By Mark A. Upaa
After a botched opportunity by the The Federal Government and the Nigeria Labour Congress to make any headway on the impasse around the proposed new minimum wage in Abuja on Monday was adjourned for the second time in three days, NLC has decided to stick to its earlier threat to hold nationwide protests today (Tuesday).
The protest rally was scheduled after a meeting of the NLC late in December 2018 to press home its demand for an executive draft bill on the N30,000 minimum wage to be transmitted by the presidency to the National Assembly. Since then all meetings between the two parties have proved inconclusive with Monday having been chosen as a deadline.
After Monday meeting which ended midnight, NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, said the protest would still hold because it was meant to commit all parties to the minimum wage issue. He said, “We have had some useful discussion and we have consulted but we agreed to meet by 1pm tomorrow to see if we can finish the processes. The protest is about implementation so it has no link. What we are trying to do is how to see the bill transmitted to the National Assembly. The protest is about how to get all parties committed to the issue of minimum wage, it is different from how we get this bill transmitted with timeline to the national assembly.”
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, who led the government delegation to the meeting, told journalists that the FG was making effort to speed up the process of transmitting the bill despite the challenge of time. He said, “We have made progress and tomorrow (Tuesday), we will know the definite date when the bill will be transmitted to the National Assembly. It has been difficult to arrive at a date because there are processes to follow on the bill. We have to go to the Federal Executive Council with a council memo on the bill. After that, we will go to the National Economic Council and the Council of State. We can control the Federal Executive Council date, the same with NEC, but for the National Council of State, the President has to look at his own timetable and we inform past heads of state and justice of the federation. This can take two weeks but we are trying to see if we can accommodate all these meetings by next week because we cannot do Council of State meeting again this week. Immediately after that meeting (Council of State), we will transmit.”
Earlier before the meeting, the NLC in a release on Monday through its General Secretary, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, explained that the union would stage a nationwide protest on Tuesday (today) and not that strike would begin. It added that the statement became vital because of the false impression that NLC would begin strike on Tuesday.
The statement read; “It has come to our attention that some section of the news media has largely misrepresented our action plan in reaction to the delay in transmitting the recommendations of the Tripartite Committee on a new National Minimum Wage to the National Assembly by President Mohammadu Buhari.
“It should be recalled that the National Executive Council of NLC met on December 17 last year and directed that we hold nationwide mobilisation of workers and our allies if by December 31, 2018 the bill on the National Minimum Wage has yet to be sent to the National Assembly to be passed as an Act of Parliament. We immediately announced then that on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, there will be a nationwide mass mobilisation and protests simultaneously across all states in Nigeria. This does not translate to a strike.
“Already, all our state councils, affiliate unions and allies in other pro-people mass organisations now popularly referred to as Civil Society Organisations have been fully informed and mobilised to ensure the success of tomorrow’s mass protests in all the states and the Federal Capital Territory.”