Chief Michael Imoudu, Alhaji H. P. Adebola, Mr. Wahab Goodluck, Mr. Pascal Bafyau all of the blesse memory were during their time in the early 60s, till early 80s were presidents of the Nigeria Labour Congress who confronted the governments of the day which tried to treat workers’ welfare with levity and disdain. Mention should also be made of Alhaji Hassan Sanmonu and fiery Adams Oshiomhole, the current Edo State Governor who former President Olusegun Obasanjo used to derisively call short man devil. During their tenures as NLC presidents, they lived up to their billings. Nigerian workers were proud of them.
But in the last two decades, Nigerian workers had nothing to cheer with the activities of the succeeding NLC’s presidents. A constitutional provision says workers’ salary should be reviewed upwards every five years. The last review was held in 2011 exactly five years ago meaning that the country should review its workers’ salary this year.
About a fortnight ago, the Nigeria Labour Congress had been demanding another wage review asking for a minimum wage of N56,000. Nothing is constitutionally wrong for the NLC to demand a wage review but the wage it is currently asking for is to say the least unrealistic, unreasonable and ill-timed giving the current political or financial exigencies the current Federal Government is facing. Many state governments hitherto had not been able to pay the last N18,000 minimum wage with the parlous state of their economies, thus prompting the Federal Government to bail out the state governments. The country is awash with insinuations that the indigent states are even complaining that the bailout is inadequate, whatever that means.
It is incontrovertible that the country’s economy is in a shambles and for the NLC to demand N56,000 wage at this inauspicious time, it should have a rethink. What has the NLC to say about the security vote the governors collect monthly and other perks of office? The NLC does not require a soothsayer on the state of the Nigerian economy.
What has the NLC over the years done to incessant animalistic treatment being meted out to Nigerian workers in the employ of multi-nationals. Casualisation of Nigerian workers had been on for God knows when and it still remains like a ringworm on the body. The National Assembly will not feign knowledge of casualisation of Nigerian workers, yet the NLC has not deemed it fit to put up a bill on casualisation of workers especially by the Indians and other multi-nationals who pay ridiculous tokens as salary to Nigerian workers and it is asking for N56,000 from the Federal Government.
If the Nigerian Labour Congress is expecting the Federal Government to pay the minimum wage it demanded going by the figures being bandied daily of the recovered stolen fund, it had better adopt another method, because the government may not be too disposed to afford the NLC’s demand. The hiccups in electricity supply, no potable water, dilapidated roads, coupled with activities of vandals of infrastructure are enough to overwhelm the government.
We therefore appeal to the NLC to give the government a leeway now that the budget has just been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
This issue of minimum wage is ill-timed. The government should not be distracted from bailing out the masses from the austere time. NLC should call for a roundtable to discuss this minimum wage imbroglio.