The National President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, during a meeting with the leadership of the House of Representatives and the leadership of the organized labour on Tuesday said countries that practice true federalism in the world have a central wage bill.
While faulting the argument that decentralization of minimum wage would advance true federalism and restructuring, Wabba argued that, “In the lexicon, I know that what we have is only federalism. There is nothing like true federalism.”
According to the NLC President, the United States has truly federal states, and still maintains a central minimum wage.
He argued that some states were paying higher than the national minimum wage in the US, adding that some states in Nigeria also paid above the old N18,000 minimum wage.
Wabba noted that Nigeria is a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO), reiterating that it is the first agency of the United Nation.
He said that the minimum wage is part of the constitution of the ILO.
He said, “In Nigeria, we adopted the monthly wage system. In 1981 when the first minimum wage was promulgated, it was agreed by social partners that the monthly wage system be adopted by Nigeria.
“We have heard an argument that to encourage true federalism, the minimum wage should be removed from the exclusive list.
“When we negotiated the last minimum wage, we had six governors representing the governors and we received memos from all the states and some states even quoted N40, 000. The National Bureau of Statistics, the Central Bank of Nigeria and other agencies provided the data that were used and at the end of the day, a consensus was arrived at.”
Wabba further stated that, “What happens is that when you fix the minimum, states will then go and discuss with their workers because what we are setting at the national level is just the minimum. There is a difference between negotiating consequential adjustment and the minimum wage.
“As we speak, all the 36 states have different salary structures based on the negotiation and ability to pay. This has been the process over the years. This issue is about the sovereignty of Nigeria as a nation because it is the country that will be held responsible and not the sub-national.
“We are saying that the minimum wage can only be legislated upon by the National Assembly which has been the tradition. Also, it is important to inform the members that once a convention is ratified, it is binding on the member country and not the sub-national.”
The NLC President asked who will fix the wage for the private sector if states were allowed to fix their wages “We are not saying there must be a uniform wage for everybody, but just the minimum. That is why Nigerian workers are at a loss and we feel that this is the first place to table our protest because this is the House of the Nigerian people,” he said.