Abuja — The federal government yesterday bowed to pressure by organised labour, promising to send a bill on the N30,000 new national minimum wage to the National Assembly on or before January 23.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on the outcome of a meeting with the leadership of the organised labour, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said the government would religiously implement all the processes that will enable it transmit the bill within the stipulated time.
He said the report on the new minimum wage would be taken to all statutory meetings of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), National Economic Council and the National Council of State before a final decision would be made.
"We have a target time of January 23, 2018 and we hope that all things being equal, government will be able to do so. We will take all statutory meetings of the Federal Executive Council, National Economic Council and the National Council of State meetings to enable us transmit the bill on the new national minimum wage," he said.
Ngige thanked the labour unions for their understanding and appealed to them to stand down their threats on protests and industrial action.
On his part, the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Ayuba Wabba, said he would brief all the labour organs and give them all the details contained in the Memorandum of Understanding.
"We have finally been able to reach a clear understanding on the processes and timeline for this bill to be transmitted. We are committed to the process and hope that the timeline will be respected. We will put this across to our organs and give them all the details contained in the Memorandum of understanding," he said.
Wabba further said that the leadership of the labour movement would insist on a firm commitment so that government will not renege on its promise.
He said, "We want the agreement to be documented and signed by government representatives. With that, we can follow up on the process. This thing has been on the table for more than two years and having submitted the report, we expect that the bill should have been submitted.
"The National Assembly will be back on January 16 from their recess, so on or before January 23, the bill must have been transmitted. We know that the National Assembly is desirous of making sure that workers in Nigeria have decent wage, they will also be able to do the needful. We will shift our lobby to the National Assembly because once the bill is enacted, the money will be in the pocket of the workers." he said.
The organised labour had earlier yesterday in Abuja, urged the president to immediately transmit the new National Minimum Wage Bill to the National Assembly.
Addressing the workers' rally yesterday at the entrance gate of the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory in Abuja, Wabba also stated that Nigerian workers could not afford three meals daily.
The National Executive Council of NLC had threatened to embark on a nationwide protest yesterday if the federal government failed to send the Tripartite Committee Report on N30,000 Minimum Wage to National Assembly.
The organised labour gave the ultimatum following the president's statement that a "high powered technical committee," would be set up to device ways to ensure that its implementation did not lead to an increase in the level of borrowing.
Wabba said the protest rally served as a warning to the federal government before a nationwide strike if government continued to delay the transmission of the minimum wage bill to the National Assembly.
According to him, workers welfare and wellbeing must be paramount, saying that was why they insisted the rally must take place across the length and breadth of the country.
He said, "Today in every government house in Nigeria, the protest is taking place, and here we are in the office of the Minister of the FCT.
"We want to say that workers are very central to economic development and very central to the prosperity of any country and therefore we cannot be described as the tiny minority.
"Workers are very productive, we built the Nigerian economy, we fought for democracy, rule of law and good governance and there is no way we can be described as tiny minority, as we service the entire country.
"So workers must be able to take care of their families, send their children to school, but today, workers are not able to feed three times a day or send their children to school.
"Because minimum wage of N18,000 is no longer realistic to take care of workers' needs."
Wabba said N30,000 was agreed on, adding that Nigerian economy is capable of sustaining the new minimum wage.
He said, "We are here to submit our letter of protest and demand like our states councils are doing in their various states right now, to the FCT Minister for onward transmission to Mr. President.
"We want to call on Mr. President for the onward transmission of the bill to the National Assembly as the protest rally served as a warning before a nationwide strike."