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OPINION

Minimum wage: Why labour plans to derail negotiation  

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After substantial progress by the technical committee set up by the Federal Government to negotiate the consequential adjustment arising from the new minimum wage, Labour leaders in the country may have hatched a plan to scuttle further negotiations.

Labour leaders operating under the aegis of the Trade Union Side (TUS) of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), said on Monday that the mobilization of workers for another industrial action over the National Minimum Wage of N30,000 had commence.

This is coming barely three days after labour leaders walked out of a meeting where final decisions were to be taken on the consequential adjustment arising from the new minimum wage.

The meeting, chaired by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, ran into a stalemate after labour leaders rejected federal government’s proposal and demanded percentage increases across board, a demand considered outrageous in view of the funds available for salaries in the 2019 budget.
Government had accepted the 66.66 percent increase in the minimum wage for workers on Grade Level  01-07 and in addition proposed a consequential salary adjustment of N10,000 per month across board for all the harmonized salary structure to ensure equity.
The Government’s proposal was based on the recommendations of the presidential committee headed by renowned economist, Bismarck Rewane, set up to advise government on how to achieve sustainable funding for the new minimum wage in view of the distress in the economy.
But the proposal was rejected by labour and instead it demanded percentage increases of 30 % for those on GL 07-014 and 25% for those on GL 15-17 which would have resulted into additional cost  of N500,813, 183,739.00 per annum which is far above what the budget could carry.
Government had shown good faith and transparency in the negotiation by laying all the cards open, including information on the provisions of the budget.

The TUS acknowledged this when it said “Government side argued that such increase across board would raise the total wage bill too high, the Trade Union Side reviewed its demand downward and eventually settled for 30% for officers on Grade Levels 07-14 and 25% for those on Grade Levels 15-17.  The Government side on its part was insisting on 9.5% salary raise for employees on Grade Levels 07-14 and 5% for those on Grade Levels 15-17.”

It is a sign of good faith that Government reviewed it initial proposal of 5 % to 9.5 % for those on GL 07-17.

The allegation that labour “received a rude shock” at the last meeting of the technical committee when the Government representatives said negotiations on salary adjustments would have to be based on what was provided for it in the 2019 budget, is therefore fallacious and self-serving.

While the Government considered the plight of those at the lower rung of the salary structure and adjusted their salaries by 66.66 %, which is an increase of N12,000 per month, labour representatives are asking for a percentage increase that would add N16, 654.58 per month for those on GL 08  and N87,158.33 per month for GL 17.
TUS’s allegation that Government was “only prepared to pay peanuts to workers” is a misrepresentation of what had transpired.
Also, claims that “fifth columnists” were bent on putting the Buhari administration on a collision course with workers are untrue since labour leaders, rather than the imaginary fifth columnists are responsible for walking out of the negotiation.

Labour should go back to the negotiating table in the interest of Nigerian workers.

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OPINION

Serial lies about Amnesty Programme, By Murphy Ganagana

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The Presidential Amnesty Programme is set to graduate no fewer than 137 persons trained in different vocational skills, its Official has said.

It is a sad commentary that the Niger Delta people face the paradox of having an amazing wealth in crude oil but are buffeted by a whirlwind that has choked genuine efforts to turn around the situation in a region that is bare in human capital and infrastructural development.

Ironically, parochial interests, greed and an unbridled sense of entitlement have beclouded sound reasoning of some persons who claim to be leaders of the region and possess a monopoly of knowledge on how to run interventionist agencies established by the Federal Government to address developmental challenges.

For these elements, there is no line between darkness and light; morality or absurdity. What is paramount is the means to acquisition of illicit wealth, power and fame, not the common interest of the Niger Delta people whose balloon of hope they’ve consistently deflated whenever it was inflated.

That is the scenario being enacted in their desperation to take over the office of Prof. Charles Dokubo, Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, whose unblemished integrity they’ve unsuccessfully been trying to blur with tar. My worry, however, is that the drama has taken an absurd dimension.

Recently, Pointblanknews, an online portal notorious for blackmail and promotion of fake news on Amnesty Programme published an “exclusive” report that Prof, Dokubo had fled the country to the United States “after being implicated in an N23billion looting under the cover of the National Security Adviser, Gen. Babagana Monguno”, who it alleged, was his godfather.

The news portal claimed its investigations revealed that the presidency had asked Prof. Dokubo to prepare his hand-over notes and hand over to the most senior civil servant in the Amnesty Office, but the NSA advised Prof. Dokubo to escape the prying eyes of security operatives and go into hiding in the US.

It further said the presidency was concerned with security reports detailing fraudulent contracts and payments of over N10billion and the looting of the Boro Town Amnesty Programme training facility in Bayelsa State to cover up N13billion fraudulent contracts. It summed up that a total of N23billion Amnesty funds were looted between 2018 and 2019.

These are pointblank lies sponsored and recycled overtime by self-styled leaders to distract Prof. Dokubo from working to achieve the objectives for which the Programme was initiated, except for the recent addition that he had fled the country; when, in fact, he travelled to the Washington DC on official duty after being duly cleared for the trip by the authorities.

