The Nigerian government has finally set a date for the transmission of a bill for a new national minimum wage, a move aimed to stop the organised labour from starting a strike about a month before a presidential election.
The federal government has repeatedly dithered on the labour’s demand for a new wage figure, refusing to commit to N30,000 recommended by a tripartite committee.
Still, President Muhammadu Buhari assured he would review the recommendation and send a bill backing a new wage figure to the National Assembly.
With the Nigeria Labour Congress and its affiliate unions threatening a protest and a nationwide strike, the government on Tuesday agreed to send the bill on January 23.
The decision came after three days of talks.
Tuesday’s meeting held between 1p.m. and 3:30p.m. at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma were present at the meeting with the NLC, TUC and other labour unions.
The meeting took place the same day the labour unions held a nationwide protest over the minimum wage.
In his opening remarks, the minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, said protests were no longer necessary and threats should be withdrawn since both parties have reached an agreement.
“On part of the government, we are going to try to religiously implement all the processes that will enable us to transmit this bill within the stipulated time. We have a target time of January 23 and we hope that all things being equal, the executive will be able to do so. We will take it to the statutory meetings of Federal Executive Council, National Economy Council and the National Council of States to enable us to transmit the bill on the new national minimum wage,” he said.
The national president of Nigerian Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba said the labour unions agreed to the date but warned it would not tolerate a breach.
Mr Wabba, urged the government to keep to the date so that the process can be completed.
The unions threatened the process will be reviewed with necessary action taken without reverting to the government.
“Our position is clear and through our negotiation, they know very well that not yielding to the terms is going to spell a reaction not good for the industrial atmosphere of the country. We have it in good faith that they will honour their part of the bargain. We will continue to sensitize our member that once it is 24th and nothing is done, we swing into action,”he said.
According to him, the ministers and the labour unions have signed a memorandum of understanding. With that, I think we can actually follow up on the process. We have asked them to keep faith with the timeline so that this thing can be concluded. Having submitted the Report, we expect that the bill is transmitted and that is what we discussed. We know that the members of National Assembly want workers to get desirous minimum wage,” he said.
“Clearly speaking, we have been diligent and we have always been carrying our members along. Our power is from the membership. Until the money is in their pocket, it will still be a story. We have told them to carry this message to all government houses in Nigeria. This is an issue that affects every worker. Any governor that said he is not paying should be ready for the rot of those workers,” Mr Wabba said.
The deputy president of the Trade Union Congress, Sunday Salako, said the labour unions and government were committed to the processes and an agreement has been reached.
“Both of us are committed to the processes. I mean the government and labour. We’ve reached a clear understanding. Transmission to National Assembly must be on or before 23, January. After that, should anything negative happen, labour will not revert to Government again?” he said.
The NLC has been at loggerheads with the federal government over a new minimum wage.
The NLC and other labour unions demand that the national minimum wage is increased to N30,000 from the current N18,000.
But presently , the national assembly is on recess and will resume January 16.