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There will be no strike – FG *I’ll rather be in jail to see workers poorly paid – Ajaero

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The proposed strike action by organised labour in the country under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), will not hold as all the vexing issues that could lead to it will be resolved soon, the Federal Government, assured on Tuesday.

Nkiruka Onyeagocha, Minister of State for Labour and George Akume, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), both at the Second National Labour Adjudication and Arbitration Forum organised by the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), held in Abuja, gave the assurance that the government was on top of the situation.

has commenced discussions with organised labour to try to forestall a looming industrial action by workers over alleged poor implementation of the fuel subsidy removal palliatives, including payment of N35, 000 wage award.

Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, who confirmed the talks, saying negotiations on the new minimum wage had since commenced, but would be gradual, to enable all the parties address all concerns by the workers, promised to resume the payment of wage awards to workers this week.

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It was also the day Diket Plang, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour and Employment, who bemoaned the persistent economic hardship in the country, assured that the National Assembly would support any move to introduce a living wage for Nigerian workers.

Onyejeocha said, “We have commenced negotiation with labour on the minimum wage on Monday. In fact, I will say that we started the engagement with organised labour immediately after the Christmas holiday, when I visited the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress and that of Trade Union Congress in Abuja. The committee will adopt the principle of social dialogue and tripartite engagement to resolve most of the issues that might arise during the negotiation.”

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Echoing the position, Akume, represented by Richard Pheelangwa, the Permanent Secretary in the SGF Office, also said the Federal Government was desirous of a minimum wage that was fair, sustainable, and beneficial to all stakeholders, said the government was pushing for a new minimum wage.

Stressing embracing alternative dispute resolution mechanism might sometimes provide a quicker way of resolving labour disputes, rather than the traditional conflict resolution method as a way of resolving disagreements, the SGF said: “This forum coincides with the commencement of deliberations by the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage. This critical juncture underscores the immense significance of our gathering.

“It provides a crucial platform for open dialogue, constructive engagement, and the exploration of innovative solutions as we navigate the delicate process of determining a minimum wage that is fair, sustainable, and beneficial for all stakeholders.”

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He stressed the need to embrace tripartism and social dialogue by recognising the fact that collaboration and mutual understanding between government, employers, and labour unions were paramount, he said each party must actively listen to the concerns and perspectives of the others, and foster the spirit of compromise and cooperation.

Even though he agreed that organized labour should push for payment of living wage, he argued that the workers, the committee must acknowledge the country’s economic challenges, urging the panel to take into consideration issues such as finding a sustainable equilibrium that protects worker well-being without jeopardising business viability and overall economic health is crucial.

In seeking to resolve labour disputes, traditional negotiation methods might not always yield the desired outcomes, he said, adding that embracing alternative mechanisms, like mediation and arbitration, could expedite resolutions, minimise disruptions, and foster trust among stakeholders.

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Akume urged the leadership of the labour unions to also recognise measures undertaken by government for public good as well as wider public serving obligations discharged by the government to cushion economic hardships, beyond the minimum wage.

On her part, President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, said she was of the opinion that alternative dispute resolution mechanisms should be used in settling conflicts in the labour sector since it encompassed all the tenets of social dialogue.

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But Joe Ajaero, NLC President, who informed that organised labour was not satisfied with the manner government was proceeding with the talks on new minimum wage, expressed fear over possible stalemate in the talks, adding that any governor or ex-governor that could not pay their workers the N30, 000 minimum wage had no business being on the new minimum wage committee.

“Of what essence is social dialogue or tripartite negotiation if the outcome will not be implemented? The agreement labour has with the Federal Government since October 16 last year is yet to be implemented. No matter what amount you negotiate in present Nigerian economy, in the next five years, it can’t buy a bag of rice. Instead of the for five years renegotiation of the national minimum wage the law must be adjusted to allow for yearly adjustment of wages based on the level of inflation and value of the naira.

“This is important because people have been coming up to say that if we increase salaries it will affect inflation, but should we leave salary to be constant while variables continue to grow? Workers are displeased with the poor implementation of the wage award by the government.

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“It took you 24 hours to say fuel subsidy is gone and it is taking you more than eight months to decide what to do with it and you are telling us to give you more time. It took 24 hours to remove fuel subsidy but more than eight months no single CNG bus is on the road. It is better for me to be in jail than see workers earn poor wages that are less than what prison dogs consume.

Lateef Fagbemi,Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF-MoJ), who said dialogue and peaceful relationship between government and labour promoted development, assured that the government was going to implement all key recommendations from the NECA forum.

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Taiwo Adeniyi, NECA President, who stated that the organisation would ensure that priority was given to the welfare of employers, maintained that employers and employees, along with the government, were encouraged to engage in social dialogue to improve industrial harmony in the country.

 

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Soyinka, terror to dictators, face of democracy – Tinubu

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President Bola Tinubu, spared no nice words in showering accolades on Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate on Literature, extolling his democratic credentials, ending it all with the renaming of the National Theatre as The Wole Soyinka Centre for Culture and the Creative Arts, in honour 90th birthday of the celebrated playwright, novelist and activist.

The President’s sentiments, on Soyinka, a professor of literature, globally celebrated essayist, actor, singer, composer, and documentarian, who brought great honour to Africa and Nigeria when he won the coveted prize in 1986, was conveyed by Ajuri Ngelale, his spokesman in a statement, ahead of the birthday on Saturday, July 13.

Describing him as one of the finest minds of his generation; conforming to the highest standards of human enlightenment, but unyielding to injustice, oppression, and base impulses, Tinubu hailed his long-time friend, with whom he was in the trenches some three decades ago, during the June 12, 1993 struggle.

