Atiku Bagudu, Aba Aji, SDP differ on N62, 000 proposed minimum wage

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As the new minimum wage talks between the federal government and organised labour end today, the minister of budget and economic planning, Mr Atiku Bagudu, chairman of the 37-man tripartite committee on national minimum wage, Mr Bukar Aji and the national chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Mr Mr Shehu Gabam, have expressed divergent views on the N62, 000 minimum wage proposed by the committee.

Recall that the federal government’s representatives and the organised private sector settled for N62, 000, up from N60, 000 while the organised labour represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) came down from N494, 000 to N250, 000.
While Bagudu and Aji believed that the proposal was made in national interest and in line with the current economic realities, Gabam contended that such a ridiculous proposal would not augur well for the civil servants.

Speaking in an interview, Bagudu maintained that members of the committee were oblivious of the prevailing economic situation, information, data, national interest, developments in the polity, macro economy and the ongoing economic reforms by the administration before arriving at the figure.

“This is what we have done; I was a member of the 2018 tripartite committee, then as a governor representing the state governors. And in that committee as well, views were divided, like in the organised private sector and the organised labour as we had then. And a report was sent to Mr President, just like we did now.

“The labour has participated and they have presented different views and different arguments, which we are going to send to Mr President.”

Similarly, Aji said the recommendation was the product of a deeper understanding and deeper study of all the economic indices.
Besides, Aji, who had earlier served as secretary to the government of the federation, said caution was taken in order not to recommend a figure that would further throw the country into confusion.

“We studied all the economic indices, the current inflation situation, the state of the economy, affordability, ability, capability and sustainability. Caution had been displayed all through so that a figure that will further throw the country into confusion is not allowed.

“This is because if any party goes into an agreement of any figure that it knows from its sources that it can’t afford, then it is going to create another problem. But I thank God that all wisdom came together and the recommendation to Mr President is going along that direction.”

He said the committee’s recommendation to Tinubu, which would be sent to the National Assembly for passage as National Minimum Wage Act,

He described the negotiation on national minimum wage at the tripartite level with organised labour and the organised private sector in the last four months as a serious business.

However, Gabam said N100, 000 is not too much for the government to pay its workers.

Featuring as guest the Channels Television’s Politics Today on Sunday Gabam said the government will do itself a favour by settling for a reasonable wage that is above N100,000 to avoid civil servants sabotaging the system.

He said paying the civil servants up to that amount would the workers breathe.

“For me, what I think at this stage is that the government should do something above N100, 000. It is reasonably okay. It makes a little bit of sense. People can breathe, and people can go to work without thinking of sabotaging the institutions.

“You are paying civil servants and other private employees just N30, 000. And then when you go to the market, there is nothing of the lowest that you can get at the cost of N30, 000,” he said.
He also lashed out at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum for protesting against the payment of any minimum wage higher than N60, 000.

Recall that the governors had earlier rejected the federal government’s N60, 000 offer, saying they could not afford it.

“The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) agrees that a new minimum wage is due. The Forum also sympathises with labour unions in their push for higher wages.

“However, the Forum urges all parties to consider the fact that the minimum wage negotiations also involve consequential adjustments across all cadres, including pensioners.

“The NGF cautions parties in this important discussion to look beyond just signing a document for the sake of it; any agreement to be signed should be sustainable and realistic.

“All things considered, the NGF holds that the N60, 000 minimum wage proposal is not sustainable and cannot fly. It will simply mean that many states will spend all their FAAC allocations on just paying salaries with nothing left for development purposes. In fact, a few states will end up borrowing to pay workers every month. We do not think this will be in the collective interest of the country, including workers.

“We appeal that all parties involved, especially the labour unions, consider all the socioeconomic variables and settle for an agreement that is sustainable, durable, and fair to all other segments of the society who have a legitimate claim to public resources,” the NGF said in a statement by its acting spokesperson, Mrs Halimah Ahmed.
In his reaction, Gabam said: “Any serious governor that can put his priorities right can pay N60, 000 comfortably.”

He added: If ghost workers are purged from the system, states can pay it. The tragedy is that the majority of the problems we are having today are from the states. The governors are contributing largely to the problem.”

He said the government initiated the economic crisis by removing the subsidy of petrol.

“They have to consider reviewing this subsidy. I’ve mentioned this severally, you can get it right with the rate of subsidy the way it is.

“This government initiated this crisis by removing the fuel subsidy and naturally, they don’t need to be told that there are consequences that will follow,” he declared.