July 14, 2024

Minimum wage: Anambra workers in dilemma over Assembly’s continued disdain


As the minimum wage argument continues at the national level, there is doubt that even if the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, accept the President Bola Tinubu-led government’s proposal of N62,000, it will be implemented in Anambra State.

In Anambra, there have been debates about the disdainful and pitiable condition under which workers carry out their duties, including the low package they take home, which has been said to be less than the current minimum wage of N30,000 in Nigeria.

In a recent interview on national TV, the president of NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero stated that while negotiations were on with federal government over the minimum wage, “The governor of Anambra State, Prof Chukwuma Soludo was busy calling other governors and inciting them to reject the the new minimum wage.”

Also, a member of the leadership of the NLC, Comrade Benson Upah in another interview on national TV insisted that Anambra was among the worst states to serve in as a civil servant.

Upah insisted that in Anambra State, despite the rejection of N62,000 minimum wage by the NLC, the state under Soludo still pays N20,000 as minimum wage.

These have created doubts that even if the NLC eventually accepts the N62,000 proposed by the federal government, workers in Anambra State may never be able to enjoy it.

This doubt was worsened by the fact that once the national minimum wage becomes a law, the state assemblies may have to enact laws too, to domesticate it in their various states. This is due to what many have described as a show of aversion to workers’ welfare by members of the Anambra State House of Assembly, and the governor.

During an exercise to enforce national strike in the state by the leadership of Anambra State NLC, the council had a collision with lawmakers, which almost degenerated into a brawl.

Also, in February, workers of the Assembly, under the parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria, PASAN, clashed with lawmakers when they declared strike.

This left many wondering how lawmakers who earn fat salaries can be so averse to the well-being of workers who work everyday in the same establishment with them.

NLC clash with lawmakers

During an enforcement exercise by the Labour Union last week, a lawmaker, Hon. Tony Muobike, the representative for Aguata II Constituency, had bullied Labour leaders, saying that they have no right to come to the Assembly to picket their workers.

He was quoted in several publications as saying that Anambra workers were lazy and did not deserve better wages. He was said to have added that robots were better than them, and that very soon, they will be replaced with robots as they were not worth higher wages. This had led to altercation and threats of physical violence.

The altercation began when Muobike’s comments criticized workers and suggested they did not deserve minimum wage.

He said, “If you talk again I just give you a devastating slap. Stop talking.”

He went ahead to call Labour leaders unprintable names, just as they retaliated verbally.

Another clash with PASAN

During another altercation with PASAN, the leadership of the group carried placards and banners during a peaceful protest to the Assembly complex to protest poor pay and working conditions.

The deputy National President of PASAN, Comrade Promise Chijioke Onwukwe who led the protest accused lawmakers of recruiting corps members to perform their duties instead of paying them the stipulated wage.

He said: “You go to collect or submit mails and you will be trekking from one office to the other under the sun, while those that you are working for are cruising in air-conditioned vehicles.

“It might not be far from the truth that Governor Charles Soludo may have provided all these things but they are nowhere to be found and this is unfortunate.

“Go round the complex (Anambra House of Assembly), you will see that it has been overgrown by grasses and staff kill all manner of reptiles, snakes and scorpions almost every week.”

Reacting to the allegations, the Majority Leader of Anambra State House of Assembly, Hon Ikenna Ofodeme rather insisted that the protesting staff members were not under them.

He said: “Most of those staff members are strictly under the office of the Head of Service and they are posted to come and work with the state Assembly members.

“They are duty bound to listen to where they are posted. If they don’t want to work at the House of Assembly, they are free to go back to the Head of Service and not to come here to disrupt the activities of the House of Assembly.”

With the above mindset, many have started doubting that even if the NLC accepts a new minimum wage, it may be difficult for workers in Anambra, under the current Soludo-led government and the current House of Assembly to approve it.

Meanwhile, Governor Soludo, has continued his campaign against a new minimum wage by cautioning President Bola Tinubu against approving a new wage, saying it is not feasible for employers to pay.

