Any attempt to reduce the N18, 000 national minimum wage will be treated as a declaration of war on Nigerian workers, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday warned.
The congress made its position known in response to the statement credited to chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, that the N18, 000 national minimum wage promulgated into law in 2011 was no longer sustainable because of the fall in the price of crude oil in the international market.
The NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, in a statement made available to journalists on Sunday, recalled that the 2011 national minimum wage came into existence after almost two years of agitation and eventual negotiation by the tripartite of government (represented by both the federal and state governments), the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association representing other employers (in the private sector) and organised labour.
He said as organised labour, the NLC submitted a request for N52, 000 and provided justification for it as the minimum wage which a worker and his recognised legal dependents need to live a health life over 30 – 31 days in a month.
“Out of our patriotic disposition and consideration, the congress reluctantly agreed to the N18, 000 wage even as it was grossly inadequate as a living wage”, Mr. Wabba noted.
He said the governors cannot therefore want Nigerians to take them seriously by their present claim that the current national minimum wage was ‘imposed’ on them as claimed by the NGF chairman.
The statement reads in part, “For us in the Nigeria Labour Congress, we know as a fact that ability to pay minimum wages is not the problem of the economy. What is the problem for states and other tiers of government is the amount many political office holders and their unproductive aides take away as wages. For the private sector, the creed to accumulate more and more profit is also always a motivating factor to keep wages down.
“Similarly, we have been in the forefront of campaigning that the cost of governance at all levels need to be drastically cut down, to free enough resources for development. The hundreds of billions of naira our public office holders continue to fritter away in the name of governance is what is not sustainable.
“For instance, the annual cost to the public purse of governors ‘security votes’ which is an unaccountable drain on the public resources, is worth several thousands of minimum wages per state. Secondly, Nigerians who have the means to travel by air would recall that in the last 6- 10 years, majority, if not all our governors no longer use commercial airline regular flights as a means of transportation from one place to another. They now have ‘official’ aircrafts and helicopters, which they maintain at huge costs to the state treasury. Their less ‘fortunate’ counterparts charter aircrafts and helicopters at millions of Naira cost to tax payers to attend any manner of functions from marriages to child naming ceremonies”.
He said as early as May 2015, the NLC gave notice that the N18, 000 National Minimum Wage was due for review, and that the congress was only waiting for the new government to settle down before submitting a new proposal.
The statement reads further, “We have been patient and waited for the President Buhari government to appoint ministers and thus have full compliments of officers to run the government. With the recent devaluation of the Naira, and the attendant increase in inflation and cost of living, even without the last minimum wage Act reaching the mandatory five years when it is due for review, we would have been justified to request for review.
“Now the five years is here – we are at the end of 2015, and with the cost of living being so high, we will soon table our New Minimum Wage demand to the federal government. If the recent statement by the Governors Forum is intended to maneuver them away from addressing this imperatives, then it is bound to fail as we are ready to do battle to raise the living standard of the Nigerian working people”.