Olusola Fabiyi, Olalekan Adetayo, Olufemi Atoyebi and Eniola Akinkuotu
Governors under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum have summoned all 36 members to an emergency meeting to discuss the minimum wage and possibly take a common position.
The meeting, which is scheduled to hold in Abuja today, is said to be compulsory for all the 36 governors.
This was contained in a statement issued by the NGF secretariat in Abuja on Monday. The statement requested that all governors must attend in person.
The statement read in part, “Emergency meeting of governors over minimum wage will hold tomorrow at the NGF secretariat, Maitama, Abuja at 5pm.
“In attendance will be all governors, no representation. Various stakeholders including the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, and the Minister of Labour, Senator Chris Ngige.”
Meanwhile, in what appears to be a last-minute desperate effort by the Federal Government to forestall a nationwide workers’ strike, members of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo-led Economic Management Team will on Tuesday(today), meet with state governors in an attempt to reach a consensus on the new national minimum wage.
The meeting is the second within 24 hours.
They had met on Monday on the same issue.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, disclosed the need for Tuesday’s meeting in an interview with State House correspondents at the end of Monday’s meeting.
The minister said, “We held a meeting for us to bring out modalities for us to respond to the emerging problems thrown up by the National Minimum wage Committee and we have very fruitful meeting which necessitated the governors having further meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).
“We will reconvene tomorrow (Tuesday) to brief the Economic Management Team and the Vice-President and we take it up from there.
“The governors will meet to take a position and brief the Economic Management Team. This meeting is only for the Tripartite Committee of the government side.”
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, also spoke with reporters at the end of the meeting.
Yari said while state governors were willing to pay the new minimum wage, ability to pay was key in arriving at a figure.
“The position of the governors is not very clear to some of you. We are willing to pay any amount but the issue is the capacity to pay,” he said.
Yari said the meeting discussed the proposal made by the organised labour and the figure proposed by the Federal Government.
He said, “The governors still haven’t come out with any figure.
“So, by tomorrow (Tuesday), we are going to discuss with our governors on the bill by the Minister of Labour and Employment to the NGF secretariat.
“We will digest it and come up with our own positions as governors because we are critical stakeholders on this issue.”
State governors who attended the meeting with Yari were Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu; Osun State Governor, Rauf Aragbesola; and Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong.
Apart from Osinbajo, others who attended the meeting from the side of the Federal Government were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed; and Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma.
Others were the Head of Service to the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita; Director-General, National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Chief Richard Egbule; and the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris.
Oyo NLC chairman declares Tuesday ‘Day of protest’
In a related development, the Oyo State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Waheed Olojede, on Monday called on members of the union, including nurses, to join a peaceful protest against what he described as the refusal of government to accept N30,000 as the minimum wage for workers.
Olojede made the call while speaking during the inauguration of the Nurses House financed by the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, Oyo State Council in Ibadan.
He said Nigerian workers were suffering untold hardships while lawmakers elected to represent them had access to unlimited amounts of money in the name of salaries and allowances.
The labour leader said the protest would be held on Tuesday (today) in Ibadan to press home the union’s demand for the payment of the proposed new minimum wage to workers.
Olojede said, “I urge nurses and midwives in the state to join the planned protest. It sounds absurd that politicians whose flamboyant lifestyles are evident for the public to see could be complaining of inability to pay a meagre N30,000 as minimum wage.
“The time is now for the struggle. Today, we are complaining of minimum wage. We are calling on all our members and affiliates to join us in the protest which will be a peaceful one. We will march through all major roads from the Labour House on Tuesday (today).
“A senator earns N13.5m as salaries and the same politician is reluctant to pay a mere N30,000 as minimum wage. Nothing will make us change our mind. Initially, we did not agree on N30,000 but when we considered the private sector, we accepted.”
Chairman of the NANNM, Rukayat Afonja, urged the government to prioritise the welfare of workers in the country.
She said, “It becomes pertinent and significant to appeal to our major employers, the federal and state governments, to stop playing cards with the welfare of the workers, particularly nurses and midwives in their demands and agitations for improved conditions of service.”
The Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and the United Labour Congress had last week threatened to go on strike on November 6, 2018 if the Federal Government failed to take the plight of Nigerian workers more seriously.
Specifically, the labour unions said if the upward review of the national minimum wage was not acceded to by the governors and the Federal Government, they would have no option but to go on strike.
In a statement jointly signed by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba; the TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama; and ULC President, Joe Ajaero, the unions lambasted the Federal Government for its decision to implement a ‘no work, no pay’ policy.
The statement read in part, “If nothing is responsibly done by the Federal Government to meet our demands on Monday, November 6, we shall embark on a nationwide strike to compel this government to show more sensitivity to the plight of Nigerians and the suffering that is decimating our people on a daily basis.”
The unions said it was unfortunate that governors could kick against the N30, 000 minimum wage but still solicit votes from workers.
They asked workers to vote out those who had failed to protect their interests.
The statement added, “Nigerians are no longer surprised why governance in the nation seems to have become a huge joke if this is how they tackle other serious national issues. Imagine governors’ forum that has six representatives in the tripartite committee jumping in to make excuses after its representatives had made their submissions in the committee.”