Soludo, Assembly Move against New Minimum Wage

David-Chyddy Eleke reports that as the struggle for a new minimum wage continues, workers in Anambra state may find it difficult to benefit as both Governor Charles Soludo and the house of assembly have been accused of a strong aversion for workers’ welfare.

Recently, workers in Anambra State had a clash with members of the state house of assembly. Members of the organized labour in the state were on an exercise to enforce national strike in the state when it’s leaders had a collision with lawmakers that almost degenerated into a brawl.

During an enforcement exercise, a lawmaker and member representing Aguata II Constituency, Hon Tony Muobike, had bullied Labour leaders, saying they have no right to come to the assembly to picket their workers. He was quoted in several publications as saying that Anambra workers were lazy and do not deserve better wage. He was said to have added that robots are better than them, and that very soon, they will be replaced with robots as they are not worth higher wages. This had led to altercation and threats of physical violence.

The altercation began when Muobike criticised workers and suggesting they did not deserve minimum wage saying “If you talk again I just give you a devastating slap. Stop talking.” He went ahead to call Labour leaders unprintable names, just as they retaliated verbally.

Organised labour in the state, on its part, while reacting to threats of physical violence by Hon Muobike in a statement jointly signed by the state secretaries of NLC and TUC, Comrades, Gaius Chukuka and Alex C. Ebi respectively, described the lawmaker’s behaviour as weird.

The workers’ statement read in part: “The Organized Labour Anambra State wishes to set the record straight on what transpired between the organized Labour in Anambra State and House of Assembly members on the 3rd day of June, 2024.

“Before now, Organized Labour was silent on the dehumanizing utterances of the All Progressives Grand Alliance lawmaker representing Aguata 2 Constituency, Hon Anthony Muobike who we all knew how he ascended into the House of Assembly until we started reading thrash on the social media for his indefensible act on aggrieved Anambra workers.

“His immature attitude shows the disconnect between him and his constituency. Without cause he callously accused Anambra workers as not deserving a minimum wage and could be replaced by Robots. The question was, were the workers protesting against Prof Charles Soludo, the state governor he was allegedly defending? He is 

 lacking all the qualities of a lawmaker in modern times to have uttered such gutter words.

“The organized labour in Anambra State  were on a peaceful monitoring to ensure total compliance that all public offices were closed, but on getting to the Anambra House of Assembly complex, we discovered that there were activities going on in the complex with their access gate wide open. The problem started when the members of the congress were chanting a solidarity song demanding that the complex should be shut down as Anambra State is not an exception. We were surprised over the reaction of Hon. Anthony Muobike.

“Why threaten workers led by their leaders with physical violence? It shows his level of intolerance and toutish behaviour in the face of people with genuine demands and a nationwide protest. It is quite unfortunate and if Hon. Anthony Muobike is honourable as claimed, he should be apologizing to Nigerians and workers of Anambra State over his sabotage on the struggle of the labour unions to alleviate the hardship on Nigerians.”

Another commentator, Mr Tony Okafor, said: “Muobike’s comments, suggesting that workers do not deserve a minimum wage and can be replaced by robots, are not only callous but also dehumanizing. His threat of physical violence against union leaders is a disturbing display of aggression and intolerance.

“It is unacceptable for a lawmaker to resort to such behavior, especially when faced with legitimate grievances from workers fighting for their rights. Muobike’s rhetoric is a slap in the face to the hardworking men and women who keep our society running. It perpetuates a harmful narrative that workers are expendable and disposable, and that their struggles are insignificant.

“This kind of language has no place in our public discourse, especially from someone in a position of power and the ruling party, APGA, in the state. To say the least, Muobike’s psyche on that occasion was  incongruous. We call on Hon. Muobike to apologize for his hurtful comments and to engage in constructive dialogue with the labour union leaders.”

