N35,000 wage award: 30 states default, Labour fumes, pensioners threaten protest

14th March 2024

NLC members during a strike

The Nigeria Labour Congress, on Wednesday, expressed anger over the failure of about 90 per cent of states (over 30 states) in paying the wage award as agreed by the Federal Government and the organised Labour.

The NLC said this as pensioners who retired from the Federal Civil Service threatened to embark on a nationwide protest following the failure of the government to pay their wage award.

Labour leaders in Sokoto, Kano, Benue, and Bayelsa states told The PUNCH on Wednesday that their state governments had no paid  the wage award, while Gombe, Ogun, and Osun were paying N15,000 or N10,000.

The NLC Assistant General Secretary, NLC, Chris Onyeka, in an interview with The PUNCH on Wednesday, said state governors jettisoned negotiations, as they unilaterally gave workers N10,000 without any negotiation.

The payment of wage award to workers was one of the agreements between the organised labour and the Federal Government as one of the ways to mitigate the effect of the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol.

In 2023, the NLC and Trade Union Congress entered into an agreement with the Federal Government where the latter agreed to pay a N35,000 wage award to workers for six months, as well as review the minimum wage in 2024.

On Tuesday, President Bola Tinubu in Niger State appealed to state governors to continue to pay workers in their various states the wage award till negotiations on a new minimum wage were concluded.

But speaking with one of our correspondents on Wednesday, the Assistant General Secretary, NLC lamented that about 90 per cent of states, representing over 30 states, were not paying the wage award to their workers.

He “About 90 per cent of the states have not paid wage awards. Some states I know decided to give workers N10,000 but the wage award is not decided alone.

“There is a process for it. There must be a negotiation with the workers. Wage award is not a dash out or a charity. The process must be inclusive,” Onyeka stated.

Gombe pays N10,000

But the General Secretary of the NLC in Gombe State, Ibrahim Fika, said so far, workers had received N10,000, as the wage award had yet to be implemented by the state government.

Fika said, “Nothing yet. We have only been paid N10,000 per month. We have not received the wage award as directed by the President. We are still hopeful that workers will be duly paid the agreed amount at the right time to reduce the hardship.”

The NLC leaders in both Sokoto and Kebbi states said workers in the two states had yet to receive any wage award from their respective state governments.

Speaking in separate interviews, the union leaders said they had commenced the process of negotiation for the wage award with the representatives of their governments.

The Chairman, NLC, Sokoto State, Abdullahi Jungle, said the state government would soon announce the wage award to its workers.

“We are still negotiating with the government and I am sure that very soon the state government and labour leaders will agree on how much to be paid to workers,” he said.

His counterpart from Kebbi State, Murtala Usman, said, “Yes, we are still negotiating and the outcome will soon be made public.”

Meanwhile, a senior aide to the governor of Sokoto State, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the state government had been adopting different measures to cushion the effect of the current economic hardship on its workers.

He said, “Look at the announcement made by the governor yesterday on the payment of half salary to all categories of workers including pensioners in the state to assist them in this month of Ramadan.

“This is apart from so many other measures being made available to workers including palliatives. I am sure the wage award will be addressed soon as usual.”

‘Bayelsa not paying’

In Bayelsa State, the state chapter of NLC said the state government had not been paying its workers the wage award.

The state NLC Secretary, John Angese, who stated this, said the state government had not given the organised labour a definite response on the issue of wage award.

He said, “No, the state government is not paying workers the wage award. The government has not given us any definite answer on that matter.

“The wage award is N35,000. The Federal Government paid only two months (to its workers) and stopped, now they are about to continue. That stoppage couldn’t allow us to make any serious case (with the state government) since the national government also defaulted.”

Also speaking, the Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Ekiti State, Sola Adigun, said the hike in the prices of goods and services had made the wage award insignificant, hence the need for immediate conclusion of negotiation and implementation of a new living wage for workers.

Adigun said though the Ekiti State Government had since December last year been implementing the wage award for workers, “what is being implemented is not the same amount that the Federal Government expected.

“Here in Ekiti, all public servants at the states and Local Governments are given N15,000 monthly after the payment of salary. We have been paid for three months now, December, January, and February. Pensioners are being paid N10,000 monthly apart from their pensions.’’

When contacted, Osun State TUC Chairman, Bimbo Fasasi, said the state government started paying the wage award to workers and retirees in December 2023.