Speaking at The Platform Nigeria, a programme organized by a Lagos-based church, Soludo warned that approving an unsustainable minimum wage would be risky.

He emphasized that if President Tinubu approves a wage that employers cannot afford, the consequences would be solely on him.

He urged the President to consider the economic implications of such a move.

Several stakeholders have reacted to what they called the anti-workers stand of both the governor and the state assembly.

Reacting to this, a public affairs analyst, Mr Ikenna Nwubaka said: “When we say that Anambra entered one chance with someone like Soludo, people think it is politics. God forbid that I be a civil servant under Soludo because the people are suffering.

“Come to talk about the attitude of the lawmakers towards workers, I can only say that they are influenced by the attitude of their master, Soludo, towards workers.

“How has Soludo treated workers since he came aboard? The issue of poor pay has been on the front burner, but recently, Soludo invited Labour leaders and schooled them thoroughly like pupils and they came out to agree that he is actually right by paying them N24,000 as salary, instead of the current N30,000 national minimum wage.

“He even bamboozled them with calculations that minimum wage is calculated by net wage, not gross, and they all clapped for him and came to face the media.

“I fear that if the federal government approves a new minimum wage, Soludo who has shown aversion for workers’ welfare will not pass it, and he will be aided by the current state assembly which is also not so workers’ friendly.”

Labour on its part has come down hard on the state Assembly, especially Hon Muobike for the recent attack.

A statement jointly signed by the state secretaries of NLC and TUC, Comrades, Gaius Chukuka and Alex C. Ebi (a lawyer), respectively, described the lawmaker’s behaviour as weird.

The workers’ statement read in part: “The Organized Labour Anambra State wishes to set the record straight on what transpired between the organized Labour Anambra state and House of Assembly members on the 3rd day of June, 2024.

“Before now, Organized Labour was silent on the dehumanizing utterances of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Lawmaker representing Aguata 2 Constituency, Hon Anthony Muobike who we all knew how he ascended into the House of Assembly until we started reading thrash on the social media for his indefensible act on aggrieved Anambra workers.

“His immature attitude shows the disconnect between him and his Constituency. Without cause he callously accused Anambra workers as not deserving a minimum wage and could be replaced by Robots.

“The question was, were the workers protesting against Prof Charles Chukwuma Soludo, the state governor he was allegedly defending? He is totally dishonorable and lacking all the qualities of a Lawmaker in modern times to have uttered such gutter words.

“The organized labour in Anambra State were on a peaceful monitoring to ensure total compliance that all public offices were closed, but on getting to the Anambra House of Assembly complex, we discovered that there were activities going on in the complex with their access gate wide open.

“The problem started when the members of the congress were chanting a solidarity song demanding that the complex should be shut down as Anambra State is not an exception. We were surprised over the reaction of Hon. Anthony Muobike.

“Why threaten workers led by their leaders with physical violence? It shows his level of intolerance and toutish behaviour in the face of people with genuine demands and a nationwide protest.

“It is quite unfortunate and if Hon. Anthony Muobike is honourable as claimed, he should be apologizing to Nigerians and workers of Anambra State over his sabotage on the struggle of the labour unions to elevate hardship on Nigerians.”

Another commentator, Mr Tony Okafor said: “Muobike’s comments, suggesting that workers do not deserve a minimum wage and can be replaced by robots, are not only callous but also dehumanizing.

“His threat of physical violence against union leaders is a disturbing display of aggression and intolerance.

It is unacceptable for a lawmaker to resort to such behavior, especially when faced with legitimate grievances from workers fighting for their rights.

“Muobike’s rhetoric is a slap in the face to the hardworking men and women who keep our society running. It perpetuates a harmful narrative that workers are expendable and disposable, and that their struggles are insignificant.

“This kind of language has no place in our public discourse, especially from someone in a position of power and the ruling party (APGA) in the state.

“To say the least, Muobike’s psyche on that occasion was incongruous. We call on Hon. Muobike to apologize for his hurtful comments and to engage in constructive dialogue with the labour union leaders.”



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