•As Buhari begs labour to consider govt’s efforts to fix economy
•President gets Report of Tripartite Committee 4.45pm today
By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Johnbosco Agbakwuru ,Omeiza Ajayi & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA – Nigeria’s organized labour yesterday suspended its planned industrial action earlier slated for today, (Tuesday) just as a new national minimum wage was pegged at N30,000 by the Tripartite Committee set up by the Federal Government.
Vanguard learned that the labour unions had extracted a firm commitment from the government to pay the N30, 000 it demanded as new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
“Agreements have been reached and documents have been signed. Organized labour will want to use this medium to thank all the tripartite partners for their understanding. Organized labour also decided that the proposed strike action is hereby suspended and we hope that this will be communicated appropriately without any dilution”, said Ayuba Wabba at the end of the tripartite meeting Monday night.
Both labour and government officials however declined to give the figure that was arrived at, saying President Muhammadu Buhari would announce the new figure when he receives the committee’s report.
On his part, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha thanked the committee for doing a wonderful job on working on the processes of introducing a new national minimum wage for Nigerians.
He said the report of the committee would be submitted to the president Tuesday evening.
“The president has graciously accepted to receive the report tomorrow. I want to put on record the gratitude of the president and Nigerians to members of this committee for putting national interests over and above the constituencies that they represent”, he said adding that government will expedite action on implementation of the report.
Chairperson of the committee and former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Ms Ama Pepple also thanked members of the committee for their dedication to duty and specifically thanked the Kebbi state Governor, Atiku Bagudu for personally attending nearly all meetings of the committee.
Part of the report to be presented to the president which was sighted by Vanguard last night reads:
“Based on the analysis and consideration of available materials, the indicative figure of Thirty-Seven Thousand, Seven Hundred and Sixty Eight Naira Thirty-Seven Kobo (N37, 768.37) was suggested as the mean/average by the Sub Committee on Recommendation of a New National Minimum Wage (NMW) for the consideration of the plenary of the Committee. On the receipt of the Report of the Sub-Committee, Plenary considered the Report and adopted Scenario 3 as a basis for negotiations. Negotiations commenced with offers and counter offers. After prolonged negotiations, Organized Labour and Organized Private Sector (OPS) opted for N30,000 per month as the proposed new NMW considering all other factors while the Federal Government insisted on N24,000 (Twenty-Four Thousand Naira) as the new NMW; After further negotiations, a motion was moved by Amechi Asugwuni of Organised Labour and was seconded by Ahmed Ladan Gobir of Organised Private Sector for N30,000 per month as the recommended new NMW.
In view of the above, the Committee kindly invites Mr. President to: note that the meeting adopted the motion proposing N30,000 (Thirty Thousand Naira) per month as the new NMW; and note that the Federal Government insisted on N24,000(Twenty Four Thousand Naira) per month based on the ability to pay.
The Committee hereby presents N30,000 (Thirty Thousand Naira) per month, as the recommended new National Minimum Wage for consideration.
“Draft Bill on National Minimum Wage
The Committee carefully considered the 1981, 2000 and 2011 Acts of the National Minimum wage and based on its decision prepared a draft National Minimum Wage Bill 2018 which is attached as annex IX to the report”.
We have concluded — Pepple
Speaking to reporters while the meeting was on break, Chairman of the tripartite committee, Ms Ama Pepple, said: “We have concluded and we have a little challenge with what we call Chapter 5 of our report, that is where we have the numbers and the figures we used for the negotiations. The committee has two figures – the N24, 000 suggested by the federal government and the N30,000 given by organised labour.
Govs have no choice — Ngige
On his part, Labour Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige had asked governors to accept the federal government’s proposal. He said: “We are making progress. The governors’ figure should be the figure of the federal government. We are just trying to carry them along. That is why we made the discussions ‘tripartite plus’.
‘’It is just because we want to carry them along, otherwise the federal government speaks for governments. Yes, the figures are standing but we know that there are other processes. It has to go through the Federal Executive Council, the National Executive Council and the National Council of State, then an Executive Bill will be transmitted to the National Assembly.”
Asked if the two figures would pass through those processes, he said: “Yes, because the federal government’s figure is noted and is also weighty because it says that it depends on the ability to pay, affordability and sustainability.
