Courts To Remain Closed As Judiciary Workers, FG Fail To Reach Agreement

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

Courts across the country will remain closed until at least next week after a meeting between judiciary workers and representatives of the Federal Government ended with no concrete solutions.

The meeting was postponed till next week.

The workers have been on strike since April as they insist on financial autonomy for the judiciary.

READ ALSO: Judiciary Workers Resume Partial Work In Lagos

The Federal Government has said the appropriate laws for judiciary autonomy have been signed into law and that implementation lies with state governments.

At Thursday’s meeting, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, reiterated that the Federal Government has no problem with the issue of financial autonomy for the judiciary.

He maintained that it is an issue that concerns states and their finances.

The Minister added that major progress has been made during the series of meetings the government has held since the strike was declared.

Ngige said 90 percent of all requirements have been met and that the remaining 10 percent need to be addressed after the reopening of the courts.

He pleaded with the workers to suspend their strike, so that all the procedures can be operationalised.

He also said that the closure of courts is an impediment for security agencies, who cannot charge suspects of crimes such as kidnapping and banditry to court.

In his remarks, President of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), Marwan Adamu, said the meeting wouldn’t have been necessary if the position of the law and constitution had been adhered to.

He said the workers were not attempting to negotiate the constitution but to ensure compliance with its provisions on financial autonomy for the judiciary.

Governors Not Paying Minimum Wage Are Breaching The Law – Ngige

 

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has faulted governors yet to pay the new minimum wage to workers in their states.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, he stated that any employer paying its employee below N30,000 was doing so in contravention of the law.

“If you read the Act well, you will see the applicability of the Act. The applicability is that all parts of the Federation (Section II); Section III also says N30,000 shall be paid, the operating word is shall.

“It does not give room for picking and choosing, it is a must. The state governors that are not paying are breaching the law of the land,” the minister said.

President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Minimum Wage Repeal and Re-Enactment Act, 2019 into law on April 18, 2019.

The Act makes it compulsory for all employers of labour in the country to pay a minimum of N30,000 to their workers and gives workers compelled to accept salary less than the amount the right to sue their employer to recover the balance.

It also authorises the Minister of Labour and any person nominated or designated by the minister to take action against such an employer on behalf of the worker to recover the balance of the wages.

Buhari Signs N30,000 Minimum Wage Bill Into Law
President Muhammadu Buhari assents to the Minimum Wage Repeal and Re-Enactment Act, 2019 at the Aso Villa in Abuja on April 18, 2019.

 

‘Take Them To Court’

The law, however, excludes persons employing less than 25 workers, persons who work in a ship that sails out of jurisdiction, and others in other kinds of regulated employment that are accepted by the Act.

Two years after the President assented to the Act, some states have begun to pay civil servants the new minimum wage while others still struggle to do so as a result of inadequate funds.

In his reaction, Ngige faulted governors negotiating with the labour unions in their states over the payment of the minimum wage to workers.

According to him, they are getting the issues mixed up as the minimum wage is different from the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, speaks during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.

 

“This is a national law that states what you will pay to the lowest-paid employee (worker) in your establishment; state governments are employers… they are caught in the web of this law until repealed.

“Any state government or employer that negotiates minimum wage like some of them are doing with their unions, they are running afoul of the law,” the minister stated.

Asked what the next action would be for erring governors, he said, “I am negotiating with the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF); the law permits me to take them to court.

“I can take any employer to court. If governors have immunity, I can start from the secretary to the government, to the head of service, and go down to the State Executive Council; take them all to court and I do not need any permission.”

Workers’ Day: Labour Threatens Mass Action Over Minimum Wage Law

 

President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Ayuba Wabba on Saturday threatened to embark on a mass industrial action if the proposed bill which seeks to transfer minimum wage to the concurrent list is passed by the National Assembly.

Mr Wabba made the remark during an event organised to mark Workers’ Day in Abuja.

“There have been attempts by a section the ruling class to remove the national minimum wage from Exclusive Legislative list to the concurrent list,” he said.

