The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole, has backed the organised labour’s agitation that N30,000 should be the national minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
He also stressed that as a member of the Nigeria Governors Forum when he was the governor of Edo State, he had told his colleagues publicly that “when it comes to the issue of minimum wage, I am not with them.”
The APC chairman spoke in an interview with journalists in Abuja on Monday night during a reception held for Ayuba Wabba and Safiyanu Mohammed, who were recently elected as the President of International Trade Union Confederation (Global) and African Regional Secretary of International Transport Federation, respectively.
Oshiomhole said that his position on the national minimum wage had not changed despite being the chairman of the ruling APC.
He said, “I do not think it is about the (APC) party here, it is about Nigeria. Do not try to ask a partisan question. I think you should ask a question that has to do with governance in Nigeria because this is an issue in which it appears all governors on the party platform are united, that is the truth. So, it is incorrect to ask that question from a partisan point of view.
“When I was a member of the (governors) forum, I did publicly advise my colleagues that when it comes to the issue of minimum wage, I am not with them, not only secretly, but publicly, that I am going to dissociate myself. I believe we need a national minimum wage, I believe Nigeria is capable of paying minimum wage. I believe the primary purpose of government is the welfare of the people and payment of wages is a function of prosperity.
“So, I am clear, whether I am chairman of the ruling party, or other parties, my views are not corrupted by the position that I occupy. What is constant in my life is my background, which is labour , and I do not deny it or hide it. And I am clear that the Nigeria Labour Congress has a right working with the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria to promote a reasonable living wage.
“And when I was governor, I made the point because they say action speaks louder than words. I increased the minimum wage from N18, 000 to N25,000 three years ago. If I did it and my successor is paying it then, I think I have spoken!”
According to him, the national minimum wage would be necessary because the prices of labour, goods and services have not been static.
“The price of labour cannot be static if all other prices are changing and I said this creates a vicious circle. When you lack purchasing power in an economy, how do you stimulate the economy to provide more goods and services and create jobs?
“So we create a vicious circle of poor people, too poor to buy and consume anything and therefore those who provide goods and services cannot sell, and because they cannot sell, they are closing shops and more people are being sent out of work.
“Now, we should be more bold and courageous. I also argued and it is a fact that those who are more patriotic and inward looking in their consumption pattern are the working class people. They are the ones that buy garri, yam, ordinary tomatoes and fish. They do not import fish; they do not buy Toyota jeeps and aircraft.
“Their pattern of spending is such that the money circulates. They are the ones who live in a local room and parlour house, pay rent to a local man whose only pension is the fact that he built a room and parlour house when he was in active service. When you don’t pay them living wages, you trigger a process of vicious circle of poverty.”
At the event, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said Wabba and Mohammed’s election came to President Muhammadu Buhari “as a pleasant delight that despite what we think our country is, the entire world has come to acknowledge and recognise the excellence with which we lead as a nation.”
In their remarks, Wabba and Mohammed promised that although the task ahead would be very challenging, they would not disappoint the nation, adding that they would strive to put Nigeria on the positive map of the world.