It turned out to be an unfortunate outing for the purveyors of fake news who were unaware that Dokubo had returned to Nigeria on the day the “exclusive” was splashed on PointblankNews, which has elevated junk journalism to a nauseating level. As a face-saving measure, the publishers deleted the report from the news portal same day to befuddle undiscerning members of the public, in a clear case of mischief.

That was a misadventure in which the publishers of PointblankNews had a bloodied nose and quickly needed a pad to clean up. So they went to town the next day, September 3, with another fabricated report that Prof. Dokubo had laundered over N5billion in two Turkish banks in connivance with three senior management staff of the Amnesty Programme, including the directors of Administration, Procurement, and Legal Adviser.

The report also claimed that investigation on the case by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had been stalled because Dokubo is a nominee of the NSA, General Monguno, who is also the godfather of the acting chairman of EFCC. It further claimed that companies registered and owned by some of President Muhammadu Buhari’s principal aides and leaders of the All Progressive Congress, were awarded fraudulent contracts at the Amnesty Programme.

But it fell short of expectation on ethical standards as no mention was made of the two banks in Turkey where the alleged sum of N5billion was laundered and how it was perpetrated, neither were other details of alleged contract scams provided.

Rather than indulging in concoction of fake news in furtherance of their smear campaign against Prof. Dokubo with the objective of removing him from office, the publishers of PointblankNews might have earned for themselves, an inch of credibility (if there was any left for them), if only they had done a bit of checks and cross-checking of what was availed them as facts.

That way, they would have known that the unfortunate incident of vandalization and looting of the Amnesty Programme Vocational Training Centre at Kaiama, Bayelsa State by hoodlums in February, this year, had been under investigation by security agencies, particularly the Police, which has concluded its assignment and submitted a report to the appropriate authorities. I hope that the findings will be made public soon to put to rest the chain of fallacy churned out as exclusive news on PointblankNews about that incident.

I have no doubt that discerning and well-meaning Niger Deltans and Nigerians are conscious of the ignoble role of Pointblanknews to please their paymasters by discrediting Prof. Dokubo. Which is why, reports celebrated on the portal in recent times are mainly about Dokubo and the Amnesty Programme.

It is unfortunate that the publishers of PointblankNews have gone a step further by dragging the names of respected top government officials who have no business with the Amnesty Programme in the mud, in a desperate bid to get at Dokubo. My prayer is that his detractors will soon come to terms with the futility of their actions and succumb to the supremacy of the will of God, the Almighty. No human should play God.

*Ganagana is Special Assistant (Media), to the Coordinator, Amnesty Programme

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OPINION

A vision and flyers to fly with: A case study of Mallam Isa Pantami and Kashifu Inuwa

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By Hashim Suleiman

 

Let me start this piece from the year 2014 when me and my bosom friend Babukar Tanko through our always interactive and progressive discussions devoid of gossips and unrealistic dream birthed an idea about how we must encourage our young men especially those from the Northern part of Nigeria to imbibe the basics of how leadership comes by through capacity building and integrity. We basically wanted to encourage the government, private sector and political institutions to engage worthy young men as they were capable of injecting faster and most recent innovations in achieving their goals, many articles related to these have also been written by me and published in several media fora.

This entire idea birthed One Heart Initiative for Equity and Good Leadership which in-turn championed #30PercentOrNothing affirmative action and was coordinated nationally by my humble self. It was a non partisan effort aimed at speaking to both youths and institutions to harness one another, the entire aims and objectives is story for another day.

In the course of the above stated activities inter alia, we were also very interested in attending preaching classes and motivational speaking events and I remember vividly when Sheikh Zakir Naik came to Nigeria and was at the Ansarudeen Mosque at Maitama, Abuja, we were there at one of the days and his preaching about how the northern Muslims of Nigeria must embrace people of other faiths in the country with the aim of getting them attracted to the faith was aptly in tune with the aims and objectives of our vision and goals.

Subsequently that year was the Ramadan fast and all roads in Abuja led to Annur Mosque where there was a quintessential Sheikh from Saudi Arabia who had come to liberate Nigerian Muslims with a preaching that was very easy to decipher, we attended all of it and in the course we heard it was a young Sheikh from Saudi Arabia who was also  a PhD holder and was coming to contribute to the much needed awareness regarding Islam and  the general progress of the society as no society can grow without commensurate knowledge and awareness. At the end of the entire Tafsir session for the year 2014, I and Babukar were not the same people again and our vision for youth liberation and involvement in progressive activities got richer by no small means.

Thereafter, we moved on with our campaign for youth involvement and was always also echoing how the youth must behave appropriately to deserve such honors while the institutions must also select appropriately if they wanted to truly harness the ingenuity were highlighting in young people. Remember, the 2015 general election campaigns were also on at that moment and we visited all political parties, support groups, select private sector organizations and esteemed individuals. The entire idea was well received and the lot of it also afforded us an opportunity to understand better the complexity of the problems associated with young people and progress in Nigeria even though some appreciable number of them have done great things in personal capacity e.g Adebola Williams and Jaafar Jaafar etc.

