May Day: FG ignores N56, 000 minimum wage demand

By The Citizen

The Federal Government on Sunday kept mum over the recent demand by the organised labour for a new minimum wage of N56,000.

The issue of the minimum wage was not mentioned by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, at the May Day rally in Abuja.

Officials of the Nigeria Labour Congress expressed disappointment at the failure of the President to personally attend the annual event which would have given him the opportunity to address some of the issues raised by the workers.

For instance, the National President of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, Alhaji Ibrahim Khaleel, who doubles as the National Treasurer of the NLC, said that the President's absence was a minus as he missed the opportunity to hear directly from the workers.

He said that Buhari would have had the opportunity to directly respond to the workers who believed in his cause as President.

The last time the President openly identified with labour unions was at the 11th delegates' conference of the NLC in February, 2015, shortly before his election.

When asked that both the President did not mention the issue of the new proposed minimum wage, he said that the President's absence caused it.

'That is one of the bad feelings we have as workers representatives on May Day. We believe that it was as a result of the absence of Mr. President. There is no way the President of the country would grace an occasion and salient issues like that would be raised, without Mr. President at least responding to them.'

Khaleel said that while the organised labour did not have the exact reasons for the government's refusal to comment on the issues, it was a fact that labour had always achieved welfare demands for its members through sustained struggle.

'We cannot say sincerely or talk about the reasons behind the government side not to say anything about it. But we believe that nothing, absolutely nothing, comes to the working class in the history of struggle free of charge, so we are determined and we are ready to pursue our agenda because we believe in our cause,' he said.

There were high expectations that the Federal Government would comment on the issue of the minimum wage during the event.

The expectations of the President's personal presence at the even reflected in the address read by the President of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, who expressed gratitude to the 'President for accepting our invitation to personally grace this May Day celebrations.'

NLC's Deputy Director in charge of Press, Mr. Samuel Olowookere, had told our correspondent in a telephone conversation on Saturday to wait for the response of the Federal Government on the issue of the proposed new minimum wage on May Day.

In an address read on his behalf by Ngige, the President called on the workers to collaborate with the government in the fight against corruption in the public service.

He said, 'In this fight against corruption, I need you all to be very willing partners. Fighting corruption in the public service in particular requires the workers to play major roles by cooperating with the government. - Punch.