The Federal Government and Organised Labour yesterday finally agreed on a timeline of January 23, 2019, for President Muhammadu Buhari to forward a bill for the N30,000 minimum wage to the National Assembly for passage into law.
The agreement was signed in Abuja by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) president, Ayuba Wabba and president of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Bobboi Kaigama.
Wabba warned that if the bill is not transmitted on or before the date, the next step would be a total strike: “Yes, we had a lengthy meeting which ended early today before the protest rally.
“We trashed all contending issues and we agreed that all processes must be concluded on or before January 23 for the bill to be on the table of the National Assembly.”
Ngige said that the timeline of January 23 date was arrived at for the National Assembly members to return from Christmas and New Year recess on Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
“We have made progress for the bill to be transmitted to the National Assembly. It has been difficult to arrive at a date because there are processes to follow on the bill.
“We have to go to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) with a council memo on the bill. After that, we will go to the National Economic Council and the Council of State.
“We can’t control the FEC date, the same with NEC, but for the National Council of State, the President has to look at his own time-table and we inform past Heads of State and Justice of the Federation.
“This can take two weeks, but we are trying to see if we can accommodate all these meetings by next week because we cannot do Council of State meeting again this week. Immediately after that meeting (Council of State), we will transmit,” the Minister assured the labour leaders.
Meanwhile, warning strikes by labour rocked Abuja and state capitals throughout the country yesterday to protest the delay in transmitting the minimum wage bill to NASS by Buhari.
In Abuja, Wabba led a group of workers to present the letter of protest to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), for onward delivery to the President.
The protest caused heavy traffic on Lagos roads, while many commuters were stranded at the various bus stops, just as Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and members of the State Assembly shunned the workers who were at the Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja, to deliver a letter from the central body.
However, when Mr. Benjamin Adeyinka, a Special Adviser to Ambode told the protesting workers that the governor was not available, they shouted and insisted that the gate should be opened.
Some of the placards carried by the workers read: “N30,000 minimum wage, not negotiable”; “place politicians and workers on the same living wage salary structure.”
The protest started from Maryland as early as 7 a.m., to the secretariat, resulting in heavy traffic on Ikorodu Road to Alausa, Ikeja.
Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani-Bello, reassured the protesting workers in Minna of his administration’s readiness to pay the proposed N30,000 new minimum wage.
He said: “I have no problem with the implementation of the payment of N30,000 minimum wage to our workers and I believe this matter will soon be put to rest.”
Head of Public Affairs of the Congress, Comrade Benson Upah and the state chairman, Comrade Idris Ndako who led the protest.
It was a mild drama in Owerri, Imo State, as the protesting workers disagreed with their chairman, Austin Chilakpu, on destination half way into the march. The chairman directed that they proceed to the SSG’s Office to submit their protest letter.
This did not go down well with some of the workers who thought he was tactically diverting them to avoid contact with Governor Rochas Okorocha at the Government House where they initially agreed to end their protest. Chilakpu, however denied the allegation.
Kano State Government expressed commitment to pay the N30,600 as the new minimum wage to its workers.
NLC state chairman, Kabiru Ado Minjibir during the rally and visit to the Government House, who acknowledged this, to implored the state government to extend their request to fellow governors to advance the course of the new minimum wage and its speedy enactment into law.
Deputy Governor, Nasiru Yusuf Gwanna, reaffirmed: “Kano State Government is ready to implement the new minimum wage as soon as all the processes are completed.”
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, reaffirmed his commitment to pay the proposed N30,000 minimum, saying the state was already paying N25,000.
The state chairman of the NLC, Emmanuel Ademokun, had vowed that NLC would boycott the general elections if the N30,000 minimum wage bill was not transmitted to the NASS by Buhari.
Represented by the Head of Service, Mr. Isaac Ehiozuwa, the governor said: “The state is labour-friendly and we will implement whatever is passed into law by the National Assembly.”
The protest paralyzed social, economic and industrial activities in Akure, Ondo State. For the hours that the protest lasted, major roads were blocked by the protesters.
