New Wage: Tinubu Directs Edun to Come Up with Cost Implications in 48 Hours

•Labour suspends strike for one week 

•Senate pledges speedy passage of minimum wage bill  

•House cautions FG against increasing wage beyond country’s economy 

•Orji Kalu proposes N90,000 as minimum wage, senators lament grid shutdown

Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, yesterday, directed Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Mr. Wale Edun, to within two days come up with the cost implications of an affordable, sustainable and realistic new minimum wage for Nigerian workers.

The directive came as organised labour resolved to suspend its nationwide strike for the next one week. Both Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), yesterday, directed their state branches to ask members to resume work immediately.

Equally yesterday, Senate pledged that the National Minimum Wage Bill would be given accelerated hearing any time Tinubu forwards it to the National Assembly for legislative action.

But the House of Representatives cautioned the federal government against increasing the minimum wage beyond what the economy could sustain.

Spokesman of the House, Akin Rotimi, in a statement issued Tuesday, said the call became imperative to avoid unintended outcomes, such as inflation, layoffs, and other adverse economic consequences.

Nonetheless, civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), yesterday, called on Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, to cut the bogus National Assembly budget of N344.85 billion as sacrifice to enable the federal government meet the demands of organised labour.

Tinubu gave the marching order to Edun at a closed-door meeting with the government negotiation team on the new minimum wage, led by Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume, at State House, Abuja.

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, made the president’s order known while speaking to newsmen after the closed-door meeting.

Other members of the team, which had been meeting with organised labour, who were at the meeting with Tinubu included Ministers of Budget and National Planning, Atiku Bagudu; Labour, Nkiru Onyejeocha; as well as Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Mele Kyari.

Idris said the president directed the Minister of Finance to present the new minimum wage figures that would form the basis of negotiation with organised labour.

According to the information minister, “The president has just summoned a meeting of all those who negotiated on behalf of the federal government, led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Minister of Finance was there, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, the Minister of Information, the Minister of Labour, and the NNPCL GCEO.

“We were all there to look at all issues and the president has directed the Minister of Finance to do the numbers and get back to him between today and tomorrow so that we can have figures ready for negotiation with labour.”

Idris assured of the president’s readiness to accept the committee’s resolutions with labour representatives in line with his commitment to the welfare of Nigerians.

He explained that the federal government was keen to ensure a balance of its commitments with the economic realities of the country.

According to Idris, “And let me say that the president is determined to go with what the committee has said and he’s also looking at the welfare of Nigerians.

“Government is not against or opponent of labour discussions, government is not an opponent of wage increase, but what is there is that government is always there to ensure that there is a balance between what government pronouncement is and what the realities are on ground.

“And, therefore, we will work assiduously to ensure that whatever promises government makes is promise that will be kept, that is the idea of this meeting.”

The minister further said Tinubu had directed government representatives at the tripartite committee meeting to work with the organised private sector and the sub-nationals to achieve a new affordable and sustainable wage award for Nigerians.

He stated, “The president has given a marching order that all those who have negotiated on behalf of the federal government and all those who are representatives of organised private sector, the sub-nationals, come together to have a new wage award that is affordable, sustainable and that is also realistic for Nigerians.

“The wage award is not just that of the federal government, like I mentioned earlier, the sub- nationals are involved, the organised private sector is involved; it was labour that stepped out during that procedure. Now we have come back to the negotiation table.”

Idris assured that all parties to the negotiation of the new minimum wage would work together with organised labour to present a new minimum wage for Nigerians in one week.

 “All of us will work together assiduously within the next one week to ensure that we have a new wage for Nigeria that is acceptable, sustainable and also realistic,” he stressed.

Labour Suspends Strike for One Week

Organised labour suspended its nationwide industrial action yesterday for one week, with both NLC and TUC directing their state branches to ask members to resume work immediately.

The decision was as a result of the commitment made by Tinubu to ensure that the workers got a fair deal from the ongoing minimum wage negotiations.

At the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held yesterday, at the NLC headquarters, Abuja, the two labour centres examined key issues involved in the federal government’s fresh proposal, including a commitment to offering a higher national minimum wage.

