By Appolos Christian
The Organised Labour on Wenesday 10th March, 2021, protested at the National Assembly over the bill that seeks to decentralize the National Minimum Wage law by transferring it from the Exclusive list to the Concurrent list.
The President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, and his Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart Comrade Quadri Olaleye, who led the protest, said to allow such move succeed is equivalent to reversing 40 years progress made by Nigeria in terms of practicing international acceptable labour standard.
The workers branded in union attires and armed with placards started assembling at the Unity Fountain Abuja as early as 7:20 am Wednesday morning, and proceed on a peaceful protest to the National Assembly to officially deliver a document containing workers demands from government.
Some inscriptions on the placards read, “On minimum wage we stand, ‘No to minimum wage on concurrent list, ‘Yes to minimum wage on Executive list.
Delivering the document to representatives of the Senate President and Speaker House of Representatives, the aggrieved workers warned the lawmakers that failure to do the right thing would amount to a total shut down of the nation’s economy.
President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba who stressed that politicians were the problem of the country, insisted that the National Minimum Wage was a standard set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which the Nigerian Government ratified since 1961.
Citing an example of President Joe Biden whose first statement on assumption of office was the need to carryout an upward review of workers minimum wage to $15 per hour, he said rather than lead a progressive leadership, Nigerian politicians were raising false arguments against the National Minimum Wage being in the Exclusive list.
According to him, the minister of Labour and Employment had already clarified that the lawmakers were going in a wrong direction that could attract sanctions given Nigeria’s signatory to the ILO Convention on Minimum Wage.
Wabba further warned that should the has governance structure in the country persists, workers would have no option but to pray down fire to consume politicians responsible for the calamities befalling the country.
He said: “The Bill that seeks to remove the minimum wage from the Exclusive list to the concurrent list is not accepted.
‘The issue of national minimum wage is a standard set by the International Labour Organisation and the ILO is the first agency of the United Nations formed in 1919 after the first world war.
“Your argument is that because they want federalism the issue of the national minimum wage should be moved to the concurrent list that is wrong. In countries of the world today, we have 26 federal nations that have minimum wage in their Exclusive list including the United States of America.
“The argument about federalism is false, also, the argument about the ability to pay. How can we degenerate to remove an issue that the workers have earned through hard labour for 40 years and want to remove it over night.
“The problems of Nigeria is the issue of good governance and that is why we are here and all those issues have been documented in the document we are going to present to the leadership.
“Let me also tell them, you have given us the mandate that if the right thing is not done, the leadership have the right to declare a national strike throughout the entire country.”
Wabba further demanded that autonomy be given local governments, State Houses of Assembly and the Judiciary, to ensure resources of the local government were channelled to address insecurity and the many developmental issues confronting the country.
“Part of why we are not making progress is because local government system has been killed, the resources of local government has become pocket money.
“We want autonomy for the local government, autonomy for the state houses of assembly and autonomy for the judiciary. This is the way to go because they are different arms of government and if we do that Nigeria will be better.”
President of the TUC, Comrade Olaleye Quadri, urged the National Assembly to lead by example by taking the decision to receive their salaries from their respective local government area councils.
Receiving the document on behalf of the Speaker House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the House Leader, Alahassan Ado Doguwa, advised the labour leaders and Nigerian workers to lobby their respective legislators to kill the Bill they were agitating against.
“The presentation and recommendation of the Bill was only an opinion and a proposal but from what I am seeing now it appears to me that the leadership and organised labour are against the Bill and you have your rights and reasons to reject that Bill.
“We will still invite you to the relevant committee of which I am a member, the constitution review committee, to come and make your position formally and members representing your respective communities will be on the ground to do justice to that Bill.
“I can understand that the only thing you want is to kill that Bill then, will like to advise, go ahead and lobby the members that you elected, tell them you don’t like that Bill and your elected members will stand for you.”
Also receiving the document on behalf of the Senate President, Sen. Ahmed Lawan, the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Sen. Abdullahi Sabi, appealed to the workers to have confidence in the lawmakers whom he said would do everything possible to ensure workers rights and demands were respected.
“Denying you minimum wage is something I personally as a senator do not support but we are in a democracy which is about a process. You have read your point, you are standing tenaciously to ask for what is your right but i want to assure you there a lot of progressive lawmakers in the 9th Assembly.
“In the past we have stood toe to toe with Nigerian workers, there is nothing that suggests we are changing from that direction rather, we will stand by you to ensure that the fundamental right of every worker is not only ensured, but enforced and guaranteed.
“We are going to ensure that we are going to do justice to everything you have brought to us, wait to see the action.”