*Govs, OPS disagree on N20,000 benchmark
By Chesa Chesa
The Federal Government has denied media reports that it had agreed with organised labour unions on a new minimum wage of N30,000 saying it insisted on N24,000 although negotiations continue.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting which was briefed on the progress of talks between Government and Labour on Wednesday also insisted that it would not yet meddle into the negotiations, but allow the Economic Management Team (EMT) led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to decide what government can concede.
This was disclosed to State House correspondents in Abuja by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, after the FEC meeting which was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He made the denial in response to media reports quoting the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, as having announced that the government committee on the months-long negotiations, had concurred with labour to increase the minimum wage from the present N18,000 to N30,000 per month.
“Such information is not true”, Ngige told journalists, although he admitted that the organised private sector negotiating team, which had initially agreed on N25,000 has now joined Labour unions in insisting on N30,000.
He said the Federal Government would, however, continue with negotiations, while consulting with the 36 state governors, who had proposed even a smaller figure of N20,000.
The minister also pointed out that in accordance with Convention 131 of International Labour Organisation (ILO), the primary consideration in arriving at a minimum wage is the ability to implement it, and the need for consensus.
According to Ngige, “the state governments’ figure at the last time was N20,000 the Federal Government had a figure of N24,000 and that was where we all stood. This negotiation took into account these irreducible offers of the different governments, but we could not arrive at a consensus.
“Even though we adjourned our meeting and said we will put up a report that will reflect this position, we are still continuing to discuss informally to see if we can arrive at a common figure.
“The National Salaries and Incomes and Wages Commission has also done analysis for the government and presented to the Economic Management Team, so discussions are still on-going and that is where we are.
“This information becomes very pertinent because I saw all your papers, the dailies yesterday awash with the news that we have all agreed on N30,000. That is not true. The Federal Government has not agreed on N30,000.
“The Federal Government cannot go and fix an amount which the states will find difficult to pay, resulting may be, in retrenchment of workers in the states.
“This government doesn’t want any retrenchment and Mr. President has always reiterated that no worker should be retrenched for as long as this administration is on and no worker will be denied his promotion. Recruitment to replace people who have retired or people who are dead should continue to be done so that we face the issue of unemployment”.
Meanwhile, the FEC approved a contract of N5.2 billion for the construction of Kagigi-Jaro-Goraye-Takwako roads across Sokoto and Zamfara States, by Messrs Sky Technical and Construction Company Limited.
The Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing, Suleiman Hassan, explained that the 28.75 kilometre road, being in good agricultural zone, would improve freight of agricultural goods and human traffic between these two states and onto the neighbouring countries of Niger and Benin Republic.