ABRAHAM ACHIRGA and CAMILLUS EBOH
HUNDREDS of members of Nigeria’s main labour unions marched to the parliament building in the capital on Wednesday in protest against a possible change to the minimum wage system.
President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 signed into law a bill to increase Nigeria’s monthly minimum wage to 30,000 naira ($79) from 18,000. Unions had gone on strike in late 2018 to push for the rise.
A bill now under discussion in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, suggests a change whereby the country’s 36 states would each set their own minimum wage rather than it being decided by the federal government.
Hundreds of members of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), which represent millions of workers across most sectors of Africa’s biggest economy, filled streets in the capital, Abuja, in protest at the proposed move.
Many Nigerian states have struggled to pay the salaries of civil servants in the last few years.
“Once you remove that bar of having a national ceiling of what cannot be paid as a wage they will now go back and pay slave wages,” NLC President Ayuba Wabba told Reuters.
Quadri Olaleye, the TUC’s president, said the bill must be “killed immediately” or strike action could follow.
Ado Doguwa, majority leader of the lower house, accepted a letter from protesters and said the bill was still only a proposal.
He said the speaker of the lower chamber wanted to hold talks with labour unions on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
The bill passed its second reading in late February but would need to be passed by lawmakers in the upper chamber of parliament and by state lawmakers before being sent to the president who could still refuse to sign it into law.