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Minimum palaver lingers in Nigeria

Nigeria’s organised Labour has insisted that the Tripartite Committee on the new National Minimum Wage has concluded its assignment for onward submission to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Joe Ajaero, President, United Labour Congress (ULC), said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Abuja.
Ajaero was reacting to the statement made by Dr Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, that there was no agreement yet by the National Minimum wage Committee on the new Minimum wage figure in the country.
Ngige had said negotiations were still ongoing and the capacity to pay by employers remained the guiding principles.
Mr Ayuba Wabba, president, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had also stated that the Tripartite Committee on the New National Minimum Wage had completed its assignment for onward submission to President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to Ajaero, this is all politics; the true story is that at resumption of the hearing of the committee on the first day which was Oct. 4, government did not show any seriousness.
“So, on Friday, Oct. 5, government came with a proposal of either N20,000 or N21,000 which Labour rejected outright; they now moved almost to N24,000 and Labour rejected it again, while the employers were still on N25,000.
“But the state governments were either on N20,000 or so and there was almost a stalemate. So government then went out for consultation and by the time they came back, they brought about three scenarios.
“The three scenarios they brought forward were either N38,000, N35,000 or N34,000 but the Organised Private Sector (OPS) appealed to labour on the need to harmonise,’’ he stated.
Ajaero stated that the OPS noted that they were facing a lot of challenges affecting their businesses and that since they would be at the receiving end there was need to reach a consensus.
The ULC president further said that based on the private sector request, the sub-committee which Ngige was chairing moved a motion that N30,000 be adopted.
He added that the meeting agreed that they should go ahead to print clean copy in order for all parties to sign.
“So, if actually there is anything remaining it is only to sign the clean copy of N30,000,’’ he said.
He also noted that the committee agreed that on the day the clean copy would be presented to Mr President that all parties should be present to sign.
He also said that it was agreed that nobody should disclose the figure reached by the committee to the public.
He, however, said that the N30,000 agreed upon was to ensure that the organised private sector businesses did not collapse.
He also said that organised labour would soon issue a statement on its position.
But the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said that the Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage had yet to agree on any figure on the matter.
Ngige, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, dismissed media reports that the committee had agreed on N30, 000 as new minimum wage.
The FEC meeting was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said that the Federal Government had proposed N24,000 per month to the tripartite committee – organised labour, organised private sector and government – involved in the negotiation.
According to him, the federal government is careful so that it will not agree on a figure that will weigh down on State Governments or lead to retrenchment.
He said that upon the committee reconvening on Oct. 4, labour adjusted its figures down to N30, 000 per month while the organised private sector adjusted its own from N25, 000 to N30,000.
“The state governments’ figure last time was N20,000; the federal government had a figure of N24,000 and that was where we all stood.
“These negotiations took into account these irreducible offers from the different governments but we could not arrive at a consensus.
“Even though we adjourned that meeting and said we would 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.
“So, discussions are still ongoing and that is where we are. This becomes very pertinent because I saw all the papers.
 “The federal government also is carrying the states along with it because a lot of the workers are in the states and it is a very sensitive matter.
“We cannot because the issue of minimum wage is item 34 in the exclusive list, fix an amount which the state governments will find difficult to pay,’’ he said.
Ngige said that under the International Labour Organisation(ILO),  the cardinal principle of wage fixing mechanism was capacity to pay.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari had reiterated that no worker should be retrenched or denied his/her promotion while recruitments to replace retired or dead civil servants should continue to be done.