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NLC, others threaten strike over national minimum wage rejection

The organised labour on Wednesday threatened to go on strike to protest the decision of the National Assembly to move the minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list.

The Nigerian Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria said they had rejected the planned deregulation of wages.

They argued that if allowed to succeed, it would be akin to a declaration of war on Nigerian workers and would complicate the already bad security challenges in the country.

They threatened to commence an indefinite strike following the planned exercise.

The NLC General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Esan, said in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, that the organised labour would resist the move with all the resources at its disposal.

Ozo-Esan said that the NLC had called an emergency meeting of its National Executive Committee for Monday to take a final decision on the next plan of action.

Ozoesan said that the decision was retrogressive and not in line with best practices and must be resisted.

He said “Clearly, we are opposed to the movement of the labour issues to the concurrent list. You know that the Senate President (David Mark) gave a promise to revisit the issue during a protest organised by the labour unions on this issue to the National Assembly. And the House of Representatives voted against it so it is a surprise to us.

“We are opposed to it, we think it is retrogressive, it is not an issue we will allow to stand, we are going to contest it with all the resources at our disposal. You will be hearing from us on that.

“As we speak, we have conveyed an emergency NEC meeting on it for Monday next week; it is the organ that will take the NLC’s next position on the issue…

“We have always taken a position that we require autonomy for local governments, we are ok with that, we have canvassed that position for some time. What we are opposed to is a situation, where autonomy will now affect payment of teachers’ salaries.”

Earlier, in a statement signed by the President and Secretary-General, the ASCSN, Mr. Bobboi Kaigama and Mr. Alade Lawal respectively, the association had said it would not hesitate to call its members out on strike.

The group called for “a total resistance to the move by the National Assembly to further impoverish Nigerian workers by outlawing the meagre national minimum wage through the backdoor.

The ASCSN said, “It is surprising that the National Assembly wants to complicate the security challenges in the country by inviting millions of Nigerian workers to take to the streets by its insensitive decision to deregulate wage.

“The monthly take home pay of each member of the National Assembly is about N30m. Yet, they are pained that Nigerian workers receive N18, 000 monthly minimum wage which is about $109 per month.”

“It must be emphasised that all countries of the world have National Minimum Wage which must be paid by all employers to their workers. Indeed the ILO Convention 131 of 1970, of which Nigeria is a signatory, requires member countries to institute a National Minimum Wage below which no employer should pay.”

Some lawyers also reacted to some of the amendments to the nation’s constitution as ratified by the Senate on Tuesday.

While commending the financial and administrative autonomy granted to local governments, they opposed the immunity from criminal charges conferred on legislators and the removal of accenting power of the Presidency.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dr. Joe Nwobike, said local government autonomy would free the various local governments from the undue grip of state governors.

Also, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Fred Agbaje, and a former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Monday Ubani, described the amendments by the National Assembly as a mixed bag of blessing and curse.

Agbaje said, “As far as I am concerned, the so called constitution review is a bag of mixed blessings and curse. For the local government autonomy, it is fantastic. It will help to reduce the fraud being perpetrated under the guise of joint account between the state governments and their local governments.

But Ubani warned that measures must be put in place to monitor the spending of the local government administrators.

Speaking on the issue, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Mr. Auwual Musa-Rafsanjani, said the minimum wage should remain on the exclusive legislative list.

The Ijaw National Congress on its part, hailed the National Assembly for approving financial and administrative autonomy for the local governments.

The spokesperson for the INC, Mr. Victor Burubo, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the action of the National Assembly would pave the way for the speedy development of various local government areas in Nigeria.

Burubo said “The type of autonomy the governors enjoy at the state and national level should be extended to the chairmen of local government areas so that they (council chairmen) can on their own initiate and execute people-oriented projects.”

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