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Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The National President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba yesterday urged the federal government to reject additional loans from the World Bank and instead pursue the payment of funds accruable to Nigeria from periodic adjustments in remittances by International Oil Companies (IOCs) subject to increases in the price of crude oil above $20 per barrel.
The federal government officials failed to activate this clause for more than 20 years thus allowing IOCs to stash away more than $60 billion in unpaid royalties to Nigeria.
The NLC has also vowed that it would enforce to the letter the implementation of the New National Minimum Wage once the issue of consequential adjustments has been settled with the states.
It said with the signing into law the new minimum wage any state that violated its provisions after the agreement had been reached on the consequential adjustments would be sued.
Wabba stated this at the side-line during the opening ceremony of the NLC 2019 National Leadership Retreat holding at Nike Lake Hotel in Enugu.
Wabba regretted that at this era Nigerian workers are forced to beg for their salaries which are now owed in arrears.
“While other countries have fully accommodated and automated the process of minimum wage adjustments and are now focused on living wages, we are faced with a situation where we are forced to bargain too hard and wait for too long for meagre increases in minimum wage and adjustments in salary.”
He said that the new minimum wage is now a law that can be enforced in the court of law if it is breached or violated by government or private person.
“Let me also inform you that there is difference between the law we have and the law that has existed from 1981 till date. In 1981 when the first minimum wage was enacted there was no provision for sanctions. In this one we negotiated there is a provision for sanctions because it is already a law. Any state or person that violates the provision of law there are three ways to address it: one is that the worker can report his union.
“Once you report we can look at the means and avenues including court to enforce the provision of the law. So now there is a clout to enforce the provisions of the law. So, clearly speaking once there’s understanding or agreement as about the issue of consequential adjustment the issue is settled and where there is actual the issue of none respect for the law it can be enforced legally in a court of law,” he stated.
Wabba said that Nigeria cannot be complaining of lack of funds to pay Nigerian workers decent wages and invest in public infrastructure cum social services “when we have a lot of public funds in private pockets”.
“It is no longer discussed in hushed tones that the government is struggling with liquidity. As know, this crisis is rooted in bad governance. Two things define bad governance in this respect – institutionalisation of corruption in public expenditure and weaknesses cum sabotage in internal revenues accruable to government. On corruption in public expenditure, the issue of humongous salaries and allowances paid to elected public officials and contract inflation top the list of our concerns.
“On the other hand, the loss of government revenue due to internal sabotage by unpatriotic public officials is very alarming and worrisome.”
“We call on the federal government not to rest on its oars until it recovers every kobo owed us by the IOCs. Government officials behind this criminal neglect must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We call for a tax system that captures many businesses and rich people must be compelled by government to pay more taxes in commensuration to their income,” he appealed.
The NLC President, however, decried that Nigerian workers are confronted daily with increasing recalcitrance by employers to allow unionization in work places, a situation he said has exposed millions of workers to indecent conditions of casual work status, “slave wages, long hours of work without due compensation, and denial of social security cover.”
Declaring the retreat open, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State commended the labou,r adding that they have been pivotal in the implementation of government policies and programmes.
While he promised that his administration would prioritise workers’ welfare, Ugwuanyi said “Enugu State workers will get a better deal in the implementation of the consequential increase in the minimum wage.”