…Says union fixated on uniform minimum wage
By Omeiza Ajayi, ABUJA
Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum PGF, Salihu Moh. Lukman has condemned the silence of organised labour amidst debates regarding restructuring and in the face of the recent food blockade from the North to the South.
Lukman in a lengthy statement on Sunday in Abuja said the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC is fixated on having a non-implementable, uniform, national minimum wage instead of admitting that Nigeria’s existing framework is defective and seeking ways of dismantling it to allow for devolution of powers.
He said the elementary analysis would caution about the consequence of continuing with a centralised framework for minimum wage legislation based on using the financial capacity of the Federal Government to fix the national minimum wage that is hardly informed by economic indices of work output across the country and reflecting all sectors of the economy.
“Therefore, to use the capacity of Federal Government as determining variables for minimum wage fixing would be almost suicidal”, said Lukman.
The NLC had in a communique after its March 2, 2021, National Executive Council NEC meeting, announced that should the need arise, it has empowered the National Administrative Council NAC to declare and enforce a national strike action especially if the legislators continue on the ruinous path of moving the National Minimum wage from the Exclusive to the Concurrent Legislative List.
In addition, the communique which was signed by the NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and Acting General Secretary, Comrade Bello Ismail also ‘condemned and rejected in its entirety the ploy to decentralise Nigeria’s judiciary through the establishment of State Judicial Councils describing the move as unpatriotic, self-serving and an attempt to throw Nigeria into judicial and social chaos.
However, Lukman challenged the NLC to disclose its position with regards to reforming the nation’s judiciary and true federalism as a whole.
He said; “One wonders, what is the position of NLC regarding all the debate on True Federalism? Proposals of moving minimum wage to Concurrent List is only an integral part of the debate. NLC prides itself, being part of organised labour, as ‘about the only truly pan Nigerian organisation with a diverse membership that cuts across tribal, ethnic and religious affiliations which have continued to speak and champion the rights of Nigerians regardless of creed and breed.’
“With all these claims, why is the NLC unable to speak or intervene on the issue of blockade of supply of food items from the North to the South by Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria AUFCDN? With AUFCDN being an affiliate of NLC, which at the time of the NLC National Executive Committee NEC meeting (March 2) was going through very difficult times and Nigerians also going through difficult times as well, is it that the issue of blockade of food supply to the South is not an important matter requiring the attention of the NLC and perhaps a resolution in the Communique of its March 2nd NEC meeting? It is not only on the issue of the minimum wage that NLC should demonstrate its nationalist credentials. Nigerians want to see a pan Nigerian NLC actively providing a united rallying point for the resolutions of all our divisive challenges”.
State Judicial Councils
Lukman also explained that one of the All Progressives Congress APC True Federalism Committee recommendations is that states should have State Judicial Councils, which should take over the functions of the National Judicial Council (NJC) in relation to state courts. This will be more in tune with our federal system. At the same time, it will preserve the independence of the judiciary in the states through the State Judicial Council similar to the function of the National Judicial Council (NJC) in relation to federal courts.’
According to him, the standard of NLC is that it always has a comprehensive position. “If it is going to object to any proposal, it will always be within the context of advancing its own position. It is difficult to situate NLC’s objection to the establishment of the State Judicial Council based on a clear proposal of how we should proceed as a nation with the task of reforming our judiciary. Or is the NLC suggesting that reforming our judiciary is not needed? It is therefore very disappointing that the voice of NLC is missing in all the debate on True Federalism or Restructuring. Perhaps on account of its absence in all these debates, all manner of divisive campaigns is going on in the country”, he stated.
He said on the issue of Power Sharing and Rotation, Resource Control and Type of Legislature, the APC Committee sought memoranda from Nigerians and public hearings in all the six geopolitical zones of the country held.
“Dedicated public hearings for labour, women, youth, civil society and physically challenged groups were held. Unfortunately, both NLC and TUC did not honour invitations to the dedicated public hearings. But in many of the Zonal public hearings State Councils of NLC and TUC participated”, he stated.
On minimum wage legislation, the APC Committee also recommended that each state should be free to decide its remuneration based on its resources and productivity.
Lukman also condemned the NLC for threatening representatives in the National Assembly with the strike because individual members such as Hon. Garba Datti Mohammed has sponsored a bill in the House of Representative on the need to move the minimum wage to Concurrent List.
“Is the proposed bill seeking to move the minimum wage to the Concurrent Legislative List in the Nigerian Constitution not going to be subjected to a public hearing? Why is the NLC not preparing to engage the public hearing? Maybe the best form of engagement is to prevent any public hearing from taking place with the threat of a strike. But with or without the public hearing, why is the NLC not able to deploy the strike weapon to compel the resolution of all our democratic problems, including achievement of true federalism, however it chooses to define it?
“Somehow, it is difficult not to conclude that NLC and its leadership have a misplaced priority. As a union federation, its primary responsibility should be to ensure that Nigerian workers are able to have all it takes to guarantee maximum production. Wages are supposed to be the shares paid to workers for their role in the production. As things are in Nigeria, at all levels, production is low and in many cases wages, especially in the public sector, are hardly a function of workers’ productivity. Part of the difficulty, which our democracy must address is the question of developing the labour market. With more than 200 million population, could NLC be contented with its current low membership of far less than 20,000?
“The implication of what NLC is campaigning for is that current unacceptably high levels of unemployment and low wages should be retained. If the truth is to be told, the minimum wage of N30,000 in present-day Nigeria for any family is an apology. In terms of potential, if our workers are optimally productive, the minimum wage should not be anywhere less than N100,000. What is the proposal of organised labour, including NLC regarding how to increase employment, have a decent wage that is indexed with both workers productivity and cost of living realities? Is it even an issue for concern for our labour leaders that workers productivity in the country is low?
“Resolving these issues requires a holistic approach, which should be about reviewing all our existing frameworks. If we want to be a federalist nation, centralised frameworks will completely undermine the capacity of our institutions to meet our national needs. Thinking out of the box requires that we first accept that part of why we have most of our problems, including low wages, in the country is because of existing distortions in our federal system. We need to develop our democracy and we need to ensure that as a nation we operate a truly federal system”, the PGF DG submitted.