HomePoliticsIkpeazu Hands Over Minimum Wage Burden As Abia Workers Groan

Ikpeazu Hands Over Minimum Wage Burden As Abia Workers Groan

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President Muhammadu Buhari’s signing into law of a new minimum wage of N30,000 on the 17th of April, 2020, was a watershed moment in the country’s workers’ welfare history.

The President’s Senior Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters at the time, Senator Ita Enang, told reporters, ‘The bill makes it mandatory for employers of labour in both public and private organisations to pay N30,000 as minimum wage.’

However, the minimum wage has been a mirage for workers in Abia State. Civil servants are licking their wounds over their government’s failure to implement the national wage in the final hours of the Okezie Ikpeazu administration. Many of them, harbouring grudges against the government for unpaid salaries and allowances, feel the state government has taken them for granted.

Unlike some states that were unwilling to commit to the new wage scheme, the Abia State Government agreed to pay a minimum wage of N30,000 to its civil servants.

Read Also: Abia Started Payment Of New Minimum Wage In 2019 – NLC

On behalf of the state government, the agreement was formalised and signed by Sir Onyii Wamah, Dr. Aham Uko, and Dr. Anthony Agbazuere, Head of Service, Commissioner of Finance, and Chief of Staff, respectively.

Chris Okoro of the Public Service Joint Negotiating Council, Uchenna Obigwe of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Sunny Onwuma of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and Kennedy Nwaigwe of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) signed the agreement on behalf of the state’s workers.

The parties agreed that the new wage payment would go into effect in January 2020, and Labour agreed to the necessary adjustments.

Let’s fast forward to 2023. Thirty-seven months later, the signed agreement remains a hollow promise.

Workers have publicly stated that Governor Ikpeazu’s administration has yet to fully implement the agreed-upon N30,000 minimum wage and that all Abia civil servants working in state ministries, departments, agencies, boards, and parastatals are affected.

Workers in the state recently marched to express their displeasure with the government, while the non-payment of several months’ salary arrears has triggered the ongoing indefinite strike action by the state chapter of the NLC.

The government’s reaction, on the other hand, bordered on hypocrisy and insensitivity to the workers’ plight.

A statement, signed and issued to newsmen in Umuahia by Chris Ezem, the Secretary to the State Government, stated: “It is public knowledge that the recent protracted court order freezing various government accounts, which affected payment of salaries to ministries and parastatals for March and April 2023.

“Despite the current challenge of the state government with its bankers, the Governor, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, has directed the Office of the Accountant General to commence payment of salaries to ministries and parastatals from today, Friday, May 12, 2023.

“Accordingly, the government wishes to place on record that no core civil servant or ministry is owed salaries before now.

“Furthermore, salaries of local government staff are up to date save for the inherited five months’ arrears, out of which three months have been paid and the outstanding two months are being addressed.

“The Government has further directed local government authorities to commence immediate payment of salaries of health workers across the 17 LGAs.”

The statement appeared to have no relation to the workers’ positions.

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