Nigeria’s House of Representatives members on wednesday acceded to the demand of leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and their allies to throw away the controversial bill seeking to remove the National Minimum Wage from exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list.
This development is a follow up to the nationwide protest by labour which crippled activities across the nation yesterday.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, gave the promise to jettison the bill, while addressing protesting members of organized labour who stormed the National Assembly complex to demand withdrawal of the bill.
The controversial bill was sponsored by Garba Mohammed Datti (APC-Kaduna), passed first and second reading in the House two weeks ago. Since the bill became public knowledge, organized labour has rejected it, declaring nationwide protest against the bill it described as a design to further impoverish Nigerian workers. Presenting a protest letter to the National Assembly leadership, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said the thought of the bill was evil and malicious against the Nigerian worker.
Wabba emphasized that it took Labour several years, with the instrumentality of the House of Representatives, to get the minimum wage passed at N30, 000. According to him, it will be unfair to remove the minimum wage bill from the exclusive list.
He said: “We are here again on behalf of Nigerian workers, on behalf of Nigerian pensioners. We are going to resist the anti-progress, anti minimum wage bill, anti-peoples bill sponsored by Mohammed Datti. It is a dirty bill and we will resist it. “We have to make it clear and unambiguous that the bill that seeks to remove the minimum wage from the exclusive list to the concurrent list is not accepted. Let me say that the issue of national minimum wage is a standard set by the International Labour Organisation, ILO.
‘’It is the first agency of the United Nations born in 1919 after the first world war. So we have the powers of the United Nation.” Responding, speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was represented by the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, reiterated the commitment of the House leadership to do justice to the labour union’s petition, assuring that the bill would be killed.
“May I say a big thank you to organized labour and the general membership of labour for deciding to come and air your grievances in the right quarter. You are in the right hand and in the right place and the right institution which is a representative of the general membership of organized labour in Nigeria.
“May I say on behalf of my speaker and the entire members of the House of Representatives that we are also by extension members of organized labour. We are your employees. By this implication, whatsoever is the interest and yearnings of Nigerian workers, we would be willing to oblige.
“I, therefore, say on behalf of the speaker and the House, we have accepted to kill the bill as written and signed by the President of organised labour and we are going to give it the right treatment. There would be an opportunity for you to come and address us during the public hearing.
“That initiative is only an opinion. The recommendation of that bill is only a proposal. From what I am seeing now, it is clear that organized labour is against it. I want to assure you that the House of Reps would give a listening ear to your message.
“We will still invite you to come and engage with the relevant committee of which I am a member. You will come and make your position fully. Your position will be heard at the committee level and when we come to plenary to consider the bill, you will engage with members that are representing your respective communities to do justice to the bill and I can understand that the only justice would be to kill the bill.
“I want to advise please, lobby members that you elected that you do not want the bill and members will make sure the bill is killed,” he assured.
Meanwhile, protesting workers crippled commercial activities in most parts of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, over the bill. In Lagos, protesting workers, who gathered under the Ikeja Bridge as early as 8 am, marched through the ever busy Awowolo Way to the State House of Assembly at Alausa, causing heavy gridlock along the road and other adjoining roads and streets. They displayed several placards and chanted songs rejecting the bill.
They also laid siege to the governor’s office to prevent him from accessing it. We’ll reject bill in Ondo, Oyo Similarly, lawmakers in Ondo and Oyo states assured workers and leaders of Organised labour that they would reject the bill whenever it was brought before them.