President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba (M), addressing members of the NLC, during the 2019 May Day celebration at the Eagles Square in Abuja on Wednesday (1/5/19). With him are: President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Bobboi Kaigama (2nd R); President of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). Comrade Najeem Yasin (L), and other leaders of various labour unions. 03429/1/5/2019/Albert Otu/TA/NAN
Life is becoming increasingly excruciating for workers, citizens ― Labour
Urges FG to review privatization on power
Pleads with Atiku, others not to overheat polity
Call for scrapping of Service Wide Vote
Ngige, Saraki, Dogara absent
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA- PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday assured Nigerian workers that the new N30,000 minimum wage would be fully implemented by his administration.
This is as the Organized Labour at the May Day rally otherwise known as workers day in Abuja said that average workers and citizens of the country were passing through excruciating hardship as a result of inflation on all items.
Meantime the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara were conspicuously absent at the rally.
In his address, President Buhari who was the Chief Guest of Honour assured the workers that his administration would continue to provide enabling environment for high productivity.
According to him, “On assumption of office in 2015, in spite of the daunting economic challenges, which confronted us at the time, we ensured that no worker was retrenched across the country. We further kept faith with this commitment by providing bailout funds for States unable to pay salaries and other benefits in order to pay accumulated arrears. We also released the Paris Club refunds owed since 2005 to make sure workers were not owed anything.
We also ensured the payment of outstanding benefits of retrenched Nigerian Airways workers owed for decades. We also ensured the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), also paid arrears owed to parastatals and Civil Service pensioners covering 101,393 Civil Service pensioners on all grade levels and 76,310 parastatals pensioners across 186 agencies.
“This is in addition to arrears paid to pensioners in the Police and Customs Services in 2016 and 2018. Our administration also settled the issue of benefits of Nigerian Armed Forces and Paramilitary personnel who were dismissed and later pardoned for participating on the side of the secession in the course of the Civil War from 1967-1970. All of these veterans have now been paid their benefits.
“Our Social Investment Programmes is the largest of its kind in Africa, and it is directed at ensuring that we are able to provide opportunities in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy.”
He promised to continue to commit the administration to the cause of improving the lot of every working Nigerian and providing for those who cannot work.
The President represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said ” In this regard, the new National Minimum Wage, which Mr. President signed into law a few days ago, shall be fully implemented by the current administration.
” Let me once again express our deep appreciation to the leadership of the Nigerian Workers for the understanding showed during and after the negotiations of the new National Minimum Wage. We shall continue to provide the enabling environment for higher productivity, industrial peace, and harmony, as well as a congenial atmosphere for effective collective bargaining amongst trade unions and employers, while also protecting fundamental rights and other lawful rights of the Nigerian people and especially people who are at work.
“At the just concluded general elections, Nigerians and indeed Nigerian Workers gave our administration another mandate to govern them. We shall reciprocate this electoral gesture by focusing on the critical issues that will advance speedily and improve the quality of lives and livelihoods of Nigerians.
“These include the building of infrastructure, roads, and rail, hydroelectric power, and also reforming key driving sectors of the national economy in order to put the country on a sustainable path of economic growth and prosperity.
“We are especially committed to changing the narrative in the power sector. Today that sector, after it was privatized, still remains challenged in delivering power to many Nigerian homes and businesses. We must work as a matter of national importance and we are committed to doing so, to rework and re-engineer the sector for much more effective performance.
“Workers shall be called upon to play greater roles in supporting the government to attain all these goals I have stated.
“Industrial peace is central to economic stability. Every industrial disruption costs the national economy very dearly in money and man-hours that are lost.
“It is for this reason that I urge all actors in the industrial relations system to be more circumspect, patriotic and ethical in the use of industrial actions as tools for resolving workplace crisis and addressing grievances. Industrial actions, because of the huge economic and social costs, must be the last, not the first option for resolving disputes. ”
In a joint address, the leadership of NLC and theTrade Union Congress (TUC) congratulated President Buhari and all the newly elected political office holders at the 2019 general elections, urged aggrieved politicians to resort to judicial process rather than heating the polity.
They said, “While acknowledging the difficulties associated with the 2019 general elections, we congratulate all those elected into public political offices during the last polls.
“We call on political leaders at all levels of government to re-dedicate themselves to the task of governance by demonstrating genuine empathy and affinity to the suffering of the Nigerian people.
“We urge all elected political office holders to fulfil the promises they made to Nigerians. We implore those whose political aspirations were not realized at the last elections to demonstrate the spirit of sportsmanship.
“We also urge those who feel cheated at the 2019 polls not to overheat the polity but to engage the judicial process for justice,” Ayuba Wabba, NLC President urged.
The two Labour centres who applauded the courage, resilience and patriotism of Nigerian workers, pensioners and their families who have continued to endure the profligacy and profanity of an unrepentant ruling class, however affirmed that: “Our fists struck in collective commitment to the struggle are sufficient to achieve the social justice we all desire.”
While reflecting on the state of the economy, Wabba observed that: “despite promising nature of Nigeria’s economy, our economy is yet to be weaned from import dependency. Our economy remains essentially rent seeking, subsistence, non-inclusive, vulnerable to shocks from the global commodities market, fraught to unwieldy inflationary trends and unable to create sustainable mass jobs.