“This is condemnable. The national minimum wage is a global standard.

“Therefore, we are reinforcing our earlier position to state that Nigerian workers will not allow a situation where the progress we have made for the past 40 years to be taken by these group of politicians we are going to insist that any day that this law is considered by any of the chambers, Nigerian workers are going to withdraw their services.”

He also said Kaduna workers will withdraw their services for five days in protest of the sacking of workers by the Kaduna State Government.

If the workers are not reinstated, Mr Wabba stressed, there will be a total shutdown.

READ ALSO: NLC Threatens To Embark On Nationwide Strike Over Sacked Kaduna Workers

Meanwhile Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, who was representing President Muhammadu Buhari at the event, said the new minimum wage law applies to everyone, and state governments are bound by it.

He added that he is opposed to moving the minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list.

Anti-Worker bill

The minimum wage bill is being sponsored by Garba Datti, an APC lawmaker from Kaduna.

The bill passed second reading at the House of Representatives in February.

According to Datti, rather than impose a central minimum wage, states should have the capacity to decide their own wages, based on their own socio-economic variables and circumstance.

Members of the Nigeria Labour Congress protested in Abuja over a minimum wage bill on March 10, 2021.
Members of the Nigeria Labour Congress protested in Abuja over a minimum wage bill on March 10, 2021.

 

However, the NLC has described the bill as anti-worker.

On March 10, NLC members staged a protest at the Unity Fountain in Abuja before marching to the National Assembly complex to demand the bill’s withdrawal.

World Bank Has Disputed Nigeria’s Employment Statistics – Ngige

A file photo of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige

 

The World Bank has questioned the methodology employed the National Bureau of Statistics to to generate its employment statistics.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige revealed this on Wednesday during while receiving the leadership of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) in his office.

According to the NBS, in a report released in March, the country’s unemployment rate rose from 27.1 percent in the second quarter of 2020 to 33.3 percent in the fourth quarter.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Exited Recession ‘Faster Than Expected’ – World Bank

Ngige said the Federal Government will meet virtually with World Bank representatives on Thursday to discus the modalities of the NBS’s data gathering.

“We have a virtual meeting of the National Economic Advisory Council with the World Bank to look at Nigeria’s modalities for employment statistics data collection,” Ngige said, according to a statement signed by spokesman Charles Akpan.

“There has been a little confusion there as to the accuracy of data generated by the NBS. So, we want to align everything tomorrow. The World Bank says the NBS methodology doesn’t conform with the global standard, especially the ILO format of arriving at such Employment Index.”

Ngige, who described the meeting as very important, recalled that he had severally queried the employment statistics released by the NBS.

Labour laws

Regarding the review of labour laws in the country, the Minister said “progress has been made and it is now at the validation stage” and expressed gratitude to CIPM for being part of the process

“On your request to play more active role, it is the more, the merrier. We will be happy to have you on board, as you are part and parcel of our Ministry. The institute has grown and will continue to grow. For us in the Ministry, our doors remain open whenever you want us to assist.”

Ngige accepted the offer from the CIPM for his induction into the institute in recognition of his competence and frontline position in managing labour and industrial relations in the country.

Earlier, the President of CIPM, Wale Adeniran told the Minister that they came to celebrate him for his role in managing industrial crisis, which enables the economy to run.

Adeniran requested the presence of the Minister as the Special Guest of Honour and Keynote Speaker in the CIPM Fellow’s Awards and Human Resources Recognition Ceremonies, billed for Thursday in Abuja.

Loose Ends Remain In Agreement With Judiciary Workers – Ngige

A file photo of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige

 

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige on Tuesday said loose ends remain in the agreement reached with judiciary workers.

The striking workers met with key stakeholders on Monday at the State House in Abuja where it was resolved that their call for financial autonomy for state legislative and judiciary will be implemented by May 2021.