The statement, which stressed that Tinubu also hailed Soyinka as one of Nigeria’s living repositories of history, knowledge, and courage, and commended him for his valiant efforts in the trenches for the nation’s future both as a pro-democracy champion and as a trenchant voice against corruption and maladministration over several decades, recalled the days of the struggle.

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His words: “Our paths crossed during our just struggle for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria following the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election. When faced with a trial in absentia and death sentence by the military regime at home, he galvanized opposition in exile through NALICON and NADECO. His global stature made him the face of our struggle to validate June 12 and restore democracy in Nigeria.”

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Wishing him many more years in good health and creative fulfilment as a global force for change, he added: “Today, I join the world to celebrate his profound influence on generations of writers, scholars, and activists who have been inspired by his work. I celebrate him for giving us the spark to fight and confront military dictators in our country.

“I am, accordingly, delighted to have the honour to announce the decision of the Federal Government to rename the National Theatre in Iganmu, Surulere, as The Wole Soyinka Centre for Culture and the Creative Arts.”

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S’Court: No more allocations to 37 Development centres in Lagos, others  

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The 37 Local Government Development Centres (LGDC), created in Lagos in 2003, during the tenure of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as Governor of the state, may have been dealt a hard blow, as they will no longer be captured in the funding bracket of the state, going by the interpretation of Thursday’s ruling of the Supreme Court, by some legal minds.

One of those who believe that by the judgement, the councils have lost their source of funding, following the pronouncement of the courts that allocations from the Federation Account be paid directly into the accounts of recognised entities is, Mike Ozekhome, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

Lagos has 20 local governments originally created by the Federal Government, while the 37 LGDCs, were created by the Tinubu administration, in a bid to further take governance to the grassroots, a development, which led to a bitter feud between the government and the Federal Government under the President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In fact, throughout the period Obasanjo was in power after the creation of the LGDCs, the state was denied its council allocations, as a punishment to the state, following the former President’s aversion to the move.

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It was only the government of Umaru Yar’Adua, Obasanjo’s successor, who released the entire entitlements to the state, when he assumed power in 2007, after the state had funded the councils from its own resources for four years.

Ozekhome, a renowned constitutional lawyer,  who was a guest of The Morning Brief, a breakfast programme on Channels Television, on Friday, told his host that Thursday’s apex court judgement on the autonomy of the councils, made it clear that the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) would not send funds to local government areas headed by caretaker committee chairmen, or development centres.

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Hear him: “The judgement of the government is clear. If you want to receive funds from the federation account, then conduct an election. If what you have in place is a caretaker committee as local government chairman, be sure that it will not have money from the federation account.

“What this law is saying is that if you are not a democratically elected local government council, you cannot have this money under section 162 subsection 5 and 6 of the 199 Constitution. So, what it means is that money should now be ploughed to those local governments that are in existence democratically.”

The only remedy, he stated was for the state to find ways of funding the development centres from the allocations of the councils, adding: “They can do that internally to share. That is their internal business. Nobody can control that one. But for now, the money can only go to those local government areas named in the constitution. Don’t forget they are even named in the constitution, 774 local governments. If you want money from the federation account, such councils must be democratically elected.”

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The apex court not only endorsed full local government autonomy and ordering that funds from the FAAC be paid directly to their accounts, but also barred governors from henceforth dissolving democratically elected officials for local governments adding that doing so would amount to a breach of the 1999 Constitution.

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Tinubu completely caged, now surrounded by thieves, Ndume insists

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Ali Ndume, Senator representing Borno South at the National Assembly, on Thursday dug deeper in his earlier revelations putting Nigerians on notice that President Bola Tinubu is currently under a cocoon thrown around him by his aides, who have used the opportunity to mindlessly fleece the national till.

A guest of Prime Time, a current affairs programme on Arise News Network, Ndume, Chief Whip of the Senate, told his host that the seat of power has now been captured by “kakistocrats” – a government run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens and kleptocrats – one run by thieves.

Absolving Tinubu of complicity in the alleged massive thievery he alleged that the Presidential Villa and top government bodies have become, he said: “The government is also populated by kleptocrats, but unfortunately that is not what the President is up to. He really meant renewed hope, but you can only do that when you have people around you that are on the same type of thinking.”

Ndume one of the longest serving members of NASS, explained that much as Tinubu, whom he described as a close political associate and a democrat, would always be quick to act on any act of malfeasance that came to his attention, such as his recent repudiation of the Cyber-crime bill, the said unscrupulous aides, had been doing much to keep him away from some critical information.

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Hear him: “When the president realised that he had not heard about it, he quickly suspended it.” He highlighted the significant challenge of hunger and food scarcity, mentioning that inflation has risen to 40%. In some places, even with your money, you won’t find the food items you want to buy, which is very dangerous..

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“Nigeria has never been included among countries facing severe food crises or food insecurity, but recent UN and World Food Programme figures rank Nigeria as a hotspot. For people like me, I have to be scared because I’m 64 years old with 10 children, 20 grandchildren, and I don’t have a passport or visa to anywhere.

“Some Ministers only meet the president during council meetings and that the President is often the first to leave. I’m the chief whip, and if the chief whip can’t have access to the president, the new senators won’t have access either. During the time of President (Olusegun) Obasanjo’s administration, any senator could see the president within 24 hours.

“President Tinubu is caged in. There are no visible efforts by the government to address pressing issues like climate change. The President has to harness Nigeria’s natural and human resources. He must get the right people into office and dominate his government with democrats. The president needs people who will realise his dream and tell him when something is wrong.”

Ndume who also bemoaned the effect of the removal of the fuel subsidy, argued that much as it was a good move to eliminate corruption and allow savings to benefit the people, measures must be taken to cushion such effects, like the introduction of food stamps, adding that presently the anger of Nigerians over their parlous situation could snowball into uncontrollable conflagration.

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