‘CNG buses, cash transfer, minimum wage’ — NLC president lists ‘unmet’ demands

 Joe Ajaero, national president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), says the country is experiencing increased hunger due to the federal government’s refusal to meet agreements reached with organised labour.


Speaking with journalists on Tuesday in Abuja, during a nationwide protest against the prevailing economic hardship, Ajaero said the demonstration is about the hunger and poverty in the country.


On February 7, in a joint statement signed with the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the NLC gave the federal government a 14-day ultimatum to address the rising cost of living in the country.


Last week, the NLC declared a two-day nationwide protest to be held today and Wednesday.


Ajaero said the government has refused to implement any of the demands of the NLC, in the wake of the removal of subsidy on petrol and the floating of the naira.


“Government said we should not do rally and they said some of us, if we come out, we are going to have a date with history. So they used peaceful means and they used threats but we are in God’s hands,” he said.


“We are here to do a rally so that Mr. President will know how Nigerians feel and how it is pinching us. You know the tendency for you to have a president and the ministers and advisers around would not tell you exactly what is happening. It is possible.


 “We are out here to do a protest  to register before Nigerians the level of suffering. We are calling it peaceful rally.”


Ajaero added that the cost of transportation and food commodities increased due to the removal of subsidy on petrol.


He said the NLC had proposed the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles as substitute for petrol powered vehicles, the cash transfer programme and an increment of the minimum wage, in a bid to ameliorate the hardship on the people.



Speaking further, Ajaero added that: “This protest is not about minimum wage, you have to understand it. This protest is about hunger. What of those that are not working? The minimum wage, when will it be completed to be the minimum wage that will remove hunger?”


“The UN said the poorest man should be fed on $2 per day. That is the poorest and if we have a family of six people, at $2 per six is $12. In a month, you have $360 which translates to about N700,000,” he said.


“Is that the minimum wage you are talking about? Just feeding alone. I’m not talking about transportation and accommodation and medicals.


“We don’t even know if the previous minimum wage has been implemented in some places, so that it will enable us to do proper analysis of the cost of living across the geopolitical zones, so that we will factor it into the approach we want to adopt with regards to the cost of living index.


 “We will have raw data for our analysis before we look at the figures. We equally have many things to look at in the current minimum wage.


“Whether we should continuously allow the minimum wage to be reviewed every five years… absolutely not, because before five years, no matter what you are doing, it would be eroded by inflation and devaluation of the currency.


“We have some other ideas on how to go about the minimum wage. On what we said about the N1 million we are demanding, if the current value of the naira continues to depreciate at the current rate, there will be a time that N1 million may be difficult for you to buy a loaf of bread.


“If you have a situation where you need a bagful of money to buy a handful of goods, then that economy is gone.”


The NLC president added that after the protest today, “we will review the situation and decide on other steps to be taken”.


The federal government has insisted that there has been substantial progress on the agreements reached with organised labour.

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