•Osinbajo: elite fueling ethnic, religious differences
•NLC: crisis of new Naira notes, fuel scarcity may engulf nation
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government has assured Nigerian workers that it would set in motion the process that would lead to the approval a new minimum wage to be implemented on or before May 2024.
The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who was the special guest of honour at the 13th quadrennial delegates conference of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) held in Abuja, yesterday, blamed the elites for always playing up the negative aspects of Nigeria’s diversity.
He said rather than put the blame on the masses, it was the elites that should learn to accept the reality that ethnicity and religion should no longer play key roles in the country’s affairs.
Osinbajo urged workers not to be discouraged by the challenges they faced during struggles for their welfare and better policy options, adding that in today’s world, no one could ignore the potency of people’s power.
But the NLC expressed fear that the country may likely be engulfed in serious crisis if the federal government fails to urgently address the economic and social disruptions caused by the petrol scarcity and naira scarcity.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who addressed the workers said the federal government was in the process of kick-starting a review of the current minimum wage of N30,000.
According to Ngige, the present government would fast track the process to see that a new minimum wage would be ready latest by May next year.
The minister praised the outgoing leadership of the congress, saying they did well in protecting the interest and welfare of the workers.
“They were courageously and audibly the voice of the people during the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Negotiation which gave rise to the National Minimum Wage Act 2019 by which the NMW was reviewed.
“Also, the outflowing Consequential Adjustment for ALL Public Servants was achieved by them. Furthermore, flowing from the NMW negotiations, the cheery news is that the old Act has been upgraded to reflect and conform to the changing world of work to eschew decent work deficit and any form of unfair labour practises.
“For instance, the NMW review has a five–year duration that will be adhered to by stakeholders, workers can now approach the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) for enforcement of their rights to receive the NMW,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NLC has said the country may likely be engulfed in serious crisis if the federal government fails to urgently address the economic and social disruptions caused by the petrol and naira scarcity.
The congress described the current state of things in the country as unbearable.
While welcoming delegates to the NLC Quadrennial National Conference in Abuja, the outgoing president of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, said organised labour was very concerned with the sufferings imposed on the Nigerian masses nationwide by the policies of the government in finance and energy sectors.
He criticised the attempt by the federal government to limit the amount of money Nigerians could withdraw from their legitimate deposits at the banks, describing it as unheard of in any other part of the world.
According to Wabba, the sufferings many Nigerians were subjected to at the banks these days were unimaginable.
In the same vein, Wabba bemoaned the persisting queues at petrol stations as a result of federal government’s plan to hike the price of the product.
Wabba restated the position of the organised labour to resist any attempt to withdraw subsidy on imported petroleum products as well as the privatisation of public- owned education and health sector institutions in the country.
Speaking about the plight of the workers, Wabba said their salaries have been rendered worthless by inflation and high cost of basic goods and services in the country.
He added: “The situation of the country at the moment and the fact that the last increase has taken a long time. Also make it due for salary review to take place because there is the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. “Why for instance, should other agencies be earning higher over and above other civil servants, yet they participate in the same economy?
“They go to the same markets and importantly, they do the same job. So basically, we want that also to be addressed, and it’s important. The social sector needs some quick intervention, health and education.
“We will continue to resist any attempts to privatise health and education because they are the fundamental right of every citizen in every country in the world, the children of the poor, and the children of the rich must assess quality education.”
Wabba said the current stream of leaders assessed quality education at no cost, adding that it should not be now that they would be championing privatisation.
“Why should it be at our generations that those institutions will be privatised? We have seen recent increases in school fees and many of the children of the desperate, cannot be able to access quality education, so we must look through the policies and check the policies, and see that no one, no child is actually left behind.
“We have seen, particularly in some regions clearly that more than 20 million children are already out of school. So the issue of privatising or increasing these prices will make them to actually not have quality education and in health care,” he added.
Wabba further said the rates of medical tourism was alarming, insisting that government must do everything possible to equip our hospitals and also encourage workers.