By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and James Sowole in Akure
The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, has said that millions of workers in the country can no longer provide three square meals for their families.
The NLC president, who addressed a workers’ rally at the gate of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja on Tuesday, said no one can rightly describe workers as a tiny minority, adding that: “If there is a group that is a tiny minority, it is the political leaders that are receiving humongous salaries.”
While insisting that government must approve the N30,000 new national minimum wage, Wabba said that workers are instrumental to the economic development of the country.
He went further to argue that workers cannot be regarded as a liability but an asset.
“Nigerian workers are an asset and must be celebrated. Anywhere around the world where there is progress, workers are celebrated. Workers must be able to take care of their families, they must be able to feed well, they must be able to pay children’s school fees, but today most workers are unable feed three meals per day because the minimum wage of N18,000 is no longer enough to cater for their basic needs.
“Workers create the wealth of any nation. If we create the wealth of Nigeria then we must partake of the sharing of such wealth and therefore the welfare of workers must be paramount. That was why we said that this rally will take place at the length and breadth of the country,” he said.
Tuesday’s rally saw the workers march through the streets to get to the office of the Minister of FCT, Mallam Mohammed Bello, to present a letter urging President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately transmit the N30,000 new minimum wage bill to the National Assembly.
The workers marched, danced and sang solidarity songs, displaying placards that highlight the hardship in the land.
Wabba said the labour movement is taking the issue of new minimum wage serious, hence the decision to ensure that a letter was transmitted to all political leaders in every Government House across the country.
The Director, Human Resources in the FCT minister’s office, Dogo Titus Tarza, who received the protest letter from the NLC president, on behalf of the minister, assured the workers that it will be forwarded to the president.
Similarly, in compliance with the directive of the National Secretariat of of the NLC to press home the demand for N30,000 minimum wage, workers in Ondo State Tuesday joined their colleagues across the 36 states of the federation on the need for federal government to pay the new wage.
The organised labour unions converged in front of Ondo State Cultural Centre as early as 7:00am and embarked on peaceful demonstration to the Governor’s Office, Alagbaka.
The workers demanded that President Buhari should submit a bill to the National Assembly for the implementation of the N30, 000 minimum wage for workers.
The federal government’s meeting with labour union leaders to avert a national protest over non-transmission of a new national minimum wage bill to the National Assembly, was inconclusive on Monday.
The NLC President, Wabba, while addressing workers in Akure, said the protest became imperative in order to ensure that the minimum wage bill processes for the transmission would be completed.
Wabba, who was represented by Comrade Yemisi Bamgbose, however said the protest was about implementation and therefore, has no link with the transmission of the bill or any political parties.
The labour unions presented a letter to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu on efforts made to justify the need for new minimum wage.
The letter read: “Your Excellency will recall the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage, comprising the government, organised private sector and organised labour has concluded its work and submitted the report with a draft bill to President Muhammadu Buhari on 6th November, 2018.
“It is also noteworthy that six governors were members of the committee that worked out the new national minimum wage. Therefore, it stands to reason that the report and draft bill were the collective efforts of the broadest spectrum of all concerned parties and should thus commend the support of every governor.
“Therefore, the organised labour would wish to obtain from your excellency a commitment to the speedy implementation of the new national minimum wage of N30,000 when enacted into law.
“While counting on your excellency to make the best endeavour to express agreement with thus patriotic, convey our polite gesture to your colleagues the enlightened public, generally and advance the cause of the new national minimum wage, we advise that: the political behaviour of Nigeria workers is contingent upon the commitment to the expeditious enactment of the new national minimum wage by the legislature before the polls.
“Nigerian workers as voters will indeed take their eventual fate to the polling stations and indicate in the ballot their views on the faithful implementation of new minimum wage by the executive before the polls.
“Nigerian workers and family will not and cause friends and allies not to vote for any candidate in the forthcoming elections who hesitate or refuse to commit to the national minimum wage.
“For the avoidance of any iota of doubt, the fate of the new national minimum wage will largely determine the electoral preference of Nigerian workers in 2019.”
Addressing labour unions, the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Ifedayo Abegunde, said the welfare of the workers in the state was paramount to the government.