The Government of Nigeria has kept mum on the recent demand by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for an increment in the minimum wage of civil servants from N18,000 to N56,000.
At the May Day rally in Abuja on Sunday, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, who spoke on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, said nothing on the issue of the minimum wage.
The officials of the Congress were not too happy at the failure of the President to personally attend the annual event which would have given him the opportunity to address some of the issues raised by them.
For instance, the National President of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, Alhaji Ibrahim Khaleel, who doubles as the National Treasurer of the NLC, expressed his disappointment at President Buhari’s absence at the rally.
He said: “That is one of the bad feelings we have as workers representatives on May Day. We believe that it was as a result of the absence of Mr. President. There is no way the President of the country would grace an occasion and salient issues like that would be raised, without Mr. President at least responding to them.”
The National Treasurer also said that while the organised labour did not have the exact reasons for the government’s refusal to comment on the issues, it was a fact that labour had always achieved welfare demands for its members through sustained struggle.
“We cannot say sincerely or talk about the reasons behind the government side not to say anything about it. But we believe that nothing, absolutely nothing, comes to the working class in the history of struggle free of charge, so we are determined and we are ready to pursue our agenda because we believe in our cause,” he said.
Expectations were high that the Federal Government would comment on the issue of the minimum wage during the event.
However, in an address read on his behalf by Ngige, the President called on the workers to collaborate with the government in the fight against corruption in the public service.
He said, “In this fight against corruption, I need you all to be very willing partners. Fighting corruption in the public service in particular requires the workers to play major roles by cooperating with the government.
It will be recalled, the last time the President openly identified with labour unions was at the 11th delegates’ conference of the NLC in February, 2015, shortly before his election.