John Ameh, Abuja
Members of the House of Representatives warned on Thursday that a nationwide strike by workers over low wages could force the country’s economy back into recession.
They urged the Federal Government to consider an increase in wage to N30,000 as the new National Minimum Wage to avert an industrial action by workers.
The current minimum wage of N18,000 came into effect in 2011.
However, seven years after, the lawmakers said in Abuja that no Nigerian worker could survive on a monthly wage of N18,000.
The members, at a session presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, passed a resolution urging the government to implement its wage review plans immediately amid the threats of a nationwide strike by labour unions.
The motion was moved by a former oil and gas union leader, Mr. Peter Akpatason, a member of the All Progressives Congress from Edo State.
Akpatason had informed the House about how the government appeared unwilling to push the wage review plans.
He said that an agreement by the government and labour unions to begin the process was not being implemented.
Akpatason’s motion read partly, “The House is cognisant of the tripartite agreement between the Nigeria Labour Congress, the National Employers Consultative Association and the Federal Government to set up a joint review team to study and recommend an appropriate rate to the government.
“(We are) concerned that despite the labour unions having submitted names of their nominees and made several requests for commencement of the review process, the government has yet to respond positively to the requests.
“As such, an upward adjustment of the rate of the minimum wage will have similar positive effects on the nation’s economy.
“Concerned that a combination of high inflation and weak Naira exchange value have eroded the purchasing power of fixed income earners in the country, who happen to be the breadwinners of millions of jobless and aged dependants.
“Convinced that any nationwide strike embarked upon by workers at this time is capable of rolling back recent economic gains, thereby returning the nation’s fragile economy into recession that will further exacerbate the suffering of the masses.”
Lawmakers specifically urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “direct the Minister of Labour and Employment (Dr. Chris Ngige) to commence forthwith the process of negotiating an upward review of the current minimum wage rates.”
Debating the issue, lawmakers agreed that N18,000 was no longer realistic, suggesting at least N30,000 as the new minimum pay cheque.
One of the members, Mrs. Ayo Omidiran, argued that a government that was committed to fighting corruption and crime should consider paying workers realistic wages a priority.
Omidiran, a member of the APC representing Ayedaade/Irewole/Isokan Federal Constituency of Osun State, noted that the motion was a wake-up call to the government to avert a strike.
She added, “This N18,000 of today cannot take any worker home, if we really want to fight corruption and crime.
“This motion will reinforce the work of the wage review committee on the need to come up with a minimum wage that workers will appreciate.
“Our own House Committee on Labour and Productivity should also pursue this matter with all the attention that it will require.”
On her part, a Peoples Democratic Party member from Plateau State, Beni Lar, said she often felt bad when N18,000 was mentioned as the minimum wage for the country.
Lar, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Science and Technology, stated, “We should look at something not less than N30,000.
“Sometimes, I ask myself, a worker probably has a family; a wife and three children. How do they cope?
“They have bills to pay; there is rent to pay and the children have to go to school. Seriously, N18,000 is unimaginable.”
Speaking in the same line was an APC member from Kano State, Mr. Nasir Ali-Ahmad, who simply told the session that “no worker in Nigeria today can survive on N18,000 per month.”
Two Abia State PDP lawmakers, Mrs. Nkiruka Onyejeocha and Ms. Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, also supported the motion, saying a wage review for workers was overdue.
The motion was passed in a voice vote without any dissenting voice.
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