By Victor Ahiuma-Young
ILORIN—NIGERIA Labour Congress, NLC, yesterday in Ilorin, Kwara State, said Nigerian workers were fed up with government delay in implementing the N18.000 new minimum wage and was ready for a showdown over the matter.
President of NLC, Comrade Abduwaheed Omar, who announced the fruistration of Nigerian workers, said leaders of NLC would meet next week to take a definite decision on the matter.
This came as Vanguard gathered that the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, plans to meet with President Jonathan to hasten processes leading to the implementation of the wage that was agreed to by Justice Alfa Belgore Minimum Wage Committee.
Comrade Omar told newsmen after the opening of the 6th National Labour Summit and Award Ceremony, organised by Michael Imodu National Institute For Labour Studies, MINILS.
He lamented that the two months given to the government to conclude all the processes required for the implementation and its eventual implementation expired September, but the government was still foot dragging.
According to him: “In the first place, I believe you heard the minister statement because I took him on and he said that the executive is still working on it, that the National Assembly will have to legislate on it and I think you need to report what is in the speech.
But on our own part during our National Executive Council meeting in Akure, we said with the submission on the justice Mohammed Alfa Belgore committee report, within two months government should be able to fine-tune everything and come up with legislative to back it up and this two months has effectively elapsed on 30th of September.”
“We are having our NEC and other organs meetings from Monday next week and this is one of the things that we are going to report to the NEC. We also believe that the time being taking for this is too much and we think this issue is very serious and if not for the confidence Nigerian workers have on us, by now they will have started reacting but I think their patience is really running out and the only way is for the government to expedite action to make sure that this law is passed as soon as possible so that we can get over this.”
“Definitely the NEC is going to look at the report and will take a position. We are going to report comprehensively to the NEC, I am sure they will take a position on that. We are aware of all what is happening and am sure nobody will blame Labour in hurrying up on anything because we have exercise enough restraint and we are getting to the place where something has to be done.”
However, Vanguard gathered that the Minister of Labour, Chief Wogu, plans to meet with President Jonathan to see how the process leading to the implementation could be fast-tracked.
An official of the ministry told Vanguard that this had become imperative to wade off labour threat of industrial unrest.
However, earlier in his speech, Chief Wogu, said: “The recently concluded negotiation of Minimum Wage, which will receive legislative attention, is also part of this administration’s commitment to promote decent work in Nigeria. This is in addition to the overhaul of the social security system, especially the obsolete Workmen compensation Act, which will soon be replaced by a more progressive Employees’ Compensation Act.”
Meanwhile, Comrade Omar has faulted non-recognition of the role of Labour leaders and Nigerian workers in the struggle for and eventual independence of Nigeria.
According to him: “The theme is also very apt “Nigeria @50, appraising the role of Labour in nation building” this is the missing link, I want to tell you that a very elaborate celebration was carry out throughout the country led by the Federal Government of Nigeria regarding the 50 years. We have come so far as a nation, what is there according to government everybody contributed and these things were laid on the table but very unfortunately as we have seen that the celebration was not comprehensive as it ought to have been especially as regarding those we celebrated.”
“Let me tell you on certain terms that the nucleus of those who struggled for the independence of this country was certainly found by the first organized protest walk by railway workers in 1942 and was led by Pa Michael Imoudu.
Another general strike of 1945 was also led by pa Michael Imoudu by Nigeria workers which took about 44 days but could not be call off completely until 45 or 46 days due to lack of communication then. Again, in 1949 the ever valley massacre of 21 cold miners in Enugu show the kind of sacrifice Nigeria workers has to do in the struggle for the self determination.
Now all these are there and even pa Michael Imoudu also led foundation for political process in this country because he has strong link with the formation of NCNC. He also joined a party for the farmers and the founding fathers of Nigeria Labour Party then. My lamentation is that at the end of the celebration, 50 most prominent Nigerians were selected and awarded by Federal Republic but pa Michael Imoudu and others like him were absent from that list. I don’t really know what we are celebrating and the procedure for selecting these 50 persons.
These are people who put their lives on the line and it is on the basis of these struggles by the Labour movement that nationalists built upon and the politicians capitalized on but when it comes to celebrating who did what, we feels some of the people are not qualified. I know the list of the 50 most prominent Nigerians ranges from those who got medals in sport to those who merely hand over powers from one government to another.
But those who put their lives on the line were not recognized. Their only crime is the constituency they came from. I am glad that the President had acknowledged that there were errors in their selection and I hope that the mistake will be rectified.”