By MICHAEL OCHE, Abuja
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has said the issue of the new minimum wage will be a key factor in determining the outcome of the 2019 general election.
According to the labour union, workers are paying keen interest in the action of elected officials in respect of the implementation of the new minimum wage.
Deputy president of the NLC, Comrade Peters Adeyimi, who made the union’s position known, while speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP Sunday at the weekend said for workers, the issue of new minimum wage is about life and death.
He said workers are losing their patience and will ensure that governors and other elected officials who are campaigning against the implementation of the new minimum wage are not voted into office in 2019.
He said, “This N56, 000 minimum wage will determine who gets elected and re-elected again. The time of reckoning is drawing nearer. Maybe by this time next year, they will start another round of campaign and promises. Nigerian workers will not fold their arms and go and vote again for people who don’t put their interest at heart. It will not be possible.
“Nigerian workers will take their destiny in their hands and we are going to use these statements they are making now to determine their fate. Any governor who says N56,000 is not payable and he cannot pay salaries is hanging his own neck and the neck of the candidate his political party will present because Nigerian workers will vote against anti-progressive elements who want to go back to Government House.
“Those who do not have the interest of Nigerian workers at heart, who want to enslave Nigerian workers, will not smell the government house. For those of us in the labour movement, this issue of minimum wage is critical to us. It is about life and death. N18, 000 as of today cannot buy you anything”.
Adeyimi said if labor were to make a fresh presentation with the current inflation rate, it would have asked double of the N56, 000.
He said, “For us in the movement, if we are to make that demand right now, that clearly is not going to be labor’s demand. In Nigeria today, N56,000 is clearly not what any Nigerian can survive on. Labor is convinced that N56, 000 minimum wage is doable. It is doable in the sense that when you put all the indices and parameters in place, you find out that N50,000 cannot give a comfortable life to an average worker in a month.
“Let us look at what we are talking about, we are talking about a worker who has children, he has to pay school fees, healthcare and other dependants. The cost of drugs and food stuff has tripled since the last minimum wage law was passed in 2011. I have said severally that you also need to put into consideration even the worth of our currency, the naira which government policies have bastardized.
“I have said again and again that those in government don’t want to pay good salaries so that they will have enough to steal. If Nigerian workers are well paid, some of these surpluses that are being looted won’t be there. You find today, with all the efforts of the current administration under President Buhari, that the anti corruption agencies have unearthed so much startling revelations about massive stealing of our treasury. Is it not mind boggling that you find a situation where people have amassed so much wealth that they have to abandon in places they cannot visit, whereas an average Nigerian worker is suffering and wallowing in abject poverty?
“I keep on challenging our elites and the ruling class when they talk that N56, 000 is not payable. Ask them, some of the wine they take how much does it cost? Our ruling elite must not steer up crisis. They must not take Nigerian workers for granted for too long because if you push the suffering masses to the wall, they are going to turn back and face you”.
Civil Servants, Pensioners Hail FG Over Early Payment Of June Salary
A cross section of civil servants in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) have commended the federal government for hearkening to the voice of the Union by acting fast to ensure that workers pensioners are paid the June salary as well as pension before the sallah celebration.
In a statement by its general secretary, Elder Actor Zal, the pensioners specifically thanked Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, the Registrar of Trade Unions and all government agencies involved in the monthly payments of pension.
The pensioners equally joined their voices to call for the unity of Nigeria, just as they condemned those encouraging hate speeches to desist and join other well meaning Nigerians in building a virile country.
On their part, the civil servants applauded the federal government for early payment of June salary, as Muslim faithful prepare for the Eid-el-Fitr celebration.
Speaking in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday in Abuja, they said the salary
came as a surprise to them, describing it as a “big relief.’’
Some of the workers who are Muslims lamented that the recession in the country had made the fasting period “more difficult’’ as many of them do not have what to eat in the morning before the commencement of fasting.
Mr Saleh Adamu, a father of three, told NAN that it was not easy for him and his family during the period of fasting.
He said that the early payment of salary was a surprise to him, adding that it would enable him and his family have a good meal during the Sallah celebration.
“Even though I will not be able to travel, we can now cook good food after the long days of fasting, with little to eat at the end of each day. I thank the federal government for paying salary at this period of celebration”, he said.
Another civil servant, Mrs Joy Godwin, said that though the Sallah festival was for Muslim faithful, the early payment of salary would enable non-Muslims enjoy the Sallah break.
She said, “Yesterday, I was just thinking about how to cope during the Sallah break because I did not have money on me. I was very excited when I switched on my cell phone this morning and saw salary alert. We thank the Federal Government for the early payment of the salary and I hope it will continue like this, even when Christians are celebrating.
“However, even with the early payment of salary, the costs of food stuffs in the market have increased compared to what it was the previous month. Food sellers have taken advantage of the celebration to increase the prices of foodstuffs and make things difficult for the people”.
A market survey conducted by NAN in some markets in the FCT showed that the prices of food items, vegetables and fruits, had gone up when compared to what they were before the fasting period.
At the popular Friday Gosa Market along Airport Road, the prices of food items ranging from tomatoes, pepper, cabbage, carrot and livestock had sky rocketed.
For instance, the price of a basket of tomatoes which sold for between N1,800 and N2,200, had increased to between N2,800 and N3000, while the price of a basket of pepper had increased fromN1,200 to N1,800.
Mr Zakari Yusuf, who sells tomatoes in Gosa Market, attributed the high cost to the Sallah festival and the rainy season.
He said that the prices of some commodities would come down after the celebration as foodstuffs sellers were fond of increasing prices of food items during celebrations.
Malam Isa Yakubu, a livestock dealer, said that the cost of livestock such as chicken and turkey had also increased. He attributed the high cost to increase in demand.