‘Living wage’ will eradicate corruption in public offices....as NASS intervenes, meets ministers, NLC, TUC on workers’ strike threats – Speaker Abbas

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, Ph.D, has reiterated his position that the government could eradicate corruption in public offices by paying the workers a ‘living wage.’

Speaker Abbas, however, stated that the government cannot fix all the perennial issues concerning wages and salaries all at once.

The Speaker made this known at a peace meeting convened by the leadership of the National Assembly between the Federal Government and the organised labour over a new minimum wage.

President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, had resolved to intervene in the crisis, leading to the declaration of a nationwide strike by the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress from Monday.

Senate President Akpabio and Speaker Abbas, who disclosed their decision to jettison their two-day official assignment in Lagos State, led several principal officers and members of the chambers to the emergency meeting at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja on Sunday.

In his opening remarks, Speaker Abbas commended the leadership of the NLC and the TUC for accepting the invitation to the dialogue.

The Speaker said: “I think the Senate President has already opened the floor. He has made it categorically clear that we are on both sides: we are on the side of the government, and we are on the side of the people. That is why we call ourselves ‘The People’s Parliament.’ Whatever affects the common man affects us, too.

“I am sure someone would recall what I said during the independence anniversary lecture, that one thing that this government and this country can do to eliminate corruption in the long-run is to embrace a ‘living wage.’ There are no two ways about it. But we should also be mindful that the issues of numerous decades cannot be repaired within one day. It will be a gradual process.

“We have to start (from) somewhere and then agree to a plan of what we can do to reach that level where every Nigerian worker can beat their chest and say ‘I am earning enough to put food on the table; enough to take care of my basics.”

He added: “So, my take-home for all of us here is to say thank you to the organised labour for even accepting to come to this National Assembly; to give Nigerians and the government the hope that all is not lost; that we can be able to continue interacting, and we can continue to dialogue on this critical subject.”

After the opening remarks by Akpabio, Abbas, and the NLC and TUC presidents, the meeting went behind closed doors.

At the meeting were Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Barau Jibrin; Majority Leader, Senate, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele; Majority Leader, House, Prof Julius Ihonvbere; Minority Leader, Senate, Senator Abbas Moro; Deputy Minority Leader, Senate, Senator ‘Lere Oyewunmi; and Chief Whip, House, Hon. Usman Bello Kumo.

On the FG side were Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume; Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wales Edun; Minister of Budget and National Planning, Atiku Bagudu; Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu; Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris Malagi; Minister of State for Labour, Hon Nkeiruka Onyejeocha; and the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi; and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan.

The organised labour was represented by the President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero; and President of the TUC, Festus Osifo, who led other national executives of the unions.

Emerging from the closed-door session, the meeting agreed that the FG continued with the N35,000 wage award to workers, which was suspended in February 2024, pending the negotiations and agreement on a new minimum wage.