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Pensioners Demand Inclusion in Minimum Wage Review

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* Proposes N100,000 as national minimum pension

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FOLLOWING agitations for a new minimum wage as a result of increase in prices of goods and services in the country, the Federal Government, on January 30, inaugurated a 37-man tripartite committee charged with the task of recommending a new national minimum wage for the country.

The committee, under the chairmanship of former Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Bukar Goni Aji, comprises members from the Federal Government, state government, private sector and the organised labour.

Why we want inclusion on minimum wage review committee — NUP

However, it came as a surprise that among labour unions represented on the committee, none is from the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP), a union of retired workers in the country.

It was on the back of this that at a recent press briefing in Abuja, the NUP, led by its National President, Comrade Godwin Abumisi and General Secretary, Elder Actor Zal, protested the non-inclusion of its members on the committee.

Since the announcement of the constitution of the committee, the NUP has been calling on the Federation Government and issuing press statements on the need to include its leadership in the committee.

Reacting the questions on the why the union wants to be part the committee, Comrade Abumisi said, “I want to state clearly that if we have been satisfied with the carrying along of the pensioners in negotiations undertaken by the NLC, we will not be here. I want to tell you that even during May Days, you find the NLC cataloging the problems of the Nigeria workers and some time nothing will be mentioned about the problems of the Nigerian pensioners. And we have always followed this with protest, saying when you talk about workers, please also talk about pensioners.

“I want to assure you that if we do not succeed in getting the Federal Government to include us in that negotiation committee through these protests we are making, you will find out that they will go there and talk only about workers and won’t talk about pensioners.

“You cannot convince me that the NLC will be more articulate, more forthcoming about the problems of the Nigerian pensioners than the NUP. I want to say that we have stepped forward. We will do our cries by ourselves. We don’t want to do our cries through surrogates. We want to be part of that committee so that we can talk face-to-face with the federal authorities and tell them the problems of the Nigeria pensioners and how we want them to be solved.”

Abumisi added that minimum wage and pension are meant to be reviewed side-by-side according to the Nigerian Constitution.

He said, “The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very clear on how pensioners should be treated. The same Constitution also said that pension shall be reviewed every five years or whenever the Federal Government reviews the salaries of its workers. The constitution also said the same of the states. And it stated that the Federal Government is the sole authority on the issue of pensions across the federation.

“We have approached the Federal Government and said you are the only authority in Nigeria on the issue of pension. You have rights to order state governments to make increases when you have increased the salary or pension. But they said; yes, we are aware of this but that the state governments have the rights to do with their money the way they like, that they cannot intervene on the matter.

“I am going to lead the Nigerian pensioners on a street protest in Abuja naked. So the whole world will see how Nigeria treats its pensioners. We have gotten to a situation where we are running mad because we don’t know what do again.

“The Nigeria Union of Pensioners and her teeming members across the length and breadth of this country are using this opportunity to cry out and urge President Bola Tinubu to, as a matter of necessity and urgency, include NUP in the National Minimum Wage Review Committee for workers.”

The union leader added that it was imperative to have members of the union on the committee given that they face the same economic realities as workers.

“Some may argue that the interest of the NUP as a member of the organised labour family would be sufficiently catered for by the representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the committee. But regrettably, this has not always been the case as previous experiences have shown that pensioners had always been left out in the series of wage reviews and negotiations to their fate, not until their local union (NUP) will have to struggle overtime to press for a corresponding upward review of pensions for their members.

“This shouldn’t have been the case. This oversight, or do we call it maltreatment of the senior citizens, is a flagrant contravention and disobedience to the provisions of Sections 173(3) and 210(3) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which unambiguously stipulates that ‘Pensions shall be reviewed every five years, or together with any federal/state salary reviews, whichever is earlier.’

“The above constitutional provision has always been violated as it is hardly observed or adhered to by the same authorities that signed it into law. It is on the strength of the above and in the interest of peace and industrial harmony that we present our humble stand/demands to the Federal Government on the non-inclusion of the pensioners’ union on the tripartite committee for immediate consideration as follows:

“That as a mark of honour and respect for the senior citizens (pensioners) of this great country who had given their best during their prime age, call on President Bola Tinubu, who, in our opinion, holds the Nigerian pensioners in high esteem, to as a matter of urgency appoint the leadership of the union to serve in the committee just like we have leaderships of the NLC standing for the workers in the public service, TUC representing the interest of the private sector workers and other interest groups such as the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), etc representing various interests in the country.

“It is therefore dangerous and insensitive to exclude the pensioners from such committee that is given the mandate to decide the fate of Nigerians of different socioeconomic interest groups. As a matter of fact, in our opinion, the review of any national minimum wage should always go pari-passu with the review of the national minimum pension, as workers and pensioners belong to the same civil service family with similar characteristics and needs.

“It may sound incredible and absurd, but it is the naked fact that many of our members across the states of the federation are still earning as low as N500, N1,000 as monthly pensions, particularly, in the South-East states of Nigeria. Others are Borno State N4,000, Gombe N8,000, Jigawa N12,000, Katsina N7,000, Kogi N5,000, Kwara N3,000, Niger N4,000, Taraba N5,000, Yobe N4,500, Zamfara N3,000, Nasarawa N4,000, Osun N10,000, Ondo N3,000, Oyo N5,400, Enugu N450, Adamawa N2,000 and Kano N5,000.

“It is important to highlight here that the above pension rates are as low as shown above due to non-harmonisation of pensions which the union has always made a case for, as well as the non-implementation and payment of the previously reviewed N18,000 minimum wage in 2010 and the N30,000 minimum wage in 2019 by many states of the federation. Sadly, the non-implementation of these salary reviews in the states has affected the corresponding increases in pensions in the various states under reference.

“NUP takes exception to and disagree with the untenable excuses by the state governments that they cannot afford the implementation and payment of the previous wage reviews, even with the increase in federal allocation to states by the present administration under the leadership of President Bola Tinubu is unacceptable and unpardonable.

“Therefore, given the above records, and in the interest of fairness and justice, we wish to propose the sum of N100,000 naira as the national minimum pension to the tripartite committee in line with the proposed N200,000 national minimum wage by the NLC, as anything short of that would incur the wrath of the pensioners who are hard-hit by the prevailing economic hardship occasioned by the ever rising cost of living in a geometrical progression.”

“We have the authority of our members to call for a mass protest across the country, particularly in the capital city of Abuja if our demands are not being addressed by the Federal Government.

“Shamefully and embarrassingly too, even the palliatives and the wage award of N25,000 promised by the Federal Government to pensioners and other vulnerable groups are yet to see the light of the day, leaving the hopeless, dejected and frail pensioners who have little or no resources to take care of their needs to their fate.

“With this humble submission, we are optimistic that President Bola Tinubu would, as a matter of urgency, direct the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, to liaise with the leadership of NUP to send the names of their representatives in the committee.”

(Tribune)

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Late Hon. Mohammed Ibrahim Idris

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