“Labour is quiet satisfied, we are doing the needful, we have passed the rubicon. The only aspect of it now that we need to do is to fix an appointment for the handing over of the report to Mr President.
‘’We are reconvening tonight (last night) because that appointment has to be got because the President has gone home. He is not just sitting down in the office. If we get the appointment now, we will reconvene later and agree on how to proceed.
“The governors have no choice now because they have attached themselves to us because we are the supreme sovereign, they are minor sovereigns.”
On whether the strike would go on as planned today, he said, “no”, referring all enquiries to labour leaders.
All the labour leaders at the meeting, however, declined media enquiries, saying they were on break and the meeting would reconvene later (last night).
Before this development, many critical sector unions had directed members to fully comply with the strike directive by leaders of NLC, TUC and ULC.
Among the sectors are Aviation, Financial institutions, Maritime, Electricity, education, Transportation, where Maritime Workers Union, MWUN, National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE, and Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals, ANAP.
Others include National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, NUBIFIE, Association of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions,
Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, Non Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, Nigeria Civil Service Union, NCSU, National Union of Railway workers, NUR, and its senior staff counterpart.
Meanwhile, President Buhari had earlier pleaded with organised labour to consider what his administration was doing to fix the nation’s economy and shelve the planned strike over disagreement on minimum wage figure.
President Buhari, who made the plea when he received members of the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria who paid him a courtesy visit at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said the country lost a good opportunity between 1999 and 2015 to make huge investment in infrastructure with the resources at its disposal.
He reassured Nigerians that his administration will sustain massive investments to upgrade and develop the country’s transport and power infrastructure.
The President in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, said: “There is no part of the country I haven’t been to, having attempted to be President four times.
‘’I know the condition of our roads. The rails were literally killed; there was no power, despite the admittance of some previous leadership that they spent $16 billion on the sector.
‘’Today, we are getting our priorities right and we believe that of the three fundamental issues we campaigned on – security, the economy and fight against corruption – we have remained very relevant and Nigerians believe we have achieved something.”
Appealing to the NLC to reconsider its position on the planned strike, President Buhari said the appeal was pertinent, in view of what his government inherited and the frantic efforts he was making with fewer resources to put the economy right.
President Buhari also appreciated the People’s Republic of China for financing some of the rail and power projects in the country through concessionary loans.
‘’I will do my best to see that where there are possibilities of making a quick improvement on infrastructure, we will do it,’’ he said.
He took note of some concerns raised by the retired ambassadors, including an appeal for the adjustment of their pension entitlements, retention of diplomatic passport for retired career ambassadors, allocation of land for ARCAN headquarters in Abuja and adequate funding of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, among others.
Saraki appeals to FG, Labour over proposed strike
The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, had also earlier appealed to the Federal Government and organised labour to work together to avert the proposed workers’ strike in the interest of Nigeria.
Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, urged the two sides to demonstrate sensitivity and concern for the plight of ordinary Nigerians who were already battling with the harsh economic conditions in the country.
He expressed appreciation for the patience displayed by labour leaders, noting that the issue of the new minimum wage could have been resolved long before now.
“My appeal is for the two sides to immediately move fast, shift from their extreme positions and create a new middle ground in the negotiations.
‘’The shift in positions can be done, even before the period of the commencement of the proposed strike, so we do not further create tension within the economy.
“At this point, the interest of the people should be paramount in our minds. Any labour strike will cause inconvenience and discomfort to our people. While the government and labour are representing the interest of the people, it is important to also ensure we avoid any action that will not show sensitivity and sensibility to the plight of the people,” Saraki stated.
End dispute — Oba Akiolu
Similarly, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, who is the permanent chairman of Lagos State Council of Obas and chiefs, also appealed to government and organised labour from his London home where he’s currently holidaying.
He noted that innocent traders, commuters, the sick and school children were worst hit by such actions, adding that with greater understanding and tolerance of opposing views, both government and labour could amicably resolve lingering issues to the advantage of all.
The Oba, who counseled against hard line stance on all sides to the dispute, stressed that no one should provide opportunity for enemies of Nigeria to truncate the nation’s hard-earned democracy and the fragile peace we currently enjoy.
Oba Akiolu also appealed to the federal government to come up with palliatives that can address the welfare needs of citizens especially as Christmas is approaching while talks on the minimum wage progress.