However, earlier on Tuesday, the judiciary workers staged a walkout from a follow-up reconciliation meeting with the Federal Government and representatives of the State Governors, after waiting for over an hour at the conference room of the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

Reacting to the walkout, Dr. Ngige said his work on some “loose ends” in Monday’s agreement caused his lateness to the meeting.

“Once necessary agreements have been reached as memorandum of understanding, we bring everybody here and detail them with timelines and timeframe,” he said.

“So they came for this meeting. But there were some loose ends they did not tie up. So I asked the Permanent Secretary and the officials responsible to explain to them that they have to exercise patience to enable us tidy these areas before meeting with them.

“So, nobody slighted them, nobody refused to meet with them. We wanted to meet with them so that the meeting would be fruitful, so that whatever is signed here will be implementable.

“We are making contact with them by tomorrow. And this work has not even finished. The government side has to go back and tie up the loose ends that I have pointed out to them here.”

Strike: FG Accuses Doctors Of Playing With Lives Of Nigerians

A file photo of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.

 

The Federal Government has accused the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) of playing with the lives of Nigerians who need them at this critical time.

Dr Chris Ngige, who is the Minister of Labour and Employment, made the allegation on Friday at the opening session of a meeting with the aggrieved doctors in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

He warned the members of the union to stop what he described as toying with the lives of citizens in the name of pressing for better welfare.

According to the minister, neither NARD nor the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) is a trade union and many Nigerians have died as a result of the industrial action by the resident doctors.

He stated that while members of the associations were entitled to some rights, they should be mindful that their actions have serious consequences.

“Nigeria is facing a serious challenge from COVID-19 at the moment. This calls for selflessness by all.

“Notwithstanding, the present administration is doing everything to ensure better welfare for our health workers who are key in the fight against the pandemic,” Ngige told the doctors.

He also asked them to abide by their Hippocratic Oath which placed on them the primary responsibility of saving the lives of their patients.

The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, who was also at the meeting, appealed to the doctors to end their strike.

He assured that their concerns were already being taken care of by the government, adding that it was important for them to return to work.

On their part, the doctors denied the allegations by the minister, saying they remained open to meaningful negotiation from the government.

Thereafter, the meeting went into a closed-door session while journalists await the outcome of issues discussed.

The ongoing strike by the doctors began on Thursday last week, despite a conciliatory meeting with the leadership of NARD and Ngige.

Among many other demands, the doctors called for the immediate payment of all salaries owed to all house officers, including March salaries (regardless of quota system) before the end of business on March 31.

They also demanded the immediate payment of all salary arrears, including March salaries for members in all Federal (GIFMIS platform) and State Tertiary Health Institutions across the country, especially ASUTH, IMSUTH, and UNIMEDTH.

NARD sought an upward review of the current hazard allowance to 50 per cent of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers and payment of the outstanding COVID-19 inducement allowance, especially in state-owned-tertiary Institutions.

They also called for the abolishment of the exorbitant bench fees being paid by their members on outside postings in all training institutions across the country with immediate effect.

According to the doctors, salary shortfalls of 2014, 2015, and 2016 should be paid to their members in all federal institutions, including state-owned institutions as earlier agreed with the government.

They asked for the payment of death in service insurance for all health workers who died as a result of COVID-19 infection or other infectious diseases in the country.

If Doctors Refuse To Resume, We Will Implement ‘No Work, No Pay’ – Ngige

 

The Federal Government will implement the ‘no work, no pay’ on the striking National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) if they refuse to resume work.

This is according to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, who issued the warning on Friday during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today.

“By Tuesday, I will invite them back. If they become recalcitrant, there are other things I can do. There are weapons in the Labour Laws, I will invoke them. There is no work, no pay,” Ngige said.

“Their employers have a role also to keep their business afloat, to keep patients alive. They can employ local doctors. We won’t get there but if we are going to get there, we will use that stick.”

Speaking further, the Minister also noted that the current hazard allowance of ₦5,000 for doctors was fixed in 1992.

While noting that when the former President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr Francis Adedayo Faduyile, drew the attention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who described the figure as criminal.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige speaks during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today on April 2, 2021.

