Every well-meaning Nigerian must condemn the threat by the Federal Government to retrench workers if the Organised Labour, represented by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), insists on the payment of the N30,000 minimum wage with its consequential adjustments.
Recall that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, on Thursday, threatened that the Federal Government might lay off workers to be able to meet a wage bill of N580 billion needed to meet labour’s demand on the new minimum wage.
The bill was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 18 after passage by the National Assembly.
Ngige, who said the sum was what would be needed by the Federal Government to pay the consequential adjustments as demanded by labour, however stated that government was avoiding a situation where it would have to lay off workers as throwing workers into unemployment would add to their burden.
We are glad that the Federal Government knows clearly that laying off workers at this time will cause problems for the workers who will be affected. Retrenching workers at this period, in our view, will also impact negatively on the socio-economic well-being of the country.
Since the Federal Government by the Labour minister’s admission knows the implication (s) of laying off workers, we counsel it to drop the idea and find more creative ways to meet labour’s demand and save the nation another round of industrial action as threatened by labour.
We are of the opinion that the N580 billion quoted by the Labour minister as being what the Federal Government requires to pay the new minimum wage can be sourced by government through cutting down on non-essential expenditures and projects.
Additionally, the Federal Government needs to consider cutting down the humongous salaries and allowances of political office holders in the executive and legislative branches of government and channel funds accruing therefrom to the welfare of the masses, including paying workers the new minimum wage.
We believe that if there is the political will, the Federal Government should through the Revenue Mobilsation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) cause a downward review salaries and allowances of public office holders in the country and submit same to the National Assembly for legislative action.
The fund saved from this downward review of salaries of public office holders in addition to others from cutting down of non-essential expenditures and projects in the budget, we believe, will be more than enough to pay the new minimum wage as well as meet other needs of the masses.
Even before such review gets legislative backing, the Federal Government to show its seriousness should go ahead and plug all loopholes through which public funds are frittered away by public officers in the executive and legislature, including the MDAs.