Labour threatens FG on delay of minimum wage


Moruff Aderemi

The organised labour, on Thursday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to send to the National Assembly, a bill fixing N30,000 as national minimum wage without delay or risk resumption of hostility.

In their words, “We expect the matter to be properly concluded, and for the bill to be sent to the National Assembly. We expect that to happen within a couple of weeks. And if it becomes protracted we will take the appropriate decision,” General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Peter Essom, told THISDAY on Thursday.

The labour union top official spoke in reaction to the presidency’s insistence yesterday that the president had not approved any figure as the national minimum wage despite the recommendation of the tripartite Committee’s proposal of N30,000.

The presidency in a statement by Buhari’s media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, had corroborated Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s position on Tuesday that the president was still considering the committee’s recommendation and would make his opinion known in due course.

Adesina said reports that the president had reneged on his earlier acceptance of N30,000 minimum wage as recommended by the committee had been of concern to the presidency and described as unnecessary, the brewing controversy over the wage proposal, explaining that until the report and recommendation of the committee were reviewed by the executive and legislative process on the new minimum wage concluded, nobody could attribute any claim to the president.

He said the president would follow due process on the new minimum wage, insisting that the current controversy amounted to putting the cart before the horse.

He also accused members of the opposition of playing politics with the minimum wage, threatening that judgment awaited them at the forthcoming polls.

“The presidency is concerned over recurring reports alleging that President Muhammadu Buhari has reneged on earlier acceptance of the N30,000 recommended as the new National Minimum Wage by the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee,” he said, adding, “These reports are contrary to what transpired on Tuesday when the committee presented its report to the president. Responding, President Buhari, while acknowledging the concerns raised by government on affordability and labour’s focus on meaningful increase, stated clearly in a speech, which was made available to the media: ‘In a way, both arguments are valid. I want to assure you all that we will immediately put in place the necessary machinery that will close out these open areas.

‘Our plan is to transmit an Executive Bill to the National Assembly for passage within the shortest possible time. I am fully committed to having a new National Minimum Wage Act in the very near future.

‘As the executive arm commences its review of your submission, we will continue to engage you all in closing any open areas presented in this report. I, therefore, would like to ask for your patience and understanding in the coming weeks.’

“From the above, and throughout the report-submission ceremony, the president never mentioned any figure. What he committed himself to was a new minimum wage, and only after the report of the committee has been reviewed by the executive and legislative processes of government and an appropriate bill presented to him for assent.

“Until the proposed minimum wage has gone through the whole gamut of law-making, President Buhari, who is a stickler for due process, will not be caught in this unnecessary web of controversy, which amounts to putting the cart before the horse and hair-splitting.”

But labour in a swift response yesterday warned that it would not accept any form of delays, stating that it certainly would not allow reopening of negotiation over the figure already fixed.