 

The Minister explained that the Federal Government would review the amount in five weeks’ time, although he didn’t disclose the proposed figure.

READ ALSO: Resident Doctors Begin Indefinite Strike Nationwide

“It is the last NMA President Faduyile that called my attention that the hazard (allowance) was ₦5,000. I raised it with the Finance Minister and the Vice President in the Economic Sustainability Meeting. In fact, to use the words of the Vice President, he said it is criminal, that it shouldn’t happen.

“The new hazard allowance will be done in the next five weeks. It is in the Memorandum of Action that we signed. Immediately after the Easter break, I will convene a meeting to look at it holistically,” he added.

The resident doctors had on Thursday embarked on an indefinite strike to protest alleged failure by the Federal Government to fulfil its obligations to them.

They had earlier met with the Federal Government’s team on Wednesday over their grievances, rejected the proposals put forward by the government on how to make up for the shortcomings in the implementation of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between both parties.

ASUU vs FG: We Will Review Developments In February – Ngige

 

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has said that the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will meet again in February to review the developments in the issues regarding the months-long industrial action.

He made this known on Wednesday on Channels TV’s Politics Today when asked what will happen if the ASUU decides to embark on another strike, should the government fail to keep to its own end of the bargain.

“I will make sure the government does its own bit,” he assured, adding that the agreement has been structured in such a way that “it is a win-win situation for everybody”.

“For the revitalisation, we have given government up to the 31st of January to pay that. We have also opened the window so that by the end of February, we will sit down again and review all these situations. Nobody is going to keep anybody in suspense.

Read Also: ASUU Suspends Nine-Month-Old Strike

“I will not give ASUU the opportunity to go on strike. Because I have three biological children that suffered from this imbroglio that we found ourselves in and about 15 people on my scholarship in Nigerian Universities. So I am a committed parent,” the minister added.

This comes hours after the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) “conditionally” suspended its strike, ending a protracted industrial action that started in March 2020.

ASUU National President, Biodun Ogunyemi made the announcement during a briefing of the union in Abuja, explaining that the development followed the agreement reached with the Federal Government and a meeting with its National Executive Council (NEC).

The suspension of the strike takes effect from Thursday, December 24.

I Will Not Give ASUU The Opportunity To Go On Strike – Ngige

 

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has said that he will do everything to ensure that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) does not go on another industrial action.

He explained that three of his biological children have also been victims of the system, so he is personally committed to resolving the issues.

“I will not give ASUU the opportunity to go on strike. Because I have three biological children that suffered from this imbroglio that we found ourselves in and about 15 people on my scholarship in Nigerian Universities,” the Minister said on Channels TV’s Politics Today on Wednesday.

Read Also: ASUU vs FG: We Will Review Developments In February – Ngige

“My three biological children are here in Nigerian Universities. They even went to secondary school here. Two of them are American citizens and I had the option of leaving them to go study in America and enjoy the free education or whatever, but I didn’t. So, I am a committed parent. I am involved, even more than some ASUU members because some of them have their children in private schools.”

Ngige said this hours after the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) “conditionally” suspended its strike, ending a protracted industrial action that started in March.

National President of the association, Biodun Ogunyemi made the announcement during a briefing of the union in Abuja on Wednesday.

Ogunyemi explained that the development followed the agreement reached with the Federal Government and a meeting with its National Executive Council (NEC).

The suspension of the strike takes effect from Thursday, December 24.

Meanwhile, the union has stressed that it will not hesitate to commence another strike if the government does not keep to its end of the bargain.

But Ngige has vowed to do everything possible to ensure that does not happen.

“I will make sure the government does its own bit,” he said.

He gave an assurance that the agreement reached is so structured “in such a way that it is a win-win situation for everybody.”

“For the revitalisation, we have given government up to the 31st of January to pay that. We have also opened the window so that by the end of February, we will sit down again and review all these situations. Nobody is going to keep anybody in suspense.”

