• State of insecurity worrisome, threat to nation’s existence, says NLC
• FG, Labour set August deadline for new minimum wage
Senator Iroegbu and James Emejo in Abuja
The federal government has in response to repeated calls by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), organised labour unions and other concerned Nigerians over the rising state of insecurity in the country, embarked on the restructuring of the nation’s security architecture.
This was disclosed Tuesday by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on the occasion of the 2018 National May Day Celebration at Eagle Square, Abuja organised by the two main Federations of Trade Unions — the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the recruitment of 6,000 additional policemen as part of fresh measures to address the nation’s security challenges including the farmers/herdsmen clashes across the country.
The president made this known in a special interview session with the Voice of America, Hausa service, in Washington, United States on Tuesday morning.
Osinbajo, who represented President Buhari, said that this is aimed at tackling the deaths and destruction being visited on Nigerians across the country by killer herdsmen and other criminal elements.
He, however, called for collective efforts and sense of unity anchored on citizens’ support for government towards sustainable peace and security in Nigeria.
He said: “You are all quite aware that insecurity has remained a big challenge for us all. We are determined to face this challenge and secure the country more than ever before. To this end, Mr President and the security council have been engaging in rigorous stock taking with a view to restructuring our security architecture to meet the challenges of the mindless killings in some parts of the country including marauding herdsmen, cattle rustlers and bandits.
“It is our duty to secure the rights of farmers, and all citizens and to ensure that herders also can rear cattle in well-resourced ranches. But there are also criminals who want to stoke religious and ethnic crisis. What is the explanation for anyone to go into a church to kill priests and worshippers? We recognise that while the protection of lives and property is a primary responsibility of government; it is also incumbent on the citizens to share in this responsibility, as security is a collective responsibility.
“Our country is great because of the talents of our people, from every tribe, tongue, and religion. Our diversities are our strength. We must reject every attempt to divide us, our focus must be on developing our economy, providing opportunities in industry, manufacturing, technology for our young people. To borrow from Dike Chukwumerije a young Nigerian poet…we must build bridges, not walls.”
On the welfare of the workers, Osinbajo noted that while the government recognised that payment of salaries and pensions is essential; they are also conscious of the fact that the increasing cost of living and the recognition to ensure a fair and decent living wage has rendered the Minimum Wage Instrument obsolete.
Accordingly, he said, President Buhari inaugurated, on November 27, 2017, a Tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee to renegotiate the National Minimum Wage for our workers.
The vice-president reminded Nigerians that the subject of a National Minimum Wage for the Federation is within the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
He continued: “Although there are arguments regarding fixing minimum wage in a federation such as ours, it is the responsibility of government to establish the necessary social protection floor for all Nigerian workers based on the ability of each tier of government to pay.
“The argument for a national minimum wage, therefore, cannot be faulted because minimum wage is the minimum amount of compensation an employee must receive for putting in his or her labour and as such should be anchored on the principles of social justice, equity, and fairness. We believe that those who can pay above the social protection floor are free to do so, as many have been doing in many states and sectors of the economy.”
Speaking further, Osinbajo assured Nigerians that Buhari’s administration has no intention of presiding over the dismantling of the gains organised labour secured for its members almost four decades ago.
He, however, expressed hope “that the Tripartite Committee comprising government, labour, and the private sector will expedite its assignment to enable the federal government to present an Executive Bill on a new National Minimum Wage to the National Assembly for passage into law, as soon as possible. In the meantime, the federal government and the state governments will continue to work together to improve the conditions of workers across the country”.
NLC Decries State of Insecurity
Also speaking, the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, while speaking on the theme for this year’s May Day Celebration – “Role of the Labour Movement in National Development: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win”, also agreed with the vice-president on the need to tackle the crippling state of insecurity and also speed up the harmonisation of the new minimum wage.
On the national security threats, Wabba lamented that the nation is immersed in a renewed outbreak of blood-letting and violence, adding that “the initial successes recorded against the Boko Haram insurgency, which earned this government international accolades and respect, have come under serious challenge”.
He feared that with the military overstretched in addition to mounting and mutating security challenges, the country may be on the verge of collapse.
He said: “The North-east region has witnessed renewed cases of Boko Haram attacks. The abduction of Dapchi girls, more or less, a replay of the Chibok tragedy reinforces the view of how badly things have deteriorated. We urge the federal government to intensify efforts to ensure the successful release of the remaining Dapchi girl being held reportedly on the account of her faith, and indeed, all the Chibok girls yet to be released.