In all of the above however, it was clear to me that if you have vision, then the most potent ingredient you need for it’s coming to fruition is people who will believe in it and fly with, we were blessed to have some of those in our movement and they were always ready to contribute their energy and resources to the success of the vision simply because they were convinced by the idea that the message was carrying.

Considering that it was a deliberate effort and self sponsored coupled with the complexity of the problems and lack of commensurate number of flyers to carry the vision, our activities retracted and we resorted to social media activism and motivational talks. The last major event we attended was the maiden dinner organized by Mrs Aisha Muhammadu Buhari where we categorically told the young men there that they had to switch their social media handles from mockery to advertising government policies as some of those policies could be complex for those at the downtrodden to decipher and participate.

So now we are in change and there are lots of expectations, promises and the need to do things differently. We watched and observed and made comments where necessary then boom came an announcement about the appointment of Mallam Isa Ali Pantami as the DG of NITDA and the first thing I did was to reach to my phone and called Babukar Tanko, I said my friend change has come and he replied he was also about calling me. Change had come in the sense that the person we heard his preaching the other time about the sort of ideals that were essential for a new society had joined the team of a change government and again he fits into ideals and vision of our wanting to see excellent young men join the team of the management of the country. Everyone then moved on and there was a new perception from our side regarding the change movement. Further to that again, there was the coming in of people like Tolu Ogunlesi, Mallam Bashir Ahmad, Ismail Ahmed, Ife Adebayo, Abdulrahman Baffa Yola and others numerous to mention. It was generally not bad for us at One Heart Initiative.

Going forward, we began to hear about NITDA taking over major headlines over quintessential performance that was associated with capacity building, saving money related to execution of IT projects by the Federal Government as well as major efforts aimed at ensuring Digital compliance by the nation. These news never stopped coming and Mr. President himself had to attend the e-Nigeria summit for 2017 and because of the content he followed it up with attendance at the 2018 version. There was general acceptance by the public that NITDA had been transformed into an unusual government organization in Nigeria. These achievements and more catapulted Dr Isa Ali Pantami to become the Minister of Communications in the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the general acceptance of all Nigerians as square peg in square hole.

Almost immediately after the appointment, there was the filling up of the vacancy at NITDA with Mr. Kashifu Inuwa and a look at his resume revealed him to be the one who has been flying with the vision of his predecessor. This further revealed the wisdom and the secret behind the successes NITDA had experienced all along. More fascinating is how both have formed uncommon synergy to consolidate their already started efforts at rejuvenating the ICT industry in Nigeria which will now spread to the associated communications industries.

Messages like these are essential to be brought to the fore for purposes of enlightening the public in relation to loyalty and belief in credible  visions including mentorship and patriotism. Also very importantly to note is how criticism of policies of government must not be based on partisan considerations and bandwagon information. A closer look into events and activities could reveal information enough to make you form an objective assessment of ventures.

May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

Hashim Suleiman wrote from FCT, Abuja. oneheartnaija@yahoo.com

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OPINION

Is LADOL truly a Nigerian company? By Desmond Orjiakor

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By: Desmond Orjiakor

Even with the signing of the Nigerian Oil and Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act of 2010, many Nigerian investors still exploit the old loopholes in the system to take advantage of this law.

Many Nigerians still parade foreign-owned companies as local entities to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the NOGICD Act at the detriment of the Nigerian economy.

LADOL, for instance, prides itself as a local company and is reaping the huge benefits that accrue to local companies in Nigeria but its shareholding structure appears to question this claim.

It is not an offence for foreign companies to operate in Nigeria.

After all, President Muhammadu Buhari has travelled all over the world to woo foreign investors to come into Nigeria and harness the investment opportunities his administration has created.

Also, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has also made tremendous efforts to improve Nigeria’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business to attract foreign companies.

Buhari and Osinbajo’s efforts have paid off by attracting many foreign companies and investments since 2015.

All these investments by foreign companies operating in Nigeria have provided employment for Nigerians and helped to grow the Nigerian economy.

The Nigerian government has also provided benefits for these foreign companies to thrive.

But it is worrisome when some foreign-owned companies parade themselves as local companies because they shortchange both the Nigerian economy and truly Nigerian companies.

Foreign-owned companies, which should enjoy the benefits provided by the Nigerian government for foreign companies have claimed to be local companies to enjoy the benefits in the NOGICD Act.

A peep into the shareholding structure of LADOL, for instance, reveals that the ownership is foreign-dominated because this conglomerate, which claims to be a bona fide Nigerian company, has its substantial 84 per cent shares held by foreign companies.

The two foreign companies that own the 84 per cent stake in LADOL are Sable Offshore Investment Limited, registered in British Virgin Island, and Alsba Ventures, also registered in the British Virgin Island.

While Sable Offshore Investment Limited has 53 per cent stake in LADOL, Alsba Ventures Group has 31 per cent.

When two foreign companies establish a company in Nigeria, the company can be rightly regarded as a foreign company.

So, substantially, and legally too, it can be argued that LADOL is a British Virgin Island company and not a Nigerian indigenous company because it is owned.

Dr. Desmond Orjiakor is an Abuja based public affairs analyst.

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