, Ibrahim Amouka, on behalf of the Speaker however called for an end to percentage salary at the local government level.
He lamented that local government workers were collecting 40 per cent salary, noting that life was becoming unbearable for them in the state.
His words: “Local government workers are looking older than their state colleagues. They are receiving a 40 per cent salary. Mr Speaker, any political appointee that wants local government workers to be paid 40 percent, they should also be paid 40 per cent so that they will use their money to develop the state. If this is done, it will make them feel the pains local government workers are passing through.
“The issue of percentage payment of salary to employees at the local government level needed urgent attention of the honourable House to mitigate the effect of the hardship the workers at that level are facing.”