We’ll ensure LG workers enjoy new minimum wage —NULGE President
The National President of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, speaks with SOJI-EZE FAGBEMI, on the sidelines of the 2019 Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) national leadership retreat, on some vital labour-related issues which include implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage among others.
Any take home from the 2019 NLC leadership retreat?
I want to clearly start by saying that training and retraining is what keeps any organisation and institution alive and I believe that the leadership of the congress came up with this retreat in order to update the knowledge of its rank and file on the challenges ahead of the movement. You can see from the theme of the programme, the issue of future of work is taking the centre stage of the discussions and deliberations. As a vibrant institution, it is strategic for the leadership of the congress to come up with this idea at this critical time, most especially to forecast the future , because the future of work and world of work are going to be challenging looking at the technological advancement. With the neo-liberal policies that keep on laying off or downsizing our membership, it is actually apt for them to come up with an idea of this nature to equip ourselves for future challenges.
What is the expectation about the local government workers and the implementation of the new national minimum wage?
That is why our union is primarily concerned and worried about the viability of the local government as a system. There is no gainsaying that the system is sinking because of the constitutional encumbrances. This is because the level of encroachment of state government on the local government is already putting our members and the system at a disadvantaged position and unless and until we keep faith with the fight and struggle to make the system viable, certainly the future of local government is bleak. Strategically, we are in touch with the leadership of the union at various levels, that is the states and local governments.
As one of the NLC leaders that participated from the beginning to the end of the negotiation, particularly on the consequential adjustment, I was in touch with the leadership of various states as things continued to unfold on the process up till the last minute when agreement was reached. I passed it to them and I alerted them through a text message, before our circular got to them, that this was the outcome of the agreement and they should prepare ground to engage various governments at their level, from local to state level, to make sure that this consequential adjustment is implemented as expected by all our members.
I want to also say that it is as a result of our presence that our group, in the categorisation of the salary structure, is even having an upper hand , you can see clearly that the category is divided into A and B , local government workers fall into category A which got the highest percentage in the agreement. We call the attention of the leadership to this fact and I believe they are ready , our secretariat is open at any time if they need our intervention we are ready to back them up. I want to appeal to members and the general public that local government workers, this time around, would not be left out , we are on ground and are ready to engage employers at any level to ensure that our members also benefit maximally from this arrangement.
But as you know, the N30,000 national minimum wage is a law that must be obeyed throughout the federation and it is a must for local government administrators to obey the law. On our part, we will do everything possible to ensure that our members at the local government level enjoy the new wage as stipulated by the law.
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Labour also spoke of the need to ensure consistent review of minimum wage as stated by the law; how will the leadership ensure this particular provision is adhered to from now?
Ordinarily, from the layman perspective, the organised Labour is supposed to demand for review of the minimum wage of N30,000 by 2021. That is, in accordance with the provision of the minimum wage act. The constitution of Nigeria is clear about the interval at which the minimum wage for Nigeria workers ought to be reviewed and it is placed on five years. Like you have said, this N30,000 that we are about to enjoy would expire by 2021 and I don’t want to put words in the mouth of the leadership of the organised Labour because that decision has come through a collective engagement of rank and file of the Labour movement.
What is the update on the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU?
On the issue of NFIU, it is very clear that the policy of NFIU liberates the local government to some extent financially. The first time local governments in Nigeria started receiving funds direct into their accounts, some of the local governments accounts were dormant for many years because even when the money was released from the joint accounts, it couldn’t enter the account so the process of reactivating the account needed to be done by some of the local governments before the money finally entered the account. That will clearly show you the level of decay in the system but by coming off this, some local governments are more viable now. Even though the policy is still having some setback, because of the resistance we noticed from some state governments. Some governors deviced another means. After releasing the money, they were asking the local councils to return some funds under the guise of government obligation and other directives. This ought not to be so, but the situation with NFIU is better than when the policy was not in place.
What are you doing on your struggle for local government autonomy?
We are pushing for constitutional reforms and we are planning, re-strategising and very soon we would come out. We will engage the National Assembly like we did to the last assembly up to the state assemblies, particularly. There was a resolution of the meeting of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) during our February conference, where the local government autonomy was adopted as one of the resolutions of the congress. I believe we are going to have some strong backing from the NLC as organised labour to push us to the next level.
We’ll ensure LG workers enjoy new minimum wage —NULGE President