Human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has advised the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to seek compensation from the federal government for the families of people who died in the various protests in the country.
Falana gave the advice in Abuja yesterday at the 12th National Delegates Conference of the congress.
The theme of the conference is: ‘Towards a Decade of Activism for the Promotion of Labour Unity, National Rebirth and Development.’
He said NLC should demand adequate compensation for the families of all workers and Nigerians who lost their lives in rallies held all over the country.
“I congratulate the NLC for the success recorded so far in the struggle to have a minimum wage.
“What the constitution provides for in Section 16 is the National Minimum Living Wage but what has been conceded is not a living wage but it is better than nothing.
“The first aspect of the struggle has been won and the National Assembly will soon pass the bill.
“But to get payment, you need to get organised and compel those governors who claim that they will not be able to pay, to pay the new minimum wage,” he said.
Falana called on NLC leaders to put pressure on state governors who claimed that they could not pay N30,000 minimum wage so that they could do so.
He also called on the governors to imitate the success of the Kebbi Sate Governor Atiku Bagudu in agriculture by initiating policies that would increase their financial strength.
“I will like to advise those governors to borrow a leaf from the governor of Kebbi State. He has turned adversity to prosperity.
“In 2017, it was reported that Kebbi State earned N160 billion from the sale of rice alone.
‘‘Let other governors be challenged and embark on money generation instead of cornering the state money.
“To NLC and all Nigerian workers, let the 2019 election be the last time that elections in Nigeria and the struggle for power will be left exclusively in the hands of different factions of the ruling class.
“After this election, the Labour Party must be reorganised so that we can take our destiny in our own hands,” he said.
He urged NLC to rebrand the Labour Party to become a strong political platform for all politicians.
In his reaction, the Governor of Kebbi, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, said the state government’s success was linked to the federal government’s commitment to agriculture and fairness in agricultural trade.
“Falana talked about investment in agriculture but it is also linked to our ability to give fair terms of trade.
‘‘The success in agriculture would not have been possible without a president that is committed and that is nationalistic.
“In the next level we will be able to do more in agriculture so that NLC can grow from six million to 60 million and have more resources,” he said.
Bagudu, who was part of the Tripartite Committee that recommended N30, 000 new minimum wage, said that in spite of the Committee’s commitment and recommendation, it was also important for stakeholders to sympathise with some governors.
He claimed that it would be difficult for them to pay N30, 000 as the new minimum wage.
“I was part of the tripartite party on the new minimum wage. It came at a time when many states were unable to pay salaries, not including Kebbi State, because we manage better.
“All the arguments about increase in wages and the clamour for a new minimum wage are compelling during the Tripartite Committee meetings.
“But I am sure that organised private sector will sympathise with what we are saying about the ability to pay.
“What do we need to do quickly so that workers can earn better and decent living? We are ignoring the most fundamental thing which is the size of our economy which leads to wider issue of globalisation,’’ he said.
He added that President Muhammadu Buhari and those before him had about five per cent of the revenue available to the president of Brazil with about the same population.
He said in 2018, Brazil had a budget of $650 billion while Nigeria’s budget was about $30 billion, adding that this deserved an urgent wake up call.
He called on the organised labour to use its unity to return to the global agenda issues of unfair trade and capital restriction that were limiting economic growth.
The governor said the NLC, as part of the wider movement to position and better the lives of Nigerians, had a bigger voice to draw attention to the limitation of the country’s economy.