Labour counters Ngige on new minimum wage

Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige

…As Boko Haram attack leaves 15 soldiers dead***

The organised labour and organised private sector yesterday insisted that all negotiations for a new minimum wage had been concluded.

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Ayuba Wabba made the disclosure while reacting to a claim by Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige that the Federal Government was yet to reach an agreement with the organised labour to increase the nation’s minimum wage from N18,000 to N30,000.

Ngige, who said discussions were ongoing, told reporters after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting: “This information becomes very pertinent because I saw all your papers, the dailies yesterday (Tuesday) awash with the news that we have all agreed on N30,000. That is not true. The Federal Government has not agreed on N30,000.”

He explained further: “The Federal Government is carrying in its own team, and the governors. So, it’s a bi-focal arrangement when it comes to the Federal Government.
Governors had their own figure, which was different from the figure of the Federal Government. Both the Federal Government’s figure and that of the state governors were also presented and we discussed because the cardinal principle of wage fixing mechanism under the International Labour Organisation is the ability to pay, because the issue of minimum wage under Convention 131, the fixing mechanism, takes that into account and also says that there must be a consensual agreement.

“This negotiation took into account irreducible offers on the different governments but we could not arrive at a consensus. Even though we adjourned our meeting and said we will put up a report that will reflect this position, we are still continuing to discuss informally to see if we can arrive at a common figure.”

Wabba told The Guardian in Abuja: “The meeting was reconvened on Thursday and it worked on the same Thursday and Friday last week. The meeting actually concluded all negotiations on Friday. There was a sub-committee on the issue of figure, which was chaired by the minister. The committee had four scenarios. Those four scenarios were a collection of facts and data that were proposed by the tripartite body and some specialised institutions that included NECA, NLC, TUC and government. At the end of the deliberation, a figure was arrived at and a motion was moved in that respect and it was adopted.”

Wabba hinted that what was outstanding was the submission of the report to President Muhammadu Buhari.

On why labour did not divulge the agreed figure to the public, Wabba said the members felt that such was better done at the point of submitting the report to the president who constituted the committee.

He said it was strange that the minister would say that negotiations had not been concluded. “We do not know what the minister wants to achieve by constantly courting controversies where there are none. The organised labour will also respond officially because this matter is an official one,” he said.

The director general designate of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale, said in an exclusive interview that negotiations had been concluded.

He said: “We are through with our assignment. I am telling you as a member of the tripartite committee that all the negotiations have been concluded. We are just waiting for a date with the president, to submit the report to him. But as far as negotiations are concerned, we are done with that.”

The Guardian learnt that while both the organised labour and private sector adopted N30,000, the minister pushed for N25,000, citing the ability-to-pay clause of International Labour Organisation Convention 131. But he was reportedly rebuffed by both labour and the organised labour. They argued that in a tripartite arrangement, two are greater than one and that the minister was alone in his argument for the N25,000 figure.

In the meantime, at least Fifteen soldiers were killed in a Boko Haram jihadist attack on a military base near the Niger border and in the Lake Chad region on Wednesday, the military said Wednesday.

Seven Nigerian soldiers and 8 Chadian soldiers killed in Boko Haram attacks Eight Chadian soldiers died in a Boko Haram attack in the Lake Chad region on Wednesday, with 48 jihadists killed as the army retaliated, a military spokesman told AFP.

The Islamists and the army were engaged in a fierce battle on Monday in Metele, a village in Nigeria’s northeast Borno State, the military said in a statement posted on Twitter. Seven soldiers died and 16 were wounded “in action” the army said, but military and civilian militia sources put the death toll higher. “We lost 18 men in the fight which lasted for seven hours,” a military officer told AFP, speaking from the Borno state capital of Maiduguri. “Our men fought hard and dealt heavy blows on the terrorists but they were overwhelmed by the enemy who overran the base,” said the officer who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak on the incident. A civilian militia assisting the military in fighting the jihadists said that on Tuesday 18 bodies of soldiers were brought to the garrison town of Monguno, 120 kilometres (70 miles) from the attacked base.

“The fighting was fierce. It started around 4:30 pm and continued till 11:30 pm,” the militia man said. Boko Haram suffered “heavy” casualties but managed to invade the base and take weapons, he said, adding that the jihadists destroyed “those they could not take away.” Boko Haram’s Islamic State group-backed faction — known as Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) — operates in the Lake Chad region and has in recent months intensified attacks on military bases in Borno and nearby Yobe states. The attacks are seen as a sign of a hardline takeover in ISWAP by more radical lieutenants who executed the group’s de facto leader over his willingness to hold peace talks with the Nigerian government. Scores of soldiers have been killed, injured or missing in the latest wave of attacks but the military has repeatedly denied or played down losses to the jihadists. More than 27,000 people are thought to have been killed in the nine-year Boko Haram Islamist insurgency that has triggered a humanitarian crisis and left 1.8 million people without homes.

8 Chadian soldiers killed in Boko Haram attack

Eight Chadian soldiers died in a Boko Haram attack in the Lake Chad region on Wednesday, with 48 jihadists killed as the army retaliated, a military spokesman told AFP. “Boko Haram terrorists attacked defence force positions in Kaiga Kindji early this morning,” the spokesman said. The attack, which left 11 other soldiers wounded, had been “vigorously” repulsed, he added. Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency has devastated the Lake Chad region since the group took up arms in Nigeria in 2009.

The jihadists’ campaign of violence has left at least 27,000 people dead, displaced some two million others and triggered a humanitarian crisis. Chad, Cameroon and Niger have all joined the military effort by Nigeria to crush Boko Haram. Chad has seen a recent increase in attacks by the group. A Chadian soldier was killed earlier this month after Boko Haram launched a mortar attack on a military camp in Litri, close to the Nigeria border. In late September, six people, including two soldiers, were killed in another Boko Haram attack on the Chadian shores of Lake Chad, in which 17 of the attackers were shot dead by the army. The Nigerian army has recently intensified operations in the Lake Chad region, including air strikes against the jihadist group, according to Nigerian military sources.

Guardian NG with additional report from Vanguard