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Labour Tackles Akume Over Minimum Wage: You Are a Slave Master

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has issued a scathing rebuke of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), George Akume, following his recent remarks regarding the nationwide strike led by the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

The NLC condemned the SGF’s characterisation of their industrial action as a “treasonable felony” and “economic sabotage,” describing it as both troubling and counterproductive to constructive dialogue.

The statement titled, “Mr SGF: Treasonable felons and economic saboteurs are in Agbada and convoys” was issued by the NLC’s Head of Information and Public Affairs, Benson Upah, on Friday.

The NLC expressed disappointment in the SGF’s comments, stating that they undermine the legitimacy of the workers’ demands.

He said, “The demands of the NLC and TUC are clear and just. We seek the conclusion and signing into law of a new national minimum wage that is in sync with the realities of the cost of living, a reversal of the hike in electricity tariff to N65/kWh, and an end to the discriminatory classification of electricity consumers into bands.

“These demands are grounded in the need for economic justice and fairness for all Nigerian workers and citizens.”

Upah further criticized the SGF’s assertion that he cannot afford to pay his drivers N100,000 monthly, highlighting the disconnect between government officials and the realities faced by ordinary Nigerians.

The NLC challenged the SGF’s insinuation that the real economic saboteurs wear expensive attire and occupy positions of power, emphasizing that their strike is a legitimate exercise of workers’ rights.

The statement says, “Such statements do not contribute to the resolution of the issues at hand but rather exacerbate tensions.

“It is a clear demonstration that the SGF pays his personal staff starvation wages and may be telling us that he is a slave master.

“We may have to remind him that a 50kg bag of rice is N88,000 which leaves the worker with just N12,000 if he is to pay the paltry sum, he claims that he is unable to pay.

“Anyway, one wonders what the SGF does with four drivers alone? We would also want to know what work justifies the huge salaries and allowances the SGF takes home all the time?

“Do we need to wonder too far why we are here as a nation when you have individuals with this mindset occupying sensitive positions in the corridors of power?”

Moreover, the NLC denounced the militarization of negotiation processes, citing an incident where labour leaders were surrounded by military personnel during negotiations as a violation of their rights.

They called for the SGF to retract his statements and engage in genuine dialogue with respect and seriousness.

The statement adds, “It is unfortunate that the SGF who presides over the Administration of the Executive arm of government which is one of the basic pillars of democracy and is supposed to be a protector and defender of democracy, its various institutions and practices would be seen making statements that negate these traditions and principles.

“We believe that through the office of the SGF, the citizens will feel the pulse of the President at all times, occupiers of such sensitive offices should therefore show more understanding in their utterances and actions at all times.

“We reject completely the unfortunate insinuations around the SGF’s remarks because strikes are not only legal but also a civic duty.

“We are surprised that the SGF will demonstrate such a glaring sense of unawareness to the understanding of the fact that when workers withdraw their services which is their right, machines cannot operate themselves so, they grind to a halt.”

Expressing concern for the safety of their leaders amidst the ongoing negotiations, the NLC reiterated their commitment to advocating for the rights and welfare of Nigerian workers.

They vowed to continue pursuing their demands through all legitimate means available, refusing to be intimidated or blackmailed by government officials.

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