Workers, through their unions expressed anger yesterday at the N27,000 minimum wage recommendation of the National Council of State, as the Federal Government transmitted the executive bill on the new minimum wage to the National Assembly.
The National Council of State, NCS, comprising past Presidents, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Senate President and governors had in a meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday, approved a new minimum wage of N30,000 for federal workers and N27,000 for states as well as the private sector and mandated the President to forward executive bill to the National Assembly.
The transmission of the bill came yesterday as senior public servants, under the aegis of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, and Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, insisted on the N30,000 minimum wage for workers across the board, imploring the National Assembly to do the needful.
Confirming the transmission of the bill to the National Assembly yesterday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, said the bill had been forwarded to the parliament.
He said: "Well, Mr. President has transmitted the communication in respect of the minimum wage. The bill has been transmitted to the National Assembly and it is inappropriate to speak on it until it is read."
Meanwhile the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has commended organized labour for exhibiting maturity during the negotiation process, despite some misunderstanding with government.
The minister stated this at the maiden edition of a capacity building workshop for members of the Labour Correspondents Association of Nigeria, LACAN, in Abuja.
Speaking on the topic, "The Minimum Wage Question in an Election Year", Ngige said: "Let me call on all the participants at the workshop to make the best use of this opportunity to understand the delicate intricacies involved in wage negotiation, socio-economic variables, interplay of political forces and interest groups as well compelling demands to comply with international best practices.
"This undoubtedly will positively impact on your professional competence in labour journalism. I cannot end this address without acknowledging the tremendous understanding exhibited by Organized Labour, in spite of our initial misunderstanding on the best way to adopt in arriving at a mutually beneficial outcome.
"The Federal Government is highly indebted to you for your patience, maturity and faith in the entire negotiation process. These attributes enabled us to resolve the temporal impasse without throwing the country into an unnecessary inflamed wage crisis. I salute you for this.
"Wage negotiations the world over are no doubt contentious and in most cases, controversial. It is in this regard, that the process requires rigorous intellectual discourse that will enable a rational decision to be reached in order to have a National Minimum Wage that enjoys general acceptability."
Meanwhile, senior public servants, under the aegis of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, and Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, yesterday urged the National Assembly, NASS, to ignore the recommendation of the National Council of State, NCS, and approve N30,000 as national minimum wage for all workers.
ASCSN and NUT insisted that N30, 000 National Minimum Wage had earlier been agreed through a democratic process by the Tripartite Committee, saddled with the task of providing a new National Minimum Wage for the country.
In statement in Lagos, ASCSN President, Bobboi Kaigama and the Secretary-General, Alade Lawal, emphasized that lawmakers, being the representatives of the people, could not afford to short-change Nigerian workers by siding with the Executive arm of government which appears bent to scuttle the negotiated N30,000 monthly National Minimum Wage.
The statement read: "As we write, Nigeria has become the poorest country in the world. Yet instead of approving a living wage for workers, the Presidency is hiding under the National Council of State to subvert N30,000 monthly National Minimum Wage recommended by the Tripartite Committee after extensive consultations and deliberations, including touring the six geo-political zones of the country before it arrived at that figure.
"Indeed, by recommending two parallel Minimum Wage, one for federal workers and another for state governments and private sector employees, members of the National Council of State made up former Presidents and ex-military Heads of State as well as state governors have given the impression before the international community that their knowledge of the global concept of a National Minimum Wage in our country is suspect. It is this type of decision that continues to make Nigeria a laughing stock before the comity of nations.
"The International Labour Organisation's Convention 131 of 1970 stresses that the purpose of a National Minimum Wage is to protect workers against unduly low pay and help to ensure a just and equitable share of progress to all and a minimum living wage to all who are employed and in need of such protection.
Minimum Wage: National Council of State approves N27,000
"Nigerian workers are the least paid in Africa, despite enormous petroleum resources that have continued to be siphoned into private pockets by the political elite.
"For instance, Nigeria National Minimum Wage stands at $58 per month, while that of Libya is $325; Algeria, $155; Chad, $110; Morocco, $310; South Africa $232, Seychelles $304, etc."
The union posited that former Presidents, ex-military Heads of State and Governors who receive millions of naira monthly were pained that Nigerian workers want to receive N30,000 monthly which amounts to N1,000 per day.
"What a pity. How can a worker live on N1,000 per day, let alone fend for his or her spouse, four children and dependants? By insisting on N27,000 as Minimum Wage for States and Private Sector employees, the members of the National Council of State have shown how insensitive and heartless they are.
"We urge the Trade Union movement, Civil Society groups, Students organisations, market women and other mass organisations to prepare to resist the deliberate plans of the government to continue to impoverish Nigerian workers and other underprivileged groups in the country," the union contended.
Similarly, NUT through its Secretary General, Dr Mike Ene, in Abuja, said: "It is unfair and needed to be addressed immediately because a worker is a worker everywhere in the country, either with the federal or state government.
"The N30, 000 translates to N1,000 per day. We insist that the N30,000 stands for all workers in the country."