The organised labour in Nigeria yesterday suspended its industrial action, paving the way for the conclusion of negotiations on a new minimum wage on Thursday.
Labour wants N65,000 as national minimum wage, up from the current N18,000.
The Guardian in an exclusive story on Saturday had reported that the strike would terminate yesterday.
Speaking on behalf of the movement in Abuja yesterday, the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, said: “We have received a firm and formal invitation to a reconvened meeting of the tripartite committee scheduled for October 4 and 5, 2018.
We demand that this shall be the final session of the committee and that a final report will be submitted to Mr. President immediately.
“In order to avail the committee the necessary environment to hold this crucial meeting and conclude its work, organised labour has, after obtaining the mandate of their necessary organs, decided to suspend the strike action with effect from today, Sunday, September 30, 2018.”
On his part, Issa Aremu, a member of the NLC National Executive Council (NEC) and Labour Party gubernatorial candidate in Kwara State, lamented the negative impact of the devaluation of the naira on salaries.
“When we agreed on the present minimum wage in 2011, it was around $110.
Today, with massive devaluation of the naira, N18,000 minimum wage is about $50.
There is no way Nigeria can get out of serious economic crisis with this miserably pay package,” he said.
He added: “In this economy, we all know what legislators cart away, even as we try to borrow to finance the economy.
I think that despite the crisis we have in this country, there is enough to service the need of the majority of our people but certainly not the greed of a very few.
“In the United Kingdom, which started its minimum wage in 1988 - that is clear seven years after Nigeria began hers in 1981 - there is a procedure for review without any noise made about it, because there are parameters that are put in place to review it periodically, unlike the struggle we embark upon here whenever negotiation is due.”
This was as the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) called on Buhari to boost the recovery of stolen money to finance the new minimum wage.
In a statement yesterday, SERAP’s deputy director, Timothy Adewale, said: “Buhari, only last week in the U.S., described the working poor and ordinary Nigerians as his constituency.
He now has to provide bold leadership to improve conditions for this marginalised sector of the population by publicly supporting a just remuneration for Nigerian workers to allow them lead a decent life.
His government can make this a reality by pushing to recover stolen assets and other illicit wealth by public officials and institutions since the return of democracy in 1999.”
But an independent development consultant with a UK-funded programme in Nigeria, Dr. Mike Uzoigwe, urged government to approach the subject of wage increase cautiously.
“This is not a good time to increase wage,” he said, because “it looks like the Federal Government might succumb at the end of the day or make promises to assuage labour.”
He cautioned against increasing salaries when the country is borrowing to finance its budget.
He said: “We have to address the problem of infrastructure and how we have depended on earnings from our natural resources to run the affairs of this country. We have not done it in the right way.
Countries that are blessed as we are used their oil resources to build other aspects of their economy.
This has not allowed them to be tied to the vagaries of oil prices at the international market.”
He regretted that the oil and gas sector has given Nigeria a false sense of financial security for many years.
“That is what has happened to us and we are right now in the middle of it.
It might take us another 50 years to get things right if we do not do the right thing at this time,” he said.
Uzoigwe regretted that the non-signing of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill into law by Buhari is keeping the country from growing its economy sustainably.