“Despite the best efforts of the government to diversify the economy, attract foreign direct investment, increase our foreign exchange revenue and create more jobs, these efforts are being frustrated by systemic challenges. These challenges include endemic corruption, institutional chaos, crises in our social sector, and disabling physical infrastructure – electricity supply, water, rail system, road network, inland waterways transportation etc.”
He further argued that the double digits inflation on all items (year on change) had dropped from 11.44% in December 2018 to around 11.25 per cent in March 2019, has negatively impacted on the purchasing power of Nigerian workers.
“Yet, the unofficial reality shows that life is becoming increasingly excruciating today for the average worker and citizens. The phenomenal hike in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as ‘fuel’, or ‘petrol’ in 2016, the devaluation of the Naira in the same year and increase in the cost of electricity in the past five years have sustained high inflationary rates.
“The persistence of double-digit inflation and stagnant remuneration for workers has almost wiped off the purchasing power of Nigerian workers,” the NLC President stressed.
In the bid to industrialised the nation’s mono-product economy and address the increasing unemployment rate which currently stands at 43 per cent, the Labour chiefs also urged President Buhari’s administration as a matter of urgency, “emulate the tested and proven prototypes elsewhere in places as Singapore, Argentina, Brazil, India, and China to attract relevant production lines and labour-intensive industries to Nigeria.
“This would help to engage the teeming population of our country in industrial production, build the skills of Nigerians and place Nigeria in a progressive manufacturing trajectory.
“Similarly, the government should provide practical incentives and support to encourage large scale industries to develop networks of SMEs to be part of their production networks and supply chains. This is the most viable way to promote horizontal integration.”
The Labour movement also urged Buhari’s administration to scrap “Service-wide votes as they encourage arbitrariness, undue discretion, and abuse of public financial management tools by dishonest public officials.
“Furthermore, the release of capital budgets should be tied to performance based on job certification. This is a fundamental way of tackling official graft and ending the regime of arbitrariness and indiscretion in public finance management.”
They also insisted that the veteran Labour leader, Chief Frank Kokori must lead the NSITF even as they lampooned the Minister of Labour and Employment for the controversy sorrounding the chairmanship of the Fund.
Why Ngige was absent ― Ministry
A statement from the Ministry of Labour and Employment explained that Minister Senator Chris Ngige who was represented by the Mi8of State was absent because of ill health
According to the statement, “Contrary to uncivilized attitude and barfaced lies contained in the address of the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, I wish to state for the avoidance of doubt that the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige was absent at today’s Worker’s Day rally for reasons of ill health.
“The Minister has been down with flu since last Sunday. He met his doctors last Monday and has since been at home recuperating.”
In his address at the rally, Ngige said, “Recently, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Minimum Wage Bill, 2019, which has granted Nigerian workers a new Minimum Wage and a legislated periodicity of review.
“Though the journey was long and tortuous it was worth the trouble, effort, and sacrifice by all especially the workers. Also, the new National Minimum Wage Act has the following additional features favourable to workers:
“The Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage (TCNMW) is now a standing Committee with an expanded composition of membership.
” The Committee has been empowered to recommend new National Minimum Wage for the nation after every five (5) years and comes to life six (6) months before the end of the five (5) years.
“The workers’ representatives can now directly approach the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) on matters concerning non-compliance with the provisions of the new Act on National Minimum Wage.
“Trade Unions’ roles are now more prominent as they have powers to report infractions on behalf of their members and they can approach the NICN on behalf of their members.
“Powers of monitoring and enforcement of the Competent Authority has been strengthened by the Act.
“Penalties for default have been reinforced. This Act is of immediate effect from April 18, 2019, and hence all entities, States and Local Governments are to start paying immediately. Also, Private Sector employers are to do the same.
” We expect immediate discussions with the different Joint Negotiating Councils for consequent adjustments “upstairs” as a result of the movement from N18,000 to N30,000.
” Government’s favourable responses to workers’ struggles have been immense and admirably over the years but of recent it is to be noted that the current Administration in its four (4) years during my period as the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, has negotiated on behalf of workers to ensure that:
However, workers from the Presidential Villa, who participated at the match past, demanded the immediate payment of the new minimum wage. The workers with a banner with the inscription: ‘Nigerian workers deserve a living wage’, however, declined to speak further on their demand.
Other inscriptions displayed by various unions read: ‘Government, respect court order on staff schools,’ ‘Mr. President pay our outstanding salary arrears now’, ‘Next level: Stop the killings and kidnapping, provide security,’ ‘Implement cotton, textile and garment policy, reopen textile and garment industries’
Others were, ‘The poor still crying, banish poverty’, ‘Arise o compatriots, patronise Nigerian made products’, ‘Next level: Let there be light, end darkness’s, ‘Stop gender-based violence at work, support an ILO convention and recommendations’, ‘Next level: Arise o compatriots, Let there be jobs for all’s,’ ‘US hands off Venezuela, no war on’, ‘EU put more value on human freedom than fish and phosphates’, ‘No to Morocco’s occupying West Saharan’, ‘We demand referendum for self-determination and independence of Western Sahara’, among others.