Nigeria News
National Assembly and national minimum wage

LAST week, the Senate removed wages from the Exclusive Legislative List and placed it in the Concurrent List, as part of the Constitution amendment process. Stripped of legislative language, it means there will no longer be a National Minimum Wage in Nigeria and each state can pay whatever it deemed fit.

Defending the decision, Chairman, National Assembly Conference Committee on Constitution Review and Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said: “Our belief is that the constitution is not what you subject to the whims and caprices of individuals or their emotions…

We are running a federation in Nigeria and our findings are that most federations all over the world allow wage on Concurrent List. The reason is that fingers can never be equal in a federation. We have rich states and we have poor states.

What they are paying as wages in Borno may not be enough for somebody in Lagos. Also what they are paying in Enugu, for instance, may not be enough for a worker in Abuja. So we believe that each state will have their separate challenges…What we are now saying is that each state should be able to decide what their minimum would look like”.

It is saddening to behold how these clowns in Senate think! They have fed so fat on Nigerian money, that they seemed to have vacated all rationality! National Minimum Wage is one of the few gains of the Nigerian people, yet, Senators believe “best practice” to copy from other federations is working people’s wages deregulation.

They are not “deregulating” the huge sums that they award themselves as Members of the National Assembly; nor have they pleaded “poverty” of the states, to seek reduction in emoluments that go to the Legislature and other top guns in states.

In truth, we are faced with CLASS INJUSTICE. The ruling class wants to take even the little that goes to the Nigerian working people and the poor. When they weave yarns about “other federations”, they must issued with the riposte that Nigeria has the RIGHT to do what suits it. We shouldn’t copy the inequalities of other capitalist countries.

Thankfully, for the first time in a long time, our slumbering labour leadership seems to have awaken to the danger that the Ike Ikweremadus of Senate constitute to Nigeria’s working people. We MUST DECISIVELY REJECT any effort to take National Minimum Wage out of the Exclusive Legislative List. By extension, the Labour Movement should begin mobilizing the Nigerian people to ensure that reactionary, anti-people individuals like Ike Ekweremadu should not return to Senate.

We must be interested in the worldview of people who make laws for our country otherwise even more anti-people, anti-worker legislations will be rammed down the throat of the country. It is no coincidence that Ike Ekweremadu is Deputy to David Mark who, as Minister of Communications during military dictatorship,had said that telephones were not for the poor.

Wasn’t the same David Mark an active supporter of Obasanjo’s Third Term Agenda? Yet, when Third Term was defeated, was David Mark not compensated with Senate Presidency by Obasanjo? It is the Senate under the watch of these reactionary individuals that is legislating against a National Minimum Wage! Nigerian working people must reject this undisguised return to slavery!

 Emeka Mba’s NBC and potholes-filled road to broadcasting digitization

ON September 5, 2014, the Emeka Mba-headed National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), issued a Broadcasting Signal Distribution License to the Nigerian company, Pinnacle Communications Limited. This followed the completion of the process for the preparation of the Nigerian broadcasting digitization process, which commenced with the Expression of Interest (Prequalification to Bid for Broadcasting Signal Distribution License), published in the web portal of the NBC in March 2014.

The NBC’s action had been the outcome of the decision by the Nigerian Government to award three of such licenses as follows: one reserved for an entity carved out of the NTA (to protect the Nigerian public interest); a second license that was to be awarded through an open and competitive bid, in order to stimulate competition and a third one that was expected to be warehoused for the future, based on developments in the broadcasting market.

NBC organized a transparent bidding process which was praised within the broadcasting industry and beyond, for its fairness. And not only that; it was well known that President Goodluck Jonathan had insisted that given the historic significance of the digital transition, Nigeria’s process should be seen by the whole world to be without any corner cutting and favouritism nor should it be shrouded in any form of controversy. And while it lasted, the NBC seemed to have done everything by the book. Companies were prequalified, bids were evaluated and those who didn’t meet the standards set fell by the wayside.

In the end, on national television, Pinnacle Communications Limited was announced as having fairly and transparently won the bid. It was on that basis that the company was issued a license after paying the over N600million that was the requisite sum for the license. It seemed that the Nigerian digital process was truly enroute. Pursuit to its newly acquired position as the winner of this Second National Broadcast Distribution License, Pinnacle Communications put together a team of broadcast industry leaders from the USA, France, China and Nigeria to begin to lay the building block of a process that was to be kick-started by December 2014.

But as the saying goes, the devil is always in the detail. Because on September 7th, 2014, NBC issued another license to start the same process to another company called MTS Communications Limited which had been one of the original bidding entities which fell by the way, unable to meet the set standard. What was the surprise here was that MTS was issued a license from the back door and was asked to pay only N200million not the N600million that Pinnacle Communications Limited had paid to become the SECOND National License holder, according to the open bid conducted by the official body for the bidding process, DIGITEAM, headed by one of Nigeria’s leading broadcasting engineers, Engineer Amana! When this controversy emerged, the Emeka Mba-led NBC started to defend its apparent subversion of its own process by pleading that it was bowing to “orders from above”! It sounded strange, given that practically everybody associated with the digitization process was aware that President Goodluck Jonathan insisted upon a fair, open and honest process; so the plea of “orders from above”, was clearly dubious and untenable!

But it went even worse, when it also emerged later, that GOTV which is part of the South African-owned MULTICHOICE, was similarly issued the same type of license and the absurdity of the new award is underscored by the fact that GOTV/MULTICHOICE did not participate in the original bidding for the license, yet they got a similar license to what Pinnacle Communications Limited won fairly and for which it paid a total sum of over N600 million.

It is equally worrisome that Emeka Mba, the NBC DG,USED TO BE an employee of MULTICHOICE! The coincidence is troubling! But in all these developments, it appears that the Emeka Mba-led NBC has dug potholes on the road leading to Nigeria’s broadcasting digitization. The stakeholders have been set into confusion and the trust that should envelope what was expected to become a major national process is giving way to recrimination and suspicion.

In the meantime, a Nigerian company appears to have been done in, because it entered the process with a belief that it was a licensed SECOND National Broadcasting Signal Distributor. It has invested heavily and has even brought in national and international partners into a process which has become shrouded in controversy.

It is the genuineness of license that normally drives the enthusiasm of investors and given the other licenses issued from the backdoor by the Emeka Mba-led NBC, it seems our hopes for a hitch-free broadcasting digitization process has been set to naught. But Nigeria cannot afford the subversion of a transparent process. What is in the government plan is to license a SECOND National License operator (for an initial period of 15years!) and that second licensee is Pinnacle Communications Limited. Any licensing done under cloak-and-dagger or by subterfuge and deceit must NEVER stand! President Goodluck Jonathan SHOULD set the records straight to restore the legitimacy of Nigeria’s broadcasting digitization process. No “Orders from Above” can stand!

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