Fasasi, who added that the government had paid up to February, said, “Osun is paying N15,000 for active workers and N10,000 for retirees.

“It commenced payment last December 2023 and has paid up to February 2024. By March ending we are expecting the March wage award to come.”

The Kano State Government has yet to fulfill its promise on the payment of the N20,000 wage award it agreed to pay the state and Local Government workers for six months beginning from December 2023.

Similarly, the government has also yet to commence the payment of the N15,000 wage award it promised pensioners for three months from December 2023.

The Chairman of the NLC, Kabiru Inuwa, said this in a telephone interview with The PUNCH on Wednesday.

He said, “We agreed on N20,000 but the government has yet to begin the payment.”

According to him, the wage award was aimed at minimising the hardship being experienced by workers brought about by the fuel subsidy removal in the country but was not forthcoming in Kano State.

Efforts to get the state Commissioner of Information, Baba Dantiye, failed as his phone was switched off. He was said to be in the State Executive Council meeting.

A WhatsApp message sent to him was not replied as of the time of filing this report.

Labour in Benue State threatened to write to the national secretariat about the non-response of the state government to the wage award demand.

The state NLC Chairman, Terungwa Igbe, said the union had written to the state government about their desire to meet with the government.

He said, “We have not heard of anything from the state government despite the letter we wrote to them to have a meeting with them.”

Asked what would be the next line of action, Igbe said, “We are going to write to our national secretariat to inform it of the development.”

Meanwhile, the state government through the Commissioner for Finance and Budget Planning, Michael Oglegba, said the government would soon meet the labour union concerning the wage award.

The Chairman, TUC, Ogun State, Akeem Lasisi, said the state government had since July commenced the payment of N10,000 palliatives to the state workers.

“We were given 40 per cent of the basic salary starting from September 2023; N10,000 palliatives started in July 2023, while we also got Christmas bonus in December, ranging from N20,000 from Level 01 to N100,000 for level 15-17.”

Pensioners threaten protest

Meanwhile, pensioners who retired from the Federal Civil Service threatened a nationwide protest following the failure of the Federal Government to pay their wage awards.

The pensioners under the aegis of Federal Civil Service Pensioners, an affiliate of the National Union of Pensioners, expressed dismay at the failure of the Tinubu-led administration to pay the wage awards despite the untold hardship currently being faced by Nigerians.

While addressing selected members of the press in Abuja on Wednesday, the President of the Federal Civil Service Pensioners, Sunday Omezi, said pensioners were going through excruciating pains and agony.

“We feel constrained to bring to the knowledge of the world through this medium, the excruciating pains and agony we have been subjected over the years by the same government we served vigorously and diligently with our youthful energy without blemish only to be abused, dehumanised, marginalised and neglected with reckless abandon, after sapping our energy and leaving us dejected and consigned to rot and death,” he said.

Speaking on the unpaid wage award, Omezi said, “It is pathetic and disappointing to bring to the fore, the non-payment of the N25,000 wage award promised pensioners by the government.

“It is rather distasteful that up till date, no single payment has been made to pensioners. We are hereby demanding immediate payment of the award, because it is so embarrassing for such a promise to be left unfulfilled.”

Omezi also noted that pensioners have been crying profusely the tears of pain over the years through several official representations to the government.

“Our telling has been deliberately ignored, hence we are left with no option, but to cry out louder to the world to be informed of the pathetic condition we have been made to suffer by the same system that is expected to protest us.”

When asked whether the union would protest, Omezi said, “We are hoping it won’t get to that. That is the major reason we have this press briefing. However, if nothing is done, we may have to embark on a protest.’’

But the Niger State Governor Mohammed Bago has promised to start paying the State’s workers wage award beginning from March 2024.

The governor’s promise was the outcome of a round table negotiation with the leadership of the State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC, in Minna.

Chairman of the Niger State NLC, Idrees Lafene, spoke with The PUNCH in a telephone chat on Wednesday in which he said President Bola Tinubu’s comment on wage award during his visit to the State was important to the State’s Labour Union.

He expressed confidence that the Niger State Governor would fulfill his promise to start paying the wage award from March 2024.

“I like what the president said, especially when he said governor’s should give wage award. That is the only thing hat remains for our Governor. If he is able to give wage award, he’ll be one of the best governors,” Lafene said.

Asked if the governor has started paying wage award, the NLC chairman said, “ Our agreement with the governor is this March, he said end of March, that is when he will start paying the wage award. He said he will pay N20,000”.


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