The federal government Thursday declared that it would not be able to meet the demand of organised labour on the percentage for consequential adjustment of the N30,000 new minimum wage due to dwindling revenue.
The government said it would appoint a new team to represent it in the committee negotiating the consequential adjustment.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who conveyed government’s position during a courtesy visit by the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said the federal government felt there was a need to tell the truth on the poor state of the economy.
According to him, the federal government has decided to reconstitute the team representing it in the committee negotiating the consequential adjustment.
The minister said: “Government is not averse to the consequential adjustment; what we are saying is that we should try for all parties to agree; that the economy is in the doldrums; that the economy has some troubles, and therefore, we have to cut our coat according to our cloth. That is the most important thing.”
While explaining the delay in concluding the committee’s assignment, Ngige said the government’s team was depleted due to the fact that he and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning had to withdraw from the committee at the end of the last administration.
“The committee was inaugurated in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), late April. But when the committee started work, I was a member; the finance minister was a member; budget and planning minister was a member, but our council died on 29th May, with the expiration of time. We were dissolved, the budget and planning minister didn’t come back; the permanent secretary took my place and started the negotiations.
“I do not want to say that they didn’t make progress; they made progress because at least, from levels one to six, they got something, and from the time we were coming back, we saw that they were making progress. Unfortunately, the head of service, the chair of that committee had to go on compulsory leave and it is not easy when some other person is going to act and move in,” he said.
Negotiations on the implementation of the new minimum wage had ended in a deadlock following the failure of the government team and the leadership of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC) to agree on the percentage of adjustment that will apply in the computation of the new wage for grade levels 7-17.
While the federal government had shifted ground from its earlier position of 9.5 per cent to 11 per cent for grade levels seven to 14 and 6.5 per cent from 5.5 per cent for levels 15 to 17, representatives of labour however, insisted that the government should adjust the salaries of workers on grade levels 07 to 14 by 30 per cent and those on levels 15 to 17 by 25 per cent.
The organised labour, however, stepped down to 29 per cent from 30 per cent for grade levels 7 to 14 and 24 to 25 per cent for levels 15 to 17.
Ngige, who responded to the concern expressed by the President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, over the delay in reaching a deal with the unions, said the present economic situation had made it difficult to accept the demand of the labour.
However, Ngige, who was flanked by the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, assured the workers that negotiations would be swift as soon as the new government team is formed.
He added that the ministry will not allow arrears to pile up to the extent that such would constitute a burden for the federal and state governments to pay.
On the request by the NLC president that the ministry should move to establish the National Labour Advisory Council, Ngige said government would hold a convention to inaugurate the council later in the year as soon as funds were made available.
He also expressed government’s concern over the rising unemployment in the country, describing it as highly worrisome.
He said the organised labour should not limit itself to just advocating for workers’ rights but should liaise with the government and the private sector to create jobs.
Earlier, Wabba listed some issues labour would want the minister to address.
Army withholds salaries of 45 soldiers in Borno
Authorities of the 7 Division Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, have withheld the salaries of 45 soldiers, according to sources.
The soldiers, who were among the 149 troops of the 153 Task Force Battalion withdrawn from Marte, Borno State, after spending three years in counterinsurgency operations, were accused of for abandoning their duty posts.
The battalion came under attack on three occasions during which several soldiers were killed while a range of weapons, equipment and vehicles were either carted away or destroyed.
The battalion was overhauled after the last attack in February.
A source said necessary changes were made and troops who served with the battalion were moved to different formations in Maiduguri before a new deployment was made.
“Some of the soldiers who were not seen at their new units were believed to have gone on AWOL (Absence Without Leave). Their salaries accounts were not credited in April,” he said.
But one of the affected soldiers said the allegation of desertion against them was untrue.
“We were not given our salaries and when we asked our supervisors in the 7 Division, we were shocked to hear that we had forfeited all our entitlements over desertion.”
Attempts to get the response of army authorities were not successful.
EFCC goes after top officials of PDP over N10bn scandal
The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) has invited officials of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for questioning over alleged criminal conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of funds and fraud.
This is coming barely a month after a chieftain in the PDP, Kazeem Afegbua, petitioned the anti-graft agency to scrutinise the Secondus-led National Working Committee on financial misappropriation.
In the letter of invitation dated May 17, 2021, and addressed to the Prince Uche Secondus, the EFCC said the need to obtain certain clarification from the party has become imperative.
The agency, however, requested the party’s National chairman to release the National Auditor, National Organising Secretary and Director of Finance to report at the EFCC headquarters from May 19th to 21st 2021.
The agency also requested the national officers to honor the invitation with relevant documents relating to sole of forms into the party’s elective positions from January 2017 to date.
Kazeem had in his petition alleged that much of the financial transactions of the PDP under Prince Uche Secondus has been shrouded in mystery, accusing the leadership of deliberate attempt to shortchange the party in the build up to the 2023 general elections.
However, Secondus had since denied the allegation and filed a N1 billion suit against the petitioner, Kazeem Afegbua.
Nigeria’s drug control agency approves new COVID-19 vaccine
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has granted approval for the conditional emergency use of Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.
Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is the third vaccine recommended for administration in the country.
The director-general of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojiola Adeyeye, in a statement on Tuesday, said information on the vaccine shows it met the criteria for efficacy, safety and quality.
She said, “The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is administered as a single dose. Results from a clinical trial involving people in the United States, South Africa and Latin American countries found that Janssen COVID-19 vaccine was effective at preventing COVID-19 in people from 18 years of age.
“The Phase III clinical trial involved over 44,000 people. Half received a single dose of the vaccine and half were given placebo (a dummy injection). People did not know if they had been given Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine or placebo.
According to her, the trial showed a 67 per cent reduction in the number of symptomatic COVID-19 cases after two weeks in people who received Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.
The most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of these side effects were mild to moderate in severity and lasted 1-2 days.
On the vaccine safety, Adeyeye said NAFDAC, in line with its pharmacovigilance and safety monitoring plan for COVID-19 vaccines, will closely monitor and subject the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to several activities that apply specifically to COVID-19 vaccines.
The AstraZeneca vaccine which Nigeria has been giving out has garnered many sceptics internationally after some recipients of the vaccine died.
At least 16 countries including Germany, France and Sweden have suspended the use of AstraZeneca, which put on the Nigerian government to suspend it.
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