The unions said they considered ongoing demands for the reversal of the electricity tariff hike back to N66/kwh as well as demand for the stoppage of the apartheid classification of electricity consumers into bands.

In a communique signed by NLC President, Joe Ajaero, and TUC President, Festus Osifo, the unions agreed to relax the industrial action for one week with immediate effect.

The communique said, “The NEC-in-session affirms that the federal government has agreed that their offer of N60,000 was not sufficient and has, therefore, shown commitment to making better wage offer to Nigerian workers and reaching agreement on the same within one week.”

It added, “In view of the deliberations, the NEC-in-session resolved as follows: there is a greater need to create the right ambience for negotiation to continue unhindered.

“The indefinite nationwide strike action is, therefore, relaxed for one week from today to allow the federal government commit to a concrete and acceptable National Minimum Wage; take definitive steps to reverse the electricity tariff hike back to N66/kwh and abolish the discriminatory classification of electricity consumers into Bands.

 “The NLC and TUC national leadership are mandated to continue to maintain open channels of communication with the federal government to negotiate and secure favourable outcomes for Nigerian workers and people.”

NLC and TUC directed all affiliate unions and state councils to relax the indefinite nationwide strike and return to their respective workplaces immediately.

Both labour unions expressed gratitude to Nigerian workers and the general public for their unwavering support and solidarity in this critical struggle for improved living and working conditions. 

Senate Pledges Speedy Passage of Minimum Wage Bill

The senate, yesterday, pledged that the National Minimum Wage Bill would be given fast-tracked hearing any time it was forwarded to the National Assembly by Tinubu for legislative action.

The bill would be sent to the federal legislature for legal backing whenever organised labour and the federal government conclude negotiations on it.

Senate President Godswill Akpabio gave the assurance at plenary while reacting to news of the suspension of the industrial action embarked upon by NLC and TUC.

The upper chamber was debating a motion on the “Urgent Need for the Organised Labour Unions to Call off their Industrial Action,” when the news of the suspension of the strike was announced by Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Labour and Employment, Senator Diket Plang, from Plateau Central, had moved the motion for deliberation at plenary.

Akpabio said taking the motion would amount to jumping the gun since the labour unions had already put the industrial action on hold.

“On our part, we will continue to do our best by making contributions and at the same time awaiting the incoming bill on minimum wage for us to enact for the benefit of all Nigerians,” Akpabio said.

He appealed to the labour unions to consider all variables surrounding the increment in wage before insisting on a particular amount.

The senate president said, “There are many variables that they will look at. Capacity to pay and the ability of states, local governments and the private sector to even pay.

“They will also be looking at the fact that if the minimum wage is too high, then the possibility of retrenchment of workers will occur.

“I think they will take comparative analysis to know that the last minimum wage, which was fixed by this parliament as an Act, of N30,000.00, how many states were able to pay, how many local governments were able to pay, how many employers were able to pay?”

He added, “One of the excesses by labour was the shutting down of the national grid, which is more of an economic sabotage than agitation for a new minimum wage.

“Also, disruption or prevention of students from writing their West African School Certificate Examination by some labour unionists during the strike was bad because the examination is not organised by Nigeria but by West African countries.”

House Cautions FG Against Increasing Minimum Wage Beyond Country’s Economy

The House of Representatives warned against increasing the minimum wage beyond what the economy could withstand.

The spokesman of the House said in a statement Tuesday that the call became necessary to avoid inadvertent consequences, like inflation, redundancies, and other adverse economic costs.

Rotimi stated, “While the Green Chamber is in full support of the call for improved wages and working conditions, there is great need to exercise caution in increasing the minimum wage beyond what our economy can sustain, to avoid unintended outcomes, such as inflation, layoffs, and other adverse economic consequences.

“Thus, we restate the importance of approaching this issue from a balanced perspective to ensure long-term stability and prosperity for all Nigerians.”

The House also said it observed with concern the direction of the strike action before its suspension, and what it portended for the future.

It decried the shutdown of critical infrastructure, such as the national grid, which it said constituted economic sabotage and was detrimental to the well-being of the country.