“Also worrisome is the escalating phenomenon of ‘killer herdsmen’, pastoralists-farmers clashes, cattle rustling and all sorts of extrajudicial killings. The frequency, repulsive nature and national spread of these orgies of bloodletting present themselves as the greatest threat to our well-being and unity as a people and as a nation. With the military deployed in 27 of our states, it is very clear that the country is drifting to a precipice.”
Labour Sets August Deadline for New Minimum Wage
On the upward review of the national minimum wage, Wabba said that it must reflect the current economic realities as it will help raise the levels of productivity and enhance the purchasing power of workers.
According to him, their “current demand of N66,500 as the national minimum wage will only manage to meet the basic needs of the average Nigerian worker if inflation is kept at a single digit”.
“We have also proposed that the Minimum Wage Act should be amended to guarantee review every five years. This was the recommendation of the 2011 Belgore-led Tripartite Committee. We have also proposed that the minimum wage law should apply to all workers and not restricted only to establishments with 50 workers and above. We have also demanded that there should be a minimum pension for our retired workers and senior citizens who currently in some cases are receiving N2,000 as a monthly pension,” he said.
Inflation, Unemployment Rates Still High, Says NLC
Wabba also decried the high rate of inflation and unemployment in the country despite the claim that the country is out of the economic recession.
He stressed that the “double-digit inflation rates continue to erode the living standards of Nigerians”.
In the same vein, the President of the TUC, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, bemoaned the current economic situation and state of the Nigerian workers.
Kaigama said that the country’s unemployment rate rose to 18.8 per cent in third quarter of 2017 from 13.9 per cent recorded in the same period in 2016, making it the highest jobless rate since 2009.
This, he said, confirms that many businesses have shut down between the last quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018 due to government’s policies and other factors.
“Our economy is still prostrate. There is a dearth of infrastructure; insecurity is rife, weak naira, less investment in human capital development, the economy largely undiversified, monumental frauds and mismanagement. How long can we go on,” he asked.
As a way forward, the TUC President called for the speed up of the work by the tripartite committee on the national minimum wage by sticking to a deadline of August 2018.
“It is our hope that given the high expectation of Nigerian workers, the committee will complete its work by August 2018 as planned so that by the last quarter of this year, the hard-pressed workers will have a new lease of life,” he said.
The May Day Celebration was also attended by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige; former Governor of Edo State and ex-NLC President, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; Senator Victor Umeh who represented the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Senator Shehu Sani, among others.
Ekweremadu, Dogara Assure on Minimum Wage
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has, once again, backed the workers’ demand for an upward review of the monthly National Minimum Wage.
Ekweremadu stated this in his goodwill message to the Nigerian workers on the occasion of the International Workers’ Day, 2018.
He said: “I salute the Nigerian workers for their immense sacrifice, labour, resilience, and patriotism, which have kept Nigeria going. They have also not relented even in the face of untold challenges and hardship.
“However, we must take the necessary steps to lighten their burdens, especially in the face of excruciating economic realities and in line with the anti-corruption crusade.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Tuesday re-echoed the determination of the lower chamber to provide a better life for workers by passing a bill for an upward review of minimum wage, which is yet to be forwarded to the National Assembly by the executive.
He said he is not unmindful of the struggles and hardship endured by Nigerian workers in their daily lives, which is why parliament is committed to putting more resources in their hands.
The Speaker, in a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Hassan Turaki, to mark the 2018 Workers’ Day celebration, further expressed optimism that the federal government’s Committee on Minimum Wage which is currently conducting public hearings across the six geo-political zones in the country will soon conclude its assignment and a new national minimum wage bill will be transmitted to the parliament by the president.
He said:“On behalf of the entire members of the House of Representatives, I want to use this occasion to, once again, underscore the importance of workers to the growth and prosperity of our dear nation, Nigeria.
“We see the struggles you go through to survive on wages that can barely last through the first week of the month. We see your dedication to doing your bit in ensuring that Nigeria continues to run effectively in spite of unfavourable conditions.”
According to him, “We commend your courage, your commitment to service and nation building and urge you to continue supporting government policies and agenda.
“I assure you, on this occasion, that the National Assembly will give expeditious passage to the Minimum Wage Bill whenever it is transmitted by the executive and any other initiative that will promote the welfare of the Nigerian worker. We will support it wholeheartedly.”