In this interview conducted on Monday afternoon, the Head of Information, Nigeria Labour Congress, Benson Upah, accuses Nigerian governors of cruelty and also hiding behind the Nigeria Governors Forum. Details:
Will the strike still go ahead tomorrow in spite of the industrial court ruling?
Yes, it will go ahead. I am not even aware of any industrial court ruling. We have not been served with any notice or any order.
What can prevent the strike at this time?
That will be the acceptance to pay N30,000 minimum wage by the government.
States are owing even the N18,000 minimum wage. Is it realistic to expect them to pay higher?
I want you to understand this. The N30,000 is not as a result of their inability to pay. It is an act of cruelty. Do you know how much a governor earns? Do you know how much a political aide earns, aside from their allowances and all that?
Aside from acts of corruption, paying N30,000 is nothing. In a family of six, that is N50 a meal. That is what N30,000 comes to. None of the governor's will give N30,000 to their concubines.
Is it likely the NLC will accept less than the N30,000?
Do not forget that this committee was inaugurated on November 27, 2017. And it started work in March, 2018. There were consultations. The memoranda were accepted from 21 governors all of them agreeing to review the wage upwards and agreed to pay.
In fact Kano State which has the biggest number of civil servants accepted to pay N35,000. Yes. Kano has the largest number of civil, servants in the country. At the last meeting, at the meeting of October, 4th and 5th, the Minister of Labour and Employment brought the figures of the subcommittees and all the figures he brought were higher than N30,000.
It was the organized private sector that said we should accept the compromise figure of N30,000. It was on that basis that Labour grudgingly came down from N65,000 to N30,000. And the motion to that effect was taken and adopted.
There was no counter motion. So the tripartite members now agreed this, we have forgotten a figure. Let us take two or three days to clean it up and then come and sign and present to the president. In fact, some members had actually signed.
It was between that time and submitting to the president that they brought get certain changes.
"Paying N30,000 is nothing. In a family of six, that is N50 a meal. That is what N30,000 comes to. None of the governor's will give N30,000 to their concubines."
Which governors have accepted to pay N30,000 and which governors have not?
As I speak with you. No governor has come out to tell his people he will not pay. They are hiding behind the governors' forum. And we are saying if you are not paying, go back to your state and tell the workers you are not paying.
No one has been able to do that. They are hiding behind the forum and the forum is not known to us. It is not a negotiating entity. We are negotiating with governors, the federal government and the private sector.