The lower chamber maintained that those responsible for the actions must be held accountable.

It added, “We also find it troubling that the leadership of organised labour, majority of whom live far above the means of the average Nigerian, would engage in actions that exacerbate the suffering of ordinary citizens.

“It is necessary, therefore, to state that while industrial actions and dissent are fundamental rights within our democratic space that must be protected, the manner in which labour conducted itself during the just-suspended strike, largely, shows a lack of empathy for Nigerians.

“Is the objective of the leadership of the unions to compel the government to implement a living wage or to inflict pain on Nigerians?”

The House stressed that it was important to address persistent misinformation and disinformation propagated by the leadership of organised labour regarding the earnings of lawmakers.

It alleged that organised labour had for years contributed to false narratives about the remuneration of members of the National Assembly, exaggerating figures to stoke public resentment and undermine the credibility of the legislature. It said this tactic diverted attention from the core issues at stake and unfairly vilified the institution of the legislature.

The House stressed that It was crucial for all parties to engage in an honest and transparent dialogue rather than resorting to the spread of inaccuracies for political leverage.

It explained that contrary to the insinuations of the labour leadership through its social media platforms, the legislature was on the side of Nigerians and would continue to act in the best interest of its constituents, and giving meaning to its mandate.

Orji Kalu Proposes N90,000 Minimum Wage

Chairman, Senate Committee on Privatisation, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, yesterday, proposed a new national monthly minimum wage of N90,000 for Nigerian workers. Kalu stated this on the floor of the senate during plenary yesterday.

He said the amount, if paid, would resolve the lingering minimum wage impasse between the federal government and organised labour.

Warning about the inherent dangers of the industrial action, the Abia North senator urged the senate to engage separately with the federal government and the labour unions to agree on the proposed sum of N90,000.

He was contributing to a debate on a motion moved by Chairman, Senate Committee on Labour and Employment, Senator Diket Plang.

Kalu urged the senate to prevail on both parties to reach an agreement, saying N90,000 would imply a 40 per cent increase from the current wage.

While calling for speedy resolution, Kalu described the complete shutdown of Nigeria’s power grid by the labour unions as a “daring move”, saying it may take four days to bring back the grid.

Kalu stated, “Let us send a Senate delegation to the federal government and labour with the proposal of N90,000 and all the parties should agree to that.

“Pulling down the national grid is not an easy job and it might take up to three to four days for it to come up, shutting down and starting a national grid is a problem.

“The federal government and labour should be cautioned to come to an agreement. Though it’s going to be difficult for the private sector to pay, they must manage.”

Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, stated that the upper chamber, in collaboration with the executive, should sponsor a bill from a private individual, organisation or the executive so that whatever was passed would be implemented by the executive.

The Borno South senator maintained that negotiations on the minimum wage should begin and end at the senate in order to forestall future crises.

Former Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, expressed concerns over the value of the naira, which he said was more important.

According to the Yobe North senator, the new minimum wage would have no effect on the millions of unemployed in the country.

He insisted that more emphasis should be paid on strengthening the value of the naira, saying the new minimum wage will be useless if the naira continues to depreciate.

Cut National Assembly Budget, Akpabio, Abbas Told

SERAP called on Akpabio and Abbas to cut the huge National Assembly budget of N344.85 billion as sacrifice to enable the federal government meet the demands of workers.

SERAP called on the chairman and deputy chairman of the National Assembly to show that their interventions were genuine by reviewing the 2024 National Assembly budget.

The group stated, “We urge the senate president, Mr. Akpabio, and Speaker of the House of Reps, Mr. Abbas, to urgently cut the National Assembly budget of N344.85 billion, to allow the Tinubu administration to meet the demands of NLC on minimum wage for Nigerian workers.”

SERAP urged them “to request President Bola Tinubu to present a fresh supplementary appropriation bill, which reflects the reduced National Assembly budget for the approval of the National Assembly.”

The organisation also urged the National Assembly “to promptly publish details of the National Assembly budget of N344.85 billion, including the proposed spending details of the N3 billion for the Senate Car Park and N3 billion budgeted for the House of Representatives Car Park.”

Related Articles