The workers who converged on Adegbemile Cultural Centre as early as 7.00am began the peaceful demonstration with solidarity songs and later moved to Governor’s Office, Alagbaka.
Wabba represented by Dr. Yemisi Bamgbose, presented a letter to the SSG, Mr. Ifedayo Abegunde, who addressed the workers on behalf of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.
The Zamfara State chapter of the NLC described the non-full implementation of the old N1800 minimum wage by Governor Abdul’Aziz Yari Abubakar as a deliberate and act of wickedness.
Its chairman, Bashir Talata Mafara, workers would no longer tolerate the government and its attitude: “The refusal to fully implement the N1800 minimum wage by the state government is deliberate as we have template for it. But if the new wage is approved we will ensure it is effected across board.”
He said the state NLC decided to invite few workers for peaceful protest due to the precarious security in the state, which led to the death of many people and destruction of property worth millions of naira.
“We workers in Zamfara state are in support of the directives by the national leadership and will continue to act on them until our problems are resolved by implementing the new N30,000 minimum wage in the state,” he said.
Workers stormed the Government House, Awka, Anambra State, demanding that Governor Willie Obiano comply with the terms of the new minimum wage.
Leading the workers, the state chairman of NLC, Jerry Nnubia, said: “Your Excellency, workers had thought that they would have celebrated the New Year with the new minimum wage, and that did not happen, and up till now, we are still struggling for it. We urge the government to do the right thing be cause workers are suffering.”
Representative of the NLC president, Uche Ekwe, said: “How can governors tell us they do not have money when they keep hiring private jets and incurring huge cost.
“As far as this minimum wage increase is concerned, we want to let them know that push has come to shove, and we will never back down until the right thing is done.” The SSG, Prof Solo Chukwulobelu, who received the workers on behalf of the governor, said Obiano was in full support of NLC on the demand for a new minimum wage: “The welfare of workers has been upper most on the mind of the governor.
“He released some incentives, including free transport for workers and prompt payment of salaries to boost their morale.”
The NLC in Gombe State also took its protest to the Government House, Gombe, to deliver a letter to Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo.
The chairman, Haruna Kamara, told the acting Head of Service, Alhaji Yakubu Abba Bajoga, who represented the governor that, “what we are saying is that Mr. President should transmit the minimum wage agreement to the National Assembly for enactment as 2018 bill for Nigeria workers.
“The President and Nigeria governors should do everything humanly possible to make sure that the bill is passed and implemented for Nigeria workers.”
Bajoga assured the workers that the governor would do the needful by delivering the letter to the appropriate authorities.
The Delta State chapter of the NLC vowed to expose state governors not committed to the implementation of the proposed N30,000 minimum wage.
It promised that it would also use the opportunity of the general elections to punish such governors and other politicians seeking elective offices.
The state chairman, Mr. Jonathan Jemiriegbe, stated this in Asaba after leading a rally to the Government House, Asaba, where he presented a position paper to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
Okowa seeking a second term in office promised to implement the new minimum wage once approved at the national level.
Represented by his Chief of Staff, Tam Brisibe, he said his administration is labour friendly, and commended the organized labour in the state for its cooperation and support in the past three years.
Jemiriegbe later told newsmen: “We will continue to mount pressure on government to expedite action in passing into law the new national minimum wage and its implementation, the onus lies on labour to do the needful.
“We don’t want to be saboteurs in the electoral processes. We don’t want anybody to say that labour wants to truncate the elections.
“But the issue is that if the election must be successful, the aspect of the new minimum wage is not a thing you can just wave aside. The minimum wage is a determinant factor for any politician seeking elective office.”
Chairman of NLC in Benue State, Godwin Anya, was absent at the protest march in Makurdi, following an attack on him and members of his family by gunmen.
In a telephone chat with newsmen Anya said he could not lead the protest because of the robbery attack in which his wife was shot.
He disclosed that he travelled to his village in Ushongo to celebrate the Christmas and New Year when on New Year eve, some gunmen invaded his home.