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1 November 2018
After over three years of foot-dragging and several relentless struggles of the Nigerian workers, the tripartite committee on minimum wage was compelled on November 5, 2018 to sign an agreement of N30, 000 as the proposed figure for the new minimum wage and the report of the agreement was later submitted to the President on November 6, 2018.
The agreement was signed during a marathon meeting convened by the committee on the eve of indefinite general strike scheduled to commence on the 5 November, 2018 by the three labour centres, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC). It will be recalled that there were various forms of conflicting reports on the outcome of the negotiations at the tripartite committee after it was forced by the three-day strike embarked upon by the three labour centres (NLC, TUC and ULC) to start meeting again in early October, 2018.
It is in the face of this range of conflicting stories, which are an indication that the tripartite committee in connivance with the Federal government was deliberately buying time to avoid salary increase as long as possible, that the decision was taken by the three labour centres to call another general strike in early November to demand a N30,000 minimum wage. Even though the strike was averted after the FG failed to stop it through a procured kangaroo court order, it nevertheless forced the tripartite committee on the minimum wage not only to release a report of new minimum wage of N30,000 but also submit same to the president.
Unfortunately, over a week after the submission of the report of the tripartite committee to the President, there is yet to be an evidence of its transmission as an executive bill by the President Buhari to the National Assembly for an immediate passage into law. The continuous delay in the transmission of the executive bill that reflect the outcome of the report of the tripartite committee by the president Buhari to the national assembly is an indication that president Buhari is not prepared to implement the N30,000 minimum wage as soon as possible.
The delay of the enactment of the N30, 000 has further confirmed the fact that President Buhari/APC-led government has not fared better in term of high level of insensitivity and irresponsibility to the plights of workers and poor masses if compared with 16 years of misrule of various preceding regimes formed by the PDP.
This is why the labour leadership must not lower its guard. The entire circumstance and history that surrounds and led to the signing of the N30, 000 proposed new minimum wage by the tripartite committee has clearly shown that it will take more concerted and united struggles and agitations of the Nigerian workers before the approval and full implementation of the newly proposed N30,000 can be guaranteed. This is more so that the body language of both the president and the state Governors are so obvious that they are not individually and collectively willing and prepared to implement the N30, 000 new minimum wage even if it is eventually passes into law.
The two week ultimatum given to the President Buhari on November 13 by the leadership of NLC to ensure immediate transmission of the executive reflecting N30,000 new minimum wage agreed by the tripartite committee is a right step in right direction. Good enough the impressive compliance among the workers recorded during the last three-day warning strike in September and level of preparation displayed by workers in preparation for the averted planned November 5 strike are indications that Nigeria workers are ready and prepared for serious battle for the implementation of a minimum wage of N65, 000 originally demanded, let alone N30, 000 once the labour leaders are willing and prepared to provide a determined leadership for the agitation.
It is in the light of this that the leadership of the NLC is urged to carry other two labour centres and civil society organisation like JAF, that includes left parties like SPN, along in a serious plan of mobilisation and sensitisation of Nigeria workers and general public in order to resuscitate the suspended struggle should the government refuse to expedite action towards full implementation of the minimum wage.
Already, the Nigerian Governors Forum has stated clearly that aside Lagos, all other states in the federation will not be able to pay the new minimum wage only if labour will agree to downsizing of the workforce or that the federal government accedes to the review of the national revenue allocation formula in favour of the states. With the position of the governors, the trade union movement must realise that the struggle for the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage is going to be protracted considering the continuing violation of the N18,000 Minimum Wage by many governors. Labour must not enter into agreements with erring governors to pay as they wish but insist that the wage is implemented unconditionally with no retrenchment. Labour must also insist that the governors and the federal government must open the public financial books for scrutiny to enable workers know how public funds are generated and expended. Hence, Labour must be prepared to wage ceaseless struggles both in the respective states as well as nationwide struggle in form of well organised general strike.
The labour leadership must remain steadfast and resolute as N30, 000 minimum wage is achievable and payable. The resources at the disposal of the Nigeria state is more than enough to implement a minimum wage above the N65, 000 and still provide social infrastructure, functional schools, hospitals, roads for the society. Largely militating against this include problem of outrageous salaries and allowances often received by the political office holders as well as corrupt contract system in addition to direct looting system through which the members of the capitalist class often award to themselves the public fund.
This is why the labour leadership must demand side by side the enactment and implementation of the newly proposed N30,000 minimum wage a drastic reduction in the jumbo emolument earned by political office holders to the level of salary and allowances earned by the civil servants while basic infrastructure that will respond to the education, healthcare etc., needs of the working masses must be massively expanded through a public work programme under a democratic control of the elected representative of workers and the community. Labour must lead a campaign against the contract system as this remains one of the criminal ways bourgeois politicians and their acolytes often masquerades as contractors siphon pubic fund
It is high time, the labour leadership realised that the refusal of the President Buhari-led APC government to enact the committee proposed N30, 000 new minimum wage which is equivalent to a paltry of $83 even when the current N18,000 Minimum Wage has been due for upward review for over three years is an indication that the wellbeing and improvement as well as the working condition of the working people can no longer be guarantee on the basis of capitalist economic system. Unfortunately, the same capitalist system of economy is the bedrock of the economic policies of the Nigeria government at all levels regardless of the political party that form them.
This has further given credence to the fact that, only a government formed on the basis of a socialist programme will only be ready and prepared to meet the need of the working people including the payment of living wage without compromising the wellbeing of other members of the working people who are not salary earners. Such socialist programmes include nationalisation of the commanding height of the economy under a democratic control and management of the elected representative of workers and the poor masses. The same Socialist programmes will also encourage adequate and proper funding of social services like education, health care, public driven-agriculture and infrastructure for the use of the people not for the profit motive of the few rich as we currently have it under capitalist mode of economy.
Therefore, to achieve this kind of government where the area of need of workers and the poor masses will also be the basis for governance, the labour movement is once again urged to consider the need to either build a mass party on a socialist program or work with the SPN to build it as a mass party that could wrest power for the thieving ruling elites at all levels.