Following the perceived dominance of governors who owe workers’ salaries representing Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, in the 30-man committee inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari to fashion out a new national minimum wage, there are fears that the road to a fresh wage regime may not be easy.
In fact, organised labour has advised workers to prepare for war to make the new minimum wage a reality, warning that there could be a stalemate and protracted negotiations.
While the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, (TUC) had since two years ago, demanded for a N56,000 new minimum wage, United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC on its part, demanded for N90,000. Meanwhile, the NLC has given indication that it will ask for more than N56,000, whereas the ULC is saying even N100,000 minimum wage will not be enough considering the indices and socio-economic realities on the ground.
The leaders of organised labour, represented by NLC and ULC, yesterday, took a suspicious look at the representatives of the NGF on the national minimum wage committee raised by the President, last week.
The governors in the committee are Rochas Okorocha of Imo State; Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State; Hassan Dankwambo of Gombe State, Simeon Lalong of Plateau State and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State.
The committee headed by a former Head of Service of the Federation, Ama Pepple, has membership drawn from the government, the private sector and the organised labour.
Speaking to newsmen on the issue, the President of the ULC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said:
“The presence of these governors in the committee, the fact that some of those representing the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, are mainly those who are not paying salaries and pensions speaks volumes.
In fact, we fear a stalemate because these governors represent anti-salary payment. They may be coming to justify why there should not be increment in salary. These are governors who have not been able to pay the N18,000 minimum wage.
They may be coming to tell you that the governors cannot bear the extra burden of salary increment.
“Surely, they have no moral justification to be in the committee unless it was by design by the NGF for these governors to represent the group. If that is the case, then, the governors have an agenda to frustrate the emergence of a new national minimum wage. Therefore, we foresee protracted negotiations .
As Organised Labour, we have to prepare for war; a long time battle to confront these governors because they do not want to pay even anything.
However they come, we will engage them and ensure that the yearning of workers for a living wage, not just a minimum wage, is met. We have all the indices to justify our demand for even N100,000 minimum wage because the socio-economic condition, the inflation, the cost of living, the depreciation of the Naira and so on, are there for every body to see.”
Similarly, speaking through its General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, the NLC said it was not unmindful of the dominance of governors that are owing salaries and pensions representing the NGF. “We noticed the dominance of these governors in the representation of the NGF.
The principle of tripartitism is that each party is free to choose its representative. So, the Governors’ Forum has chosen its representatives, there is nothing we can do about that. Yes, we noticed that most of those representing the governors are those owing salaries and pension.
But we still have the governor of Plateau State, who inherited a backlog of salaries on assumption of office, has not only cleared all the arrears, he is paying as and when due. We advise other governors to learn from him.
So, his presence in the committee is a plus. Nevertheless, we will engage the committee with facts and figures, we will engage the committee and address issues as they come.
We are prepared, Ozo-Eson said. “We have equally said it publicly that, at the time we presented our demand for N56,000 new minimum wage, we did so with the indices on ground two years ago. Today, those indices are different based on the socio-economic reality on ground.
Today, a lot of things have taken place. There is high inflation, there is depreciation of the Naira, there is general high cost of living and there is the exchange rate factor. We expect the committee to look at these issues and aggregate things. We hope this committee will function like the last one.
The last one even commissioned sub-committees to look at the socio-economic indices on the ground before arriving at the present minimum wage.”
Textile workers demand speedy negotiation In a related development, workers in the textile industry have pleaded with the minimum wage committee to fast-track negotiations for a new wage, to recover lost time, saying workers will not have patience for unnecessary delays.
Speaking through the General Secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, and a member of the National Executive Council, NEC, of NLC, Issa Aremu, the workers commended the inauguration of the minimum wage review committee.
“The five year cycle of the current Minimum Wage Act legally backing the subsisting negotiated minimum wage of N18000 signed by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010 was due for negotiation in 2015, two years ago.
The historic inauguration once again demonstrates the globally acknowledged concern of President Muhammadu Buhari to the welfare of the workers and citizens in general as contained in 1999 constitution.
History will record it that at a time some state governors unacceptably defaulted in paying workers as and when due, the President commendably wondered aloud to ask how these governors go to bed while for whatever reasons their workforce are not paid. President Buhari also went further to work his fatherly concern through serial bail outs of the defaulting states”, Aremu said.
Also speaking, yesterday, the National President of Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigerian (MHWUN), Comrade Biobelemoye Josiah, said Labour had a trusted leadership that will not allow government to use the minimum wage issue as a means of scoring political point.
“We are certain that should government try to employ delay tactics for any selfish gain, our leadership will pull out”, he said.
