Minimum Wage: Who Are The Economic Saboteurs, Political Office holders or Labour?

By Suleiman Umaru and Elizabeth Chukwuma

The last may not have been heard about the Organised Labour national minimum wage demand.  George Akume, a former governor of Benue state and now Secretary to the Government of the Federation who had made it possible for Labour Representatives to return back to the tripartite Committee handling the ongoing Negotiation on the new national minimum wage appears to have worsened matters.

The SFG, in his  recent remarks had said  that the shutdown of the National Grid for the 24 hours that the striking unions had thrown the country into darkness over the new national minimum wage talks amounted’ to treasonable felony and economic sabotage’’. 

But Labour would not take it.  The Labor activists were said to have made the SFG, to understand that the real  economic saboteurs that should be tried for treasonable felony   are the Lawmakers and political officeholders who ‘’loot the nation’s treasury, divert public resources which ought to have been used  to fund tertiary institutions and equip  government owned   hospitals with drugs, including those who are involved  in foreign exchange  round tripping , padding budgets,  inflating contracts, and  Petroleum Products importers and marketers who steal billions of naira in the  name of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, petrol subsidy .

Akume: SFG, Labour are economic saboteurs

The former Benue state governor, who, over the last couple of weeks has been looking for ways to get the duo of Festus Osifo, President, Trade Union Congress, TUC and Joe Ajaero of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and other prominent Labour Leaders who withdrawn from further participation in the tripartite Committee handling the national minimum wage Negotiations   on grounds that it was acting out a script of the Federal government.

Akume the SFG,, had said that the shutdown of the National Grid for the period of the strike  by the aggrieved workers had led to the Nigerian government losing  billions of naira that could have been generated and paid into the Federation account.

 Benson Upah, Head, Information and Public Affairs, NLC, who may have spoken the mind of the Labour Leaders in a statement had said that ‘’the real economic saboteurs   are the politicians who wore costly Agbada and drive in convoys   all around the country occupying the corridors of power at the local government, state and Federal levels and not the workers, who have genuine grievances.

Upah: political officeholders are the real economic saboteurs

He had described as laughable, the former  Benue state governor’s assertion that  he cannot afford   to pay each of  his four drivers  N100,000.00 monthly , let alone the N250,000.00 being demanded by the Labour Representatives in the tripartite Committee.

  The Organised Labour Representatives in the tripartite Committee, who were said to brought down their national minimum wage demand from the initial N494,000.00, per  month, were said to have proposed  that N250,000.00,  should be the country’s new national minimum wage  at the last  meeting of the tripartite Committee  in Abuja, the Federal Capital, Territory, FCT, FCT.  

Appearing on Channels Television’s The Morning Brief on Monday, June 10, 2024,  Chris Onyeka,  NLC, Assistant  General Secretary,  had said that Labour   will not accept  the latest government’s offer  of N62,000.00 to be the  coutry’s new national minimum wage   or the N100,0000.00  proposal by some individuals and economists. ‘’We have never considered accepting N62,000.00 or any other wage that is below  what we know is  able  to take  Nigerian workers  home’’, Onyeka had said.

 He was emphatic that Labour will not negotiate ‘’a starvation wage for workers’’. He may have cleared the air on the national minimum wage issue when he declared that ‘’Labour is still firm at the N250,000.00, per month , new national  minimum wage   demand’’   

Whether the SFG, is ready to pay hi four drivers that N100,0000.00, national minimum wage, being demanded  by  the TUC, NLC and other Labour  leaders involved in the ongoing Negotiation to arrive at an acceptable figure to serve as the country’s  minimum wage as they were said to have  come down from the initial N494.000.00 demand or not appears to be  meaningless to Labour. 

The activist was said to have made it clear to the powers that be at both the state and Federal levels that Labour  will stand firm in their demands and will continue to pursue the new national minimum wage demand through all legitimate means available to them including strike.

Upah, may have sent a message to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu , who incidentally was a former governor of Lagos state and who is determined to approve a new national minimum above the N60,000.00 recommended by the tripartite Committee , may have been told to approve such amount for   payment of the Legislators and  other political officeholders.

  H e had made it clear to those that cares to listen that  ‘’Labour will  never surrender  to the blackmail of the SFG or any other top   official of the Tinuubu’s Administration’’.The Labour  leader may be talking talk tough  because they have the backing of  Nigerians and the workers, who had said that ‘’enough is enough’’ of living below the poverty line with a non-living wage.

 Many believe that if it is possible for the Nigerian President to break into the ranks of the Organised labour to stop the TUC and NLC, leaders from holding his government hostage over the new national minimum wage he would have done it long ago.

 He may not have been given the opportunity to come too close to the labour leaders as they knew what the former Lagos state can do: break Labour wings with his penetrating talks that could soften minds.

Edun: minister of Financ and Coordinating minister of the economy

Meanwhile, Wale Edun, minister of Finance and Coordinating minister of the economy, mandated by the Nigerian President to provide a template for the new national minimum wage for the country was said to have submitted   the projected cost implication of pegging the new national minimum wage at N62,000.000.00  per month to the Nigerian President on Thursday, June 4, 2024.

The Finance minister was said to have been accompanied by Atiku Bagudu, a former governor of Kebbi state and now minister of Budget Planning to present the template on the new national minimum wage to the President.  

Whether the aggrieved Labour Leaders who had reduced their demand from the initial N494,000. 00 to N250,000.00 will agree to accept  the government N62,000.00 , as the new national minimum wage remain to be seen.  Recall that the striking unions had suspended  their strike  over the new  national minimum wage on Tuesday , June 4, 2024,  for five days  after signing a commitment  with the Federal Government to resume  negotiations  that would come  up with  a new national minimum wage within  a week.

Going by the way the new minimum wage negotiations handled by the tripartite Committee had gone on over the last five days, as Labour had said that ‘’it has made enough concession to the government and the other social partners, driven by the frivolities and the realities of the market place,  prices of  a 50Kg bag of foreign and local par boiled and agricultural rice,  tuber of yam, beans, garri  , and all that which workers buy  on a daily basis, that it is no  longer ready to shift ground, meaning that the striking unions will go back  to the trenches.

Already, the Organised Labour, Leadership were said to have given the government   a one –week notice to look at the issues   presented before it on the new national minimum wage and if no reasonable response on the expiration of the deadline on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, may be forced to decide the next line of action, which is to embark on indefinite strike, that was suspended about one week ago.

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