…Providing grains as palliatives to food insecurity insulting to Nigerians
By Abiodun OBA
The National Labour Congress has hinted that the new minimum wage must reflect the country’s economic conditions and other economic indicators.
The NLC president, Joe Ajaero, who disclosed this in an interview on Arise Television argued that the initial N200,000 minimum wage proposal is no longer tenable, citing the soaring price of food items and inflationary pressure in the economy.
According to Ajaero, the the Federal Government should consider N1 million as the new monthly minimum wage, adding that as long as the dollar keeps rising against the naira, demands for a higher minimum wage will be inevitable.
Ajaero said, “This N1 million may be relevant if the value of the Naira continues to depreciate; if the inflation continues to depreciate. The demand for Labour is equally dependent on what is happening in society.
“You will remember that by the time we contemplated N200,000, the exchange rate was about N900. Today, the exchange rate is about N1,400 or even more.
“Those are the issues that determine the demand, and they are equally affecting the cost of living, and we have always said that our demand will be based on the cost of living index.
“You’ll agree that a bag of rice is about N60,000 to N70,000. Foodstuff is getting out of reach. Now, will we get a minimum wage that is insufficient for transportation, even for one week?
“We have to factor in all these issues. And that will determine the federal government’s commitment to these negotiations.
“It is not just that they want to give us minimum wage, the old minimum wage will be expiring by April. And ordinarily, the federal government ought to have set up the community six months before that time so that negotiation would have commenced;
“…but up till now, the federal government didn’t do it until they set up, they inaugurated the committee, and the committee has not sat.
“So, it appears we are going to work within one month or two to agree on a figure, and I doubt how those ones are going to. Especially when you look at the people that the federal government assembled as members of the committee.
“They looked at some of the governors that are not even paying the existing minimum wage and even they have a minister of budget who didn’t implement his minimum wage as a governor.
“Now, if you have the people in the government team on the issue of minimum wage, some of us are not seeing a bright future on the work of this new minimum wage committee.”
Recall that organized Labour issued a 14-day nationwide strike notice last week.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration, however, appealed to workers not to embark on a strike over the country’s economic condition.
Asked if the government never met any of the items on the agreed MoU, the NLC leader responded in the negative.
When reminded that the government claimed to have released tons of grains, Ajaero lamented that it is insulting to Nigerians for the Federal Government to provide grains as a palliative for the food insecurity that has besieged Nigeria in recent times.
Recall that last Thursday, President Tinubu ordered the immediate release of 102,000 metric tonnes of rice, maize, millet, and garri from government reserves and stores of the rice millers to the Nigerian market.
Ajaero said, “I feel sad when we talk of federal government giving people grains as if we are giving grains to pigeons and all these other birds.
“At this time and age in Nigeria, we are talking of federal government providing how many tonnes of grains to Nigerians as a measure of stemming the level of hunger and poverty in the country.
“I beg to disagree that that is a serious insult to Nigerians I think that we should think of something else.”
He alleged that the Federal Executive Council meeting has become more of a procurement meeting than a place where policy issues are resolved.
Ajaero said, “If somebody is telling us that it is going to start work today and tomorrow, have they kept the promise? That is the question. Heck no.
“I think the issue of trust should be paramount in whatever we do as a government and as a people. If we look at the end of every federal executive council meeting you will discover that the federal executive council meeting seems to have transformed into a procurement committee… not directly on policy issues.
“Even when they had agreements with organised labour, with Nigerians, such meetings don’t come out with clear statements on how to implement them, and I am getting worried.
“So, when Nigerians are hungry, you give them some bags of grains as a solution, that’s not what we need at this point in time.”