…Supports State Police
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Tuesday said that it has empowered the State Councils to mobilize their members to down tools as a result of lack of commitment by respective state governments to implement the new national minimum wage of N30,000.
The organized labour has also expressed worry over the worsening security situation especially the increase in insurgency, kidnappings and other criminal activities in the country and has thrown its weight behind those demanding for the state and Local Governments police, to tackle the menace which it said was going out of hand.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, during the National Administrative Council (NAC) meeting of Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said 16 states were yet to begin implementation of the new minimum wage.
The states are, Benue, Cross River, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Zamfara and Taraba State.
According to him, 14 states have commenced implementation of the new wage, three states have only implemented the wage for workers in level 1-6 while four states were awaiting implementation.
He also announced that 16 states have signed an agreement, three states have reached an agreement but yet to sign, negotiations of the new wage was still ongoing in 17 states while Taraba state was yet to commence negotiations.
While calling on the Taraba State government to respect the provisions of the new minimum wage Act and begin negotiations immediately, he warned that no state government has an excuse not to pay the new wage, he maintained that the NLC was not forcing Nigeria to do something strange as majority of countries around the world have a minimum wage law implemented.
He said, “We have been able to make some progress we have 16 that have signed and have commenced, we have three that have reached agreements but have not signed, we have 17 that negotiations are still ongoing.
“I can say authoritatively that its only in Taraba that nothing has started; the committee has not been inaugurated, the process of dialogue has not commenced. I want to call on the Taraba state Governor to quickly respect the provisions of the minimum wage Act. The minimum wage act is already a law and every Political officeholder must respect the sanctity of our constitution and the oath of office they have sworn to uphold.
“If a worker is entitled to be paid his wages the wages must be commensurate to what has been negotiated. In 90 per cent of the countries around the world, minimum wage law is implemented and observed so we cannot be an exception.
“While appreciating those states and even the federal government that has paid all the workers under its employment including payment of arrears which has set the base and standard for states to follow, there is no excuse for any state not to pay workers a minimum wage that has been negotiated because 85% of the VAT increase goes to the states.
“We have empowered our state councils, once they reach a situation where they think there is no commitment we have given them the power to declare an action and withdraw their service and many states have done that. In Ogun and Niger, they did that before they were invited to the table. We don’t need to take any decision again to say that you need to do what you need to do.
“Once the state executive council feels that there is dilly-dallying on the minimum wage which is already a law, they should be able to enforce their own right and we will support and where they need reinforcements from the headquarters, we will be there to support them.”
Wabba who further reiterated NLC’s call for the downward wage review of political office holders maintained that in line with what was obtainable in other countries, the basic salary of politicians should also fall within the margin of the new minimum wage of N30,000
He said, “The lawmakers are being overpaid, let’s look at the basis. In other climes like South Africa, the margin between the minimum wage and what politicians earn can be determined, in fact, there are empirical data to arrive at the differential in our own case what is the differential?
“When we were receiving N18,000 minimum wage, Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission reviewed the salary of political office holders by 800 per cent today, the official salary being earned by our political elites seems to be much higher than many countries around the world.
“I was thinking that review can be upward or downward and in the case of our political officer holders, it should be downward so that we can be at the same level because we go to the same market.
” They should also be at the same margin of N30,000 and then you look at specific allowance or special allowances. That is what is done in other climes, there must be justification to arrive at a wage. Equal pay for work of equal value that is the position of ILO.
“If we are to be realistic, let us put the facts on the table, what is the earning; the official one and the non-official one put it on the table so that there will be a process of transparency to even look at the need to review downward and what we need to review downward.”
Condemning the recent sealing of the NLC Rivers State office over the minimum wage implementation, Wabba who described the action as undemocratic, illegal and uncalled for, called for the immediate reopening of the secretariat.
“Our condemnation in very clear terms of the undemocratic action of the Rivers State government who went in the night to seal off the NLC Rivers state secretariat under the laughable pretence of structural integrity, it is actually a shame.
“It is in clear violation of ILO Convention 87,98 and the labour Act which restrain public authorities from taking such action. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining is a fundamental human right that Nigeria ratified in 1960. We demand the immediate opening of the office and respect for workers rights.
“The right to collective bargaining is the universal right of every worker, even under the military, we have not experienced a situation where the office of an independent labour centre will be sealed under a false pretence and therefore we demand the office be opened immediately and let them also resume and sign the collective agreement and not to resort to blackmail and say that the situation is political.
“Are we approaching elections, elections have come and gone and those workers are workers of rivers. This is undemocratic and uncalled for,” he added.
The NLC boss expressed his support for the establishment of State Police to tackle security challenges in different parts of the country which he said had gone out of hand.
Lamenting that insecurity has assumed a dangerous dimension that was inimical to the nation’s socio-economic development, he said Congress would soon convene the 2nd national security and peace summit in order to find a lasting solution to the situation.
He explained that the practice of community policing in other parts of the world was proof that it would afford communities in the country the opportunity to secure their areas which they know like the back of their hand, against foreigners and bandits.
He said, “All over the world, security is about who is coming into your vicinity and whether they are criminals or not. Therefore, community policing is very important. We have seen that in Nigeria situation, non-state actor is playing a role in the insecurity challenges and therefore, is an issue that if put in place can assist in tackling this problem.
“Take for instance in a community, once youths who are from that community are identified, employed and given arms, they will defend themselves, that is what community policing is all about and so is a narrative that we can share and is something that can address our situation.
“Today, what we have is that most of those who are to police communities don’t even know the terrain so it is difficult to police such areas, in most cases those from the communities know the terrain and can perform better.”
Wabba who further disclosed that so far about 700 teachers have been killed in Maiduguri alone by the Boko Haram insurgents, disclosed that the insurgents lay siege on major access roads to Maiduguri at least three times on a daily basis unleashing terror on hapless civilians and retreating military.
According to him, of recent and on a sustainable basis, the Boko Haram insurgents have been hitting soft and military targets on a scale and regularity that only makes one wonder if the gains recorded in fighting against insurgency in the past have not been reversed or wiped out.
He noted that nowhere was safe in the country anymore, as other criminal activities such as banditry in the northwest, cattle rustling, agitation against physical critical infrastructure and most recently kidnapping have taken a terrible dimension that was affecting Nigerian workers the most.
Wabba who stressed on the need for the Federal and State governments to as a matter of urgency, step up their game in the security of lives and properties of its citizenry, pledged support of Congress in a driving a holistic approach and action that was gear towards ending insecurity in the country to guarantee progress and development.
“The Boko Haram insurgency between 2015 and 2016, we had some progress. Clearly, of recent and on a sustainable basis, some of those gains that have been made are being reversed and new issues and other new challenges are even being poised because the issue of Boko haram particularly in the northeast has assumed a new and dangerous dimension where most of the axis into the capital is today being blocked or most cases attacked three times a day.
“The only corridor, the Damataru- Maiduguri axis that used to be peaceful now in most cases on a daily basis they attack these major roads and communities day after day.
“NLC will reconvene a special summit on security and peace but critically beyond that, it is high time for us to stop the blame game and look at the issues as a very serious issue in the context of Nigeria’s development. No country can develop, no investor can come into a country where there is no security.
“Nowhere are we safe in the current situation and that is why NLC and Nigerian workers who have been at the receiving end we still make the clarion call for authorities to take all necessary measures to bring this situation under control. As I speak, we have lost over 700 teachers in Maiduguri alone and many other places and the numbers are still counting.”
On the outright sacking of its members by First Bank PLC and United Bank of Africa (UBA), the NLC president announced that labour would picket their offices nationwide for seven days.