Josiah, who was fielding questions from journalists in Abuja at a reception ceremony organised by the Association of Medical Laboratory Technicians and Assistants of Nigeria (AMELTAN) in his honour said the NLC had made its demand known and was not likely going to change the position.
Rivers’ll Ensure Safe, Secure Environment For Economic Growth -Wike .
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said that his administration would continue to support security agencies in the state to ensure a safe and secure environment for the economic prosperity of citizens.
He said the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps, the Operation Sting and the revitalised C4i security outfits were set up to help provide security to stimulate growth and prosperity of all in Rivers State.
The governor spoke through the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, at the 2021 Conference/Annual General meeting of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Rivers State chapter, in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
“This administration has embarked on aggressive infrastructural development and a very deliberate urban renewal efforts around the capital to attract local and foreign investors to stimulate our economy.
“We have also opened up local governments through quality road networks. Upgrade of various social and recreational facilities in various local government areas,” he said.
He commended the state chapter of the NIPR for the choice of the theme of the conference: “Nigeria’s Security Situation: A Factor in Reputation and National Development”, adding that stakeholders must begin to act in a very different, drastic and positive strategy to remedy the already battered reputation of Nigeria.
He urged the NIPR to use its expertise and experience to thrive to galvanise and stimulate the populace and government at various levels for the resuscitation of citizens sense of pride and responsibility of whatever was left of the nation’s image and reputation.
“All hands must be on deck, especially reputation managers to call on government at all levels to begin to act in ways and manner that will help to revive the battered image of this country,” he added.
Welcoming guests and participants to the conference, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, who is also the state chairman of NIPR, commended the cordial relationship existing between the institute and the state government under the leadership of Governor Wike who is a honorary fellow of the institute.
“Governor Wike has been very supportive of all the activities of the Institute. That is what you also get from a visionary leader who has changed the landscape of Rivers State with infrastructure, with various developmental projects that touch the lives of the ordinary man,” he said.
Nsirim said the state chapter of NIPR was proud to associate with Governor Wike for the giant strides he has recorded and would continue to record until the end of his tenure in 2023.
“As a chapter that is responsive to the development of Nigeria, we have chosen the theme for this year’s conference as our own way of contributing to the national discourse,” he said.
He said the conference would produce a blueprint that would guide national discourse and urged participants to contribute robustly to the conversation.
“It is expected that the fallout of the conference will re-engineer national security and national development with the aim to put our country on the path of rapid growth,” he said.
In his speech, the President and Chairman of Governing Council of NIPR, Malam Mukhtar Sirajo, emphasised on the need for all Nigerians to collaborate to fight insecurity currently confronting the country’s economic and political stability.
He welcomed the theme of the conference, saying that it was coming at the time the institute had gotten sufficient worry about national security, peace and economic development.
In his keynote address, Dr. Ike Neliaku, chronicled the increasing violent crimes that had claimed thousands of lives in the various parts of Nigeria, and submitted that the rising insecurity situation in the country had impacted and would continue to impact negatively on corporate and national reputation.
He said the worrisome development would have concomitant consequence on individual and national development.
Chairman of the conference, Chief Felix Otuwarikpo, said the conference was put together to dissect the current carnage affecting the Nigerian nation.
“As an institute, we will leverage on the conference to proffer solutions to the security challenges affecting the nation,” he said.
The conference also featured the presentation of awards for good public relations and community development to some distinguished members and organisations.
Church Of Nigeria Honours Wike, Sanwo-Olu, Akeredolu, Others
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has bestowed awards for exemplary leadership qualities in a challenging economy and dedication in the service of God and humanity on the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike; Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, and Ogun State Governor, Adedapo Abiodun.
Also honoured is the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Emmanuel Abayomi, with an award for quality and equitable healthcare delivery.
The awardees were honoured at the standing committee meeting of the Church of Nigeria, at the Diocese of Lagos, Archbishop Adebola and Oluranti Ademowo Resource Centre, Faith Plaza, Bariga, Lagos State.
The Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, who conferred the awards on the recipients, said the political leaders were considered for the award for their outstanding role, courageous leadership, and standing firm in defense of Nigerians against insecurity, provision of basic infrastructure to the citizenry and the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.
Addressing the congregation on the state of the nation and the role of the church, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, admonished the leadership of the church to encourage its members to be part of the governance process in the country.
The governor noted that a situation whereby Christians leave governance for politicians alone is no longer obtainable.
According to Wike, the effect of bad leadership will also affect the church if they remain passive to the issue of governance.
