Last minute efforts by the federal government to stop Nigerian workers from embarking on a nationwide industrial action paid off, yesterday, as the organised labour shelved the planned strike scheduled to begin today.
The suspension was announced after a marathon meeting of the tripartite committee that lasted over 12 hours. The meeting, which started by 11am, ended few minutes past 11pm.
It was gathered that the tripartite committee negotiating the new wage eventually agreed on N30, 000 with an assurance that its decision will be transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari by 4:15pm today.
In a terse statement announcing the suspension of the proposed strike,NLC General Secretary, Peter Ozo-Eson said “ following the meeting of the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage
Chairman of the tripartite committee, Ama Pepple, had told journalists at the end of the first session of the meeting that they would be reconvening at 10:00pm.
She said the committee arrived at two figures of N24, 000 and N30, 000 as the new national minimum wage.
Pepple said the committee appealed to the labour leaders to stop the strike and they promised to consult and revert when the meeting reconvened at 10:00pm.
She said, “We have concluded and we had a little challenge with what we call chapter five of our record. That is why we resort to negotiation again and the figures we concluded with and the committee has passed it to them.
“The federal government suggested N24, 000, and Labour and organised private sector gave the figure of N30, 000. There is no stalemate; we have finished and signed it. What we are insisting is that the strike should be called off.
“N24, 000 and N30, 000 were the figures we used for the negotiation. Remember that labour gave the figure of N52, 500, but when we put that figure together, plus the figures we got from the states when we wrote to them, about 21 of them responded and some of them gave us figures which we put in the basket”.
On his part, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had said the second session of the meeting was meant to get appointment on when the report will be submitted to the president.
He noted: “We are making progress. The governors’ figure should be the federal government’s figure. We are just trying to carry them along and that is why we made the discussion tripartite plus. Yes, the figures are standing. You know that there are other processes; it has to go through the council of state; an executive bill will be transmitted to National Assembly.
“The federal government figure of N24, 000 is noted, because it is based on affordability and the ability to pay.
“The labour is satisfied we are doing the needful. The only aspect of it now that we need to do is to fix an appointment to hand over the report to Mr President.
Yes, we are reconvening because that appointment has to be gotten. The President has gone home and has taken the feelers to the place, and as soon as we get the appointment, we will reconvene and know what to do. The state governments have no choice now because they have attached themselves to us”.
Earlier, President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the workers to shelve the planned strike.
Buhari who pleaded with the organised labour when he received members of the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN) led by Ambassador Oladapo Fafowora, urged the workers to consider what his government inherited and how it has been managing the scarce resources to put the economy right.
He also reassured Nigerians that his administration would sustain massive investments to upgrade and develop the country’s transport and power infrastructure.
The President said Nigerians will never forget the ‘‘lost opportunity between 1999 and 2015,’’ when the nation had huge resources at its disposal.
He stated: ‘’There is no part of the country I haven’t been to, having attempted to be President four times. I know the condition of our roads. The rails were literally killed; there was no power despite the admittance of some previous leadership that they spent $16 billion on the sector.
‘’Today, we are getting our priorities right and we believe that of the three fundamental issues we campaigned on – security, the economy and fighting corruption- we have remained very relevant and Nigerians believe we have achieved something”.
Saraki Calls For Understanding
The Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday, appealed to the federal government and the leadership of the organized labour to work together in order to avert the proposed workers’ strike in the interest of Nigeria.
Saraki, in a statement by his special adviser media and publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, urged the two sides to demonstrate sensitivity and concern for the plight of ordinary Nigerians who are already battling with the harsh economic conditions in the country.
He expressed appreciation for the patience displayed by the labour leaders, even as he noted that the issue of the new minimum wage could have been resolved long before now.
He said, “My appeal is for the two sides to immediately move fast, shift from their extreme positions and create a new middle ground in the negotiations for the new minimum wage. The shift in positions can be done even before the period of the commencement of the proposed strike action so that we do not further create tension within the economy.
“At this point, the interest of the people should be paramount in our minds. Any labour strike will cause inconvenience and discomfort to our people. While the government and labour are representing the interest of the people, it is important to also ensure we avoid any action that will not show sensitivity and sensibility to the plight of the people”.
ASUU Strike Records Poor Compliance
Meanwhile, despite directive by national leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday to embark on strike action in protest of infrastructural decay in universities across the country, many of the public universities in the country refused to comply.
In most of the universities visited by our correspondents yesterday, academic activities were still going on as usual.
Our reporter who visited the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife yesterday stated that normal academic activities were going on smoothly.
Although none of the labour leaders of the University were available to comment on the university’s position on the strike, students and lecturers alike were seen going about their normal academic activities.
In Yola, the Modibbo Adama University of Technology (MAUTECH), was yet to comply with the national strike embarked on by the ASUU.
The university management said, they are yet to receive directive from ASUU to begin the strike action.
It was the same situation at the Adamawa State University (ADSU), Mubi, as examination was conducted by the institution LEADERSHIP learnt.
But speaking to LEADERSHIP in a telephone chat, the ASUU branch chairman, University of Calabar, Dr Tony stated that the strike was on as directed by the national body.
He however said that he cannot say anything about the strike until he meets with his members, adding that the union is on strike whether the government likes it or not.
“We gave government ultimatum which has already expired. I will talk to you tomorrow (today) immediately after the meeting,” he said.