Disquite over Tinubu, govs silence on minimum wage @ NEC meeting

NEC meeting in session.
NEC meeting in session.
Disquite over Tinubu, govs silence on minimum wage @ NEC meeting

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and governors of the 36 states of the federation yesterday kept quiet on the issue of minimum wage after a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC).

Millions of Nigerians and members of the organised labour had expected that the federal government and the states would take a position on the matter, which has dragged since the removal of fuel subsidy on May 29, 2023, the day Tinubu took over power, and the expiration of the N30,000 minimum wage agreed on in 2019.

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The NEC meeting, statutorily chaired by Vice President Kashim Shettima, was attended by President Tinubu yesterday, a development that raised the hope of keen watchers of the development that there was the likelihood that the threshold of the new minimum wage expected will be put to rest.

It would be recalled that the 37-member Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage, led by a former Head of Service of the Federation, Bukar Aji, had submitted its report to President Tinubu weeks ago, after about five months of sittings.

During his Democracy Day speech on June 12, 2024, President Tinubu had said that a consensus had been reached, and that a proposal would be submitted to the National Assembly.

But the organised labour countered the president, saying they were not privy to any agreement.

At about the same time, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) rejected the N62,000 minimum wage earlier proposed by the federal government, explaining that some states would have to borrow to pay salaries if the amount was implemented.

At present, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) are insisting on N250,000 as minimum wage.

On Tuesday, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) stepped down the memo about the planned new minimum wage for workers in the country.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said this was necessary to allow the president to further consult with other stakeholders on the issue as it involves local governments, states, the federal government and the organised private sector.

The latest development

After the NEC meeting held at the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday, there was no mention of minimum wage as governors who briefed the press did not entertain questions.

Instead, President Tinubu approved a ‘one-off’ allocation to states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of N10 billion for the procurement of buses and CNG “uplift programme”.

This was part of a new intervention tagged “National Construction and Household Support Programme”.

In a statement, presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, said the programme includes the “Delivery of N50,000 uplift grants each to 100,000 families per state for three months, and provision for labour unions and civil society organisations.

According to him, there would be “Deployment of N155 billion for the purchase and sale of assorted foodstuff to be distributed across the nation”.

The statement said the programme was expected to boost agricultural productivity, strengthen the economy by creating opportunities in the real sectors of agriculture, manufacturing, and construction, as well as provide urgent economic relief for Nigerians.

It said road infrastructure projects, such as the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway, which is underway, and the Trans-Saharan Highway, which links Enugu, Abakaliki, Ogoja, Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa, and Abuja, would be prioritised.

President Tinubu also approved full counterpart financing for Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Railway; to traverse Rivers, Abia, Enugu, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe and Borno states, as well as for the Ibadan-Abuja segment of the Lagos-Kano Standard-Gauge Railway; which will traverse Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Niger, Abuja, Kaduna, and Kano.

“The Sokoto-Badagry road project is specially prioritised for its importance as some of the states it will traverse are strategic to the agricultural sustainability of the nation,” the statement said.

Addressing the governors during the NEC meeting, President Tinubu urged them to work together to meet the needs of citizens, stating that he was willing to provide the needed support to ensure that Nigerians were relieved of hardship.

“Our states must work together to deliver on the critical reforms required of us to meet the needs of our people. Time is humanity’s most precious asset. You can never have enough of it. It is getting late.

“We are prepared to provide solar powered irrigation facilities to support our farmers across seasons, but we must now produce. We must produce the food our people eat, and it will require coordination and intentionality between members of the National Economic Council (NEC).

“There is nothing we are doing that is more important than producing high-quality food for our people to consume, buy, and sell. We create jobs in the production of it. And that is before we generate wealth by exporting the excess. It is not beyond us to achieve this for Nigerians.

“How much support do you need from me and in what form? I am prepared to provide it. But we must achieve the result. We must deliver on our targets at all levels. Please report back following your consultations and submit to my office within seven days,” President Tinubu said.

On the other hand, after their meeting which started on Wednesday night and went into the early hours of Thursday, the governors said they agreed to “continue engaging with key stakeholders to reach a mutually agreeable solution.”

This was revealed in a communiqué signed by NGF’s acting Director, Media, Ahmed Salihu.

They also assured Nigerians and the organised labour that better minimum wage will result from ongoing negotiations.

Daily Trust recalled that during a similar NEC meeting in August 2023, the federal government approved N5 billion grant to be given to each of the 36 states of the federation for the procurement of grains as well as five trucks of rice to each state as palliatives to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal.

The NEC also approved the distribution of 40,000 bags of maize to be distributed to states.

But months after the announcement, there was public outcry in many states, with some residents saying they did not receive the palliatives, while others said what they got barely took care of the family for a day.

Speaking on Trust TV’s Daily Politics Programme last night, a public commentator, Hon. Ikenna Azomchine, faulted the approach of the federal government in mitigating the sufferings of Nigerians.

He said palliatives would never solve the problems of Nigerians, saying the Tinubu administration must come up with deliberate policy to address hunger and insecurity.

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