THE Director General of the Progressives Governors Forum, Comrade Salihu Lukman, on Wednesday mocked the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) over the nationwide protest against the ongoing legislation at the National Assembly to decentralise legislation on the matter of national minimum wage.
Comrade Lukman called on the two labour centres to “wake up and come back to their senses” as their resistance of the legislative process also amounts to resisting the process of democracy.
“We today have this democracy. I think it is contemptuous of the democracy for us to say a section of the democracy should not function, should not do their job. I think we should engage them,” Lukman stated in an interview broadcast by the African Independent Television (AIT) on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.
Comrade Lukman, had in the past worked at a high level position with the Nigeria Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) as well as a senior officer at the National Secretariat of the NLC in Abuja.
He said the protest is needless as it will not stop the process in the National Assembly and advised the NLC to constructively engage with the National Assembly as the bill which they oppose goes through the process of legislation or wait so that they can engage with the President if the National Assembly passes it to dissuade him from signing it into law.
According to him, the leadership of organised labour should rather work with the political leadership of the country to develop the democracy which he said NLC fought for.
Stating that while some people in the labour movement accuse him of being detached or being paid by the governors, he remains positive that his current position on the issue of minimum wage does not automatically make him to be against labour.
“Even when I worked in the NLC, they can confirm it or deny it; we stand up to our leadership to tell them no; this position is wrong, because the issue is, let’s face the reality; how can Lagos with all the resources they have be pitched at the same level with Yobe or Zamfara; how? When you do that, you compromise issues of productivity. Lagos worker will give you as much as he is being paid because he is already being short-changed,” Lukman said.
He called on NLC and the unions to “prioritise the issue of productivity” which according to him remains the fundamental challenge behind Nigeria’s ranking as a poor country. “That today Nigeria is being ranked as one of the poorest countries is not on account of low oil revenue alone, it is also on account of the fact that productivity indices within the country are low, and especially in the public sector. In the public sector, everything; the question of productivity hardly exist. So once productivity is low, you know, the amount of revenue that will be lost will be so high,” Lukman argued.
He advised the NLC not to continue to hold on to the argument about the role of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission fixing salaries of elected and appointed public servants. Stating that while it is true that the do that, he also pointed out that that is also not the right thing? “It is not the right thing as far as I am concerned. If Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission is setting up a benchmark, it can set the benchmark but it does not stop a state government to rework and set up their own priorities. These are things; if there are things in the constitution that ties states to what Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission is doing, then we have to reverse that! It is either we have federalism or we don’t; we can’t choose and pick, Lukman said.
Lukman further noted that “…there has to be some form of understanding between political leaders and leaders of organisations like labour; they have a vital role to play. We are not going to negotiate the future of this country in the street! Any sensible agreement, even the agreement on minimum wage, it wasn’t contracted on the street.”
Read the full transcript of the interview here