• Tinubu pledges executive bill to fast-track passage into law
• NLC, TUC, NACCIMA lament effects of inflation, FX crisis
• SGF acknowledges subsidy removal policy brought hardship, says review germane
Nigerian workers, yesterday, expressed optimism as the Federal Government finally inaugurated a 37-man tripartite committee to plan a new national minimum wage for the country.
Currently on a private trip to France, President Bola Tinubu set out modalities for a comprehensive review of the existing minimum wage. Tinubu, represented by the Vice President, Kashim Shettima inaugurated the committee, with members drawn from Federal Government, state governments, Labour circle and the Organised Private Sector, urging them to employ collective bargaining agreement in their consultations to come up with a workable wage for workers.
He directed that governors, ministers and the head of the Civil Service of the Federation who are members of the committee must personally attend the committee meetings, and in the event where they are unavoidably absent, their deputies, commissioners and Permanent Secretaries should represent them.
Specifically, the tripartite committee is tasked with the responsibility of proposing a new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
Nkiru Onyejeocha, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, in her remarks, charged the committee to expedite action and ensure that issues around the minimum wage were completed before the April deadline. “Everything we’re going to do must end before April 1. There’s no need to delay because it is something that is backed by law and we must obey the law”.
Festus Osifo, president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), lamented that workers were facing an excruciating period, assuring that the negotiation would stand out. “As of the time we proposed N200,000 minimum wage, if you can recall, inflation had not gotten to where it is today.
“Also, at that time, the official exchange rate was somewhere around N450 to $1. At the parallel market, the rate was somewhere around N700 to $1. But today, all these have been shattered. What that means is that we’ll go back to the drawing board because Nigerian workers are battered as we speak; I mean the pay today is nothing,” said Osifo.
On his part, Joe Ajaero, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said the outcome will depend on the commitment of the Federal Government. “What is going to happen will depend on the commitment from the government and the negotiators.
“If the workers today are expectant, they want a robust minimum wage, I believe there won’t be any rigidity coming from the angle of the government. So, I’m in line with what my TUC president said. ”
Humphrey Ngonadi, national president of the National Association of Chamber of Commerce (NACCIMA), expressed concern that the new minimum wage may be eroded by inflation and urged the Federal Government to first address inflation concerns.
“If a worker is paid N1 million as a minimum wage and a bag of rice is N900,000, the N1 million still has no meaning. So, as we are thinking of hiking the salary of the workers, the government should think of how that money will add value.”
Ahead of negotiation on the new minimum wage, organised labour has proposed a living wage of $300 for workers. It argued that the current minimum wage of N30,000 has since been eroded by the high exchange rate coupled with the abrupt removal of fuel subsidy which has translated into high cost of living in the country.
Chairman, Trade Union Side, Joint Meeting of the National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), Benjamin Anthony, presenting the position of labour yesterday at the 2023 meetings of the Separate and Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council held at Goshen City, Nasarawa State.
Anthony, who was represented by the secretary of the union, Boma Mohammed, also frowned at the recent delays in payment of salaries by the Federal Government to workers, saying the trend must be stopped as the suffering in the land is already unbearable.
He said: “As earlier stated, the time to review our minimum wage has come, in doing this; we must all agree that the current wage of N30,000 has since been eroded by the high exchange rate coupled with the abrupt removal of fuel subsidy which has translated into high cost of living in the country.
“There is no gainsaying that the cost of a bag of rice is far more than the so-called minimum wage, and to worsen the situation, the government is not prompt in the payment of the collectively agreed N35,000 wage award.
“In light of the above, Labour has proposed a living wage of $300 for Nigerian workers. This is due to the fall in the value of our currency. Today, if you carry N100,000 to the market, you will come back with a leather bag of items.
“We call on the government to immediately pay the arrears of the N35,000 wage award along with the current and expedited action on the process of getting a new living wage to bring succour to the working class people.”
Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, the convener of the meeting, urged leaders of the organised labour to tow the path of dialogue in their engagements with government, to achieve peace and stability towards enhanced productivity in implementing government policies.
Yemi-Esan, who was represented at the event by the Director overseeing the office of the Permanent Secretary, Service Welfare (SWO), Dr Kemi Adeosun, said she believed that the positive impact of the meeting and subsequent ones would serve to maintain a stable and goal-driven public service in the country.
Many of the workers, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, commended the Federal Government on the move of the tripartite committee and sought for a minimum wage that would be commensurate enough to take them home.