Ngige Anticipates End To Strike As FG, ASUU Resume Negotiations

A file photo of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.

 

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, is hopeful that the ongoing strike by university lecturers will soon be called off.

He made the remark on Tuesday as the Federal Government resumes negotiations with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to end the industrial action that has crippled academic activities in universities for about nine months.

Ngige, in his opening address at the meeting held in Abuja, urged the academics led by the ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, to ensure the discussions yielded the desired result.

According to him, the government has addressed all grey areas, and those who plan to occupy the streets in January 2021 to begin an #EndStrike protest will be disappointed.

READ ALSO: Buhari Extends PTF Mandate Till March 2021

Professor Ogunyemi, on his part, acknowledged that much progress has been made in the negotiations so far.

He was also hopeful that the meeting would end the long strike as his colleagues were all ready and willing to get back to work provided the government does what it ought to do.

After the minister and the ASUU president gave their remarks, the meeting entered into a technical session while journalists were barred from covering the proceedings.

Tuesday’s meeting comes a month after the Federal Government offered a cumulative sum of N65 billion to the lecturers to address earned academic allowances and revitalisation of universities.

At the meeting held on November 20, Ngige noted that the government had decided to shift grounds on the lingering issues that have kept students out of the classroom since March.

He explained that in its bid to resolve the impasse with ASUU, the sum of N15 billion from the amount offered by the government would be for more funds to revitalise the universities.

The minister stated that the fund was in addition to the N20 billion paid earlier, making it a total of N35 billion committed as revitalisation fund by the government.

Professor Ogunyemi had also at the end of the meeting acknowledged that the government had made some new offers to the union and progress had been made.

He, however, said the union leaders would report to their organs and get back to the government on the position of their members.

Strike: ASUU, FG Meet In Abuja

The federal government and ASUU met on November 20, 2020.
FILE: The federal government and ASUU met on November 20, 2020 in Abuja.

 

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the federal government on Thursday met again in Abuja to continue talks over the strike embarked upon by the academics.

The ASUU strike has paralysed government universities since March.

The academics are seeking a revamp of their salary structure and increased funding for universities, among other demands.

READ ALSO: ASUU Did Not Reach Agreement With FG To Suspend Strike – Ogunyemi

At Thursday’s meeting, the federal government was represented by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige and the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed.

In his opening remarks at the meeting, the Minister said he expects to hear ASUU’s feedback on the offers the government made in their last meeting.

However, ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said his union hopes to get more offers from the government to take back to its members.

Two previous meetings scheduled earlier had been postponed as the striking lecturers said they were still consulting.

FG, Labour Leaders Agree To ₦5 Reduction In Fuel Price

A file photo of an attendant filling the fuel tank of a car.

 

The Federal Government has announced the reduction of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol from N168 to N163.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, after meeting with the organised labour which began around 9 pm on Monday and ended at 1:30 am on Tuesday.

According to the Minister, a technical committee has been set up to ensure price stability in the industry.

Ngige stated that the committee, which will report back to the larger house on January 25, will appraise the market forces and other things that would ensure stability in the industry.

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr Ayuba Wabba, also maintained the position of the minister, saying that the agreement was reached by both sides.

The product presently dispenses at N168, following the decision of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company to increase the ex-depot price of petrol from N147.67 per litre to N155.17 per litre in November.

READ ALSO: FG, Labour Leaders Resume Talks Over Increased Petrol Price, Electricity Tariff

Meanwhile, there is no conclusion yet on the demand for a reversal of the electricity tariff and the Federal Government said talks were ongoing with the distribution companies.

For the sixth time since the current administration announced a hike in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff in November, members of the organized labour movement and the Federal Government’s team have been holding series of talks, to continue the discussions on the demand of the workers union.

Both the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had called for a reversal of the recent hike, threatening to embark on a nationwide strike and protests, the reason why the government had to convene a meeting a month ago.

At the last meeting, the Federal Government explained that it needed one week to make further consultations.