…As FG set to announce new minimum wage – NLC***
The Social Democratic Party presidential flagbearer, Donald Duke, has expressed concern over the growing indebtedness of the nation to China and other countries, stating that Nigeria is haemorrhaging under foreign loans.
Stating that the government needed to indigenise the economy, the former Cross River State governor noted that the Federal Government was taking foreign loans because the interest rates were low, adding that the nation could regulate bank rates in the country to make credit cheaper and affordable for entrepreneurs to grow the economy.
Addressing journalists at the SDP headquarters in Abuja on Monday, Duke pointed out that the about 30 per cent interest being charged on loans made it hard for businesses to grow and generate employment.
He said, “Indebtedness to any nation is worrisome, not just China. The concept of independence is being able to stand on your own; you are not independent if you are indebted to other nations. We need to strengthen our own local trade and when you trade, there should be a balance.
“You cannot always import without exporting; you cannot always breathe in without breathing out, that’s the law of nature; there must be harmony. If you keep on importing and you are not exporting to have a balance of trade, then your country will haemorrhage; we are haemorrhaging.”
The SDP presidential candidate insisted that the nation could produce nearly all the things that were being imported if power and bank credit were available.
He said, “All the things that we import, can’t we make them in Nigeria? Each time you import, you are sustaining a job overseas. Our government goes to countries like China to borrow because it is cheaper there.
“But you can also do the same thing here; you can regulate interest rates here and ensure that credit is affordable; we need to indigenise this economy built by Nigerians for Nigerians,” the lawyer stated.
Duke pledged that if elected in 2019, his government would address gas flaring, make credit affordable and available to Nigerians, and invest in the housing sector, which he said could generate millions of jobs.
“Already, if you take the housing sector, you have over 17 million housing shortage. If you decide to build one million houses every year, you will employ over 10 million to 15 million people; it will still take you 17 years to catch up. So, even though it is a problem, the sector still provides opportunities,” he argued.
The presidential hopeful said it was not right to tie the nation’s growth to oil prices, which he noted were fluctuating like every other commodity prices, stressing that it should rather be tied to real, measurable growth.
In the meantime, the Federal Government is set to announce the new minimum wage as the Tripartite Committee completes its assignment for onward submission to President Muhammadu Buhari.
NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, made this known while speaking with newsmen on Monday in Abuja.
According to him, the committee used the two-day to reconvene and deliberate on a new minimum wage figure that was acceptable to all employers of labour in the country.
“I want to assure workers that all has been concluded and will be passed for signing within the week.
“I also want to appreciate the Organised Private Sector, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) for their resolve to pay the new minimum wage when it is signed into law,” he said.
The NLC president, however, refused to disclose the figure arrived at by the Tripartite Committee on the new National Minimum Wage.
Wabba said the presidency would make it public after deliberation by the National Economic Council meeting.
The organised labour, comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC), on Sept. 30, suspended its warning strike on a new minimum wage embarked upon on Sept. 26.
The organised labour had embarked on the strike after a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government for failing to reconvene meeting to come out with its own figure on the new minimum wage.
The three unions had demanded N65,500 as new minimum wage for workers, while the private employers and some state governors were proposing N25,000.
The Federal Government, under Shehu Shagari’s administration introduced a minimum wage of N125 per month in 1981.
In 1989, General Ibrahim Babangida’s government increased it to N250.
The General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s administration increased the minimum wage to N3,000 in 1999, while President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government raised it to N5,500 for states and N7,500 for federal workers and those of oil producing states in 2000
The government of President Goodluck Jonathan increased the minimum wage to N18,000 in 2010/2011.
Punch with additional report from The Citizen