Another Clash

Also, in February this year, workers of the assembly, under the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) had clashed with lawmakers when they declared strike. This had left many wondering how lawmakers who earn fat salaries can be so averse to the well-being of workers who work everyday in same establishment with them.

PASAN members had carried placards and banners during a peaceful protest to the assembly complex to protest poor pay and working conditions. 

The deputy National President of PASAN, Comrade Promise Onwukwe, who led the protest accused lawmakers of recruiting corps members to perform their duties instead of paying them the stipulated wage.

He said: “You go to collect or submit mails and you will be trekking from one office to the other under the sun, while those that you are working for are cruising in air-conditioned vehicles. It might not be far from the truth that Governor Charles Soludo may have provided all these things (their demands) but they are no where to be found and this is unfortunate. Go round the complex (Anambra House of Assembly), you will see that it has been over grown by grasses and staff kill all manner of reptiles, snakes and scorpions almost every week.”

Reacting to the allegations, Majority Leader of Anambra State House of Assembly, Hon Ikenna Ofodeme, rather insisted that the protesting staffs were not under them, 

He said: “Most of those staff are strictly under the office of the Head of Service and they are posted to come and work with the state Assembly members.They are duty bound to listen to where they are posted. If they don’t want to work at the House of Assembly, they are free to go back to the Head of Service and not to come here to disrupt the activities of the House of Assembly.”

With the above mindset, many have started doubting that even if the NLC accepts a new national minimum wage, it may be difficult for workers in Anambra, under the current Soludo-led government and the current House of Assembly to enjoy it. This is because the governor himself has also been quoted on many occasions as not being in support of a higher minimum wage. 

In a recent interview on national television, the President of NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero stated that while negotiations were on with federal government over wage, “the governor of Anambra State, Prof Chukwuma Soludo was busy calling other governors and inciting them to reject the new minimum wage.”

Also, a member of the leadership of the NLC, Comrade Benson Upah in another interview on national television insisted that Anambra was among the worst states to serve in as a civil servant. Upah insisted that in Anambra State, despite the rejection of N62,000 minimum wage by NLC, the state under Soludo still pays N20,000 as minimum wage.

Meanwhile, Governor Soludo, has continued his campaign against a new minimum wage by cautioning President Bola Tinubu against approving an improved wage, saying it is not feasible for employers to pay. Speaking at The Platform Nigeria, a programme organized by a Lagos-based church, Soludo warned that approving an unsustainable minimum wage would be risky. He emphasized that if President Tinubu approves a wage that employers cannot afford, the consequences would be solely on him. He urged the President to consider the economic implications of such a move.

Several stakeholders have reacted to what they called the anti-workers stand of both the governor and the state assembly. 

Reacting to this, a public affairs analyst, Mr Ikenna Nwubaka said: “When we say that Anambra entered one chance with someone like Soludo, people think it is politics. God forbid that I be a civil servant under Soludo because the people are suffering.

“Come to talk about the attitude of the lawmakers towards workers, I can only say that they are influenced by the attitude of their master, Soludo towards workers. How has Soludo treated workers since he came aboard? The issue of poor pay has been on the front burner, but recently, Soludo invited labour leaders and schooled them thoroughly like pupils and they came out to agree that he is actually right by paying them N24,000 as salary, instead of the current N30,000 national minimum wage.

“He even bamboozled them with calculations that minimum wage is calculated by net wage, not gross earnings or something like that, and they all clapped for him and came to face the media. I fear that if the federal government approves a new minimum wage, Soludo who has shown aversion for workers’ welfare will not pass it, and he will be aided by the current state assembly which is also not so workers friendly.”

In the meantime, the current minimum wage in Nigeria is N30,000, and labour is seeking a significant increase due to the high cost of living and the erosion of the value of the current minimum wage. The government has proposed a 100 percent increase to N62,000, but labour is pushing for a higher amount. Negotiations are still ongoing, and it remains to be seen what the final minimum wage will be.

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