“You must be part of choosing leadership. Don’t say you have no role, you have a role. When you don’t participate, bad leaders will emerge and when bad leadership emerges, you are part of it.
“You must encourage your people to be part of leadership. I didn’t go to any school to study leadership.
“So, nobody should say that as a Christian you cannot be a governor, no. The head of SUBEB in my state is a priest and you can see the leadership he has given to that agency today. You will feel proud about it. That used to be the most corrupt agency, but today it is headed by a priest and you can see the difference.”
Wike decried the inherent injustice that has characterised the Nigerian State, and urged the church to speak against socio-political issues adversely affecting the progress of the country.
“We say we are all one Nigeria. We went to World Bank to borrow money to do specific projects. One of the states that make up Nigeria I hear is Rivers State. And I also know in paying this money back to World Bank, money that comes from the resources of my state will be used in paying back this money. But my state was denied to have projects from that loan.”
The Rivers State governor said a situation where states depend on the Federal Government to survive can no longer be tenable, and insisted that states must be allowed to collect revenues such as Value Added Tax (VAT) to enable them improve the welfare of their people.
“You have gone to take loan and I am one of those states that will pay back those loan and you deny me to benefit from the projects that that money will be used for. I have no problem with that.
“Allow me the one (VAT) the Constitution says I am entitled to, let me collect that one and develop my state.”
He regretted that some governors in Nigeria have refused to think out of the box on how to boost economic activities in their states.
“There is flood in my state, it requires N200millon, I will go to Abuja to beg. Even as a governor, I will knee down before a DG of an agency of government. You will knee down for a director just because of N300million. That is the status of some of the governors of some states.”
In his remarks, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, commended the church for its support, and announced the waiver of N2billion for land acquired by the Church of Nigeria in Lagos State.
The governor stated that Nigeria and the rest of the world are going through difficult times amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and used the occasion to canvass for mass vaccination of the citizens.
The Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, while speaking on the theme of the conference: “Abiding in Christ: God’s Panacea in an Unstable World”, lamented that Nigeria was fast becoming a land flowing with tears and blood because of the impact of terror, banditry, herdsman attacks on communities and kidnapping.
He said a situation in which communities that are predominantly Christians are targeted one after another in some parts of Kaduna State and North-Central of Nigeria was unacceptable.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to brand the bandits and herders attackers as terrorists and let them be treated as such.”
The Primate urged Nigerians to avail themselves the opportunity 2023 general election offer to exercise their right to choose new leaders.
He appealed to the Federal Government to urgently address the free fall in the value of the country’s currency because of the attendant impact on the store of value and confidence of investors.
Rivers Begins Process To Check Flooding
The Rivers State Government has said that it was working with relevant agencies to roll out the process that would check perennial flooding in the state.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, disclosed this at a media briefing in Port Harcourt, last Wednesday.
Nsirim, therefore, called on those living and doing business in the state to play their part in line with the programme that would be executed by government to address the problem of flooding.
He frowned at the situation where residents of Port Harcourt had turned the drainage systems into refuse bins, and warned that “that is not what it should be.
“The present administration under Governor Nyesom Wike is desirous to make Rivers State a destination of choice and that is why the government has embarked on massive infrastructural development in line with its urban renewal programme.
“So, what is expected of those living and doing business in Rivers State now, is to co-operate with government to ensure that the urban renewal programme and the plan by government to make this state a destination of choice is realised,” he said.
He noted that the state government could not do it alone as it required the support of corporate organisations, civil society groups, religious organisations and the media to enlighten their publics on the need to behave as responsible citizens.
He called on the media to embark on massive enlightenment programmes along the line of the roles of citizens in checking flooding in the state.
“We believe that if the citizens cooperate with government, as government is out to ensure that everyone living and doing business in the state does so in a healthy environment, we believe that in the next few days or weeks we will find a solution to this (flooding),” he said.
Nsirim also announced the names of entrants selected for the essay competition on the title, “Our State Our Responsibility” introduced under the second phase of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign of the ministry launched at the beginning of this month.
He said those shortlisted were expected to be at the conference room of the ministry by 11am on Monday, September 27, 2021, for a physical test to ascertain their original ownership.
Those shortlisted are: Jessica Hart, Samuel William, Amarachi Chimezie, Jasper Dorcas, Jaja Tamunoimiegba Christian, Sophia Oyibo, Blessing Pepple, Anyiam kelechukwu, Deborah Adegbami, Gift Samuel, Okiche Golden, Okiche Miracle, Orovwigwo Deborah, Otuka Goodluck and Ziga Paago.
By: Beemene Taneh
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