A Level-8 civil servant with the Ministry of Works, Ikechukwu Nnanna, said he was hopeful that his story on finances would change this year, as he had been battling with financial challenges over low income. Expressing his confidence in the committee, he urged that the government, in the end, approve a wage that would be a win for all.
A Level-7 civil servant and mother of four, based in Lagos, Titilope Tijani, who prayed that a humane wage be negotiated, lamented that she had to pull her children from the private school they attended as she could not cope with their fees due to high inflation and cost of living.
A member of the tripartite committee and president of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, submitted that everybody in the committee would come together to arrive at a consensus.
“We are looking forward to a collaborative negotiation and we trust that all social partners will approach the negotiation with good faith to ameliorate the economic situation of the country. Everybody expresses commitment to arrive at a good and acceptable workable minimum wage for workers,” he said.
A top official of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), who craved anonymity, said he expects the committee to hit the ground running so that the report would be ready even before the end of March, by which time it would be assented to and become an Executive Bill that would be passed to the National Assembly for passage into law.
“We hope we can get a new Minimum Wage Act that comes in place before the expiration of the current one on April 19, 2024.
“We are going to make our initial demand and the government will make theirs, at the end of the day, a process would reach a ground that is expected to help Nigerian workers, social partners and the Nigerian economy and put Nigeria on the map of comity of nations that is looking out for the good of its citizens and not impoverish them,” he said.
Already, ahead of yesterday’s inauguration, The Guardian gathered that labour has been working round the clock to ensure that its wage demand can hardly be faulted by both government and private sector employers.
To ensure that labour demand is data-based, NLC directed its state councils nationwide to collate the cost-of-living data in towns and local government areas in the states.
The circular, earlier in January, titled, ‘National minimum wage negotiation- Data collection: Urgent action required’, was sent to state councils by NLC’s General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja.
President and Chairman of Council, Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), Ray Atelly, while reacting to the inauguration of the committee, warned that whatever conclusion the group of eminently qualified Nigerians reaches at the end, it might still not be enough to take care of the needs of workers, unless the government equally takes steps to shore up the value of the Naira.
He said this would be possible if the government drastically cuts down on the volume of Naira in circulation and then incentivises manufacturers and export-oriented non-oil industries, “that way, the pressure on the Naira will reduce drastically,” he said.
Former Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Bukar Goni Aji is chairing the committee. Members of the committee include Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, Minister of State, Labour and Employment; Wale Edun, Minister of Finance & Coordinating Minister of the Economy; Atiku Bagudu, Minister of Budget Economic Planning; Dr. (Mrs) Yemi Esan, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation; Dr. Nnamdi Maurice Mbaeri, Permanent Secretary, OSGF and Ekpo Nta, Chairman/CEO, National Salaries, Incomes And Wages Commission (NSIWC), who will represent the Federal Government.
Those to represent the state government include, Mohammed Umar Bago, governor, Niger State – representative from North Central; Bala Mohammed, governor of Bauchi State – representative from North East; Umar Dikko Radda, governor of Katsina State – representative from Northwest; Prof. Charles Soludo, governor of Anambra State – representative from the Southeast; Ademola Adeleke, governor of Osun State – representative from Southwest; and Otu Bassey Edet, governor of Cross River State – representative from South-South.
From NECA – Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, Director-General, NECA; Chuma Nwankwo; Thompson Akpabio with also members from the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) to include Dr Michael Olawale-Cole, National President; Dr Ahmed Rabiu, National Vice President and Humphrey Ngonadi (NPOM), National Life President.
The membership from the National Association of Small and Medium Enterprise (NASME) are Dr. Abdulrashid Yerima, President & Chairman of Council; Theophilus Nnorom Okwuchukwu, Private Sector representative; Dr. Muhammed Nura Bello, Zonal Vice President, Northwest and also from the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) are Mrs. Grace Omo-Lamai, Human Resource Director, Nigerian Breweries; Segun Ajayi-Kadir, Director-General, MAN; and Ada Chukwudozie, Managing Director, Dozzy Oil and Gas Limited.
From the organised labour, Joe Ajaero, President of NLC; Emmanuel Ugboaja; Adeyanju Adewale; Ambali Akeem Olatunji; Benjamin Anthony and Prof. Theophilius Ndukuba.
From the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) sector include Festus Osifo, President, TUC; Tommy Etim Okon, Deputy President I, TUC; Kayode Surajudeen Alakija, Deputy President II; Jimoh Oyibo, Deputy President III; Nuhu A. Toro, Secretary-General and Hafusatu Shuaib.
Source: The Guardian