At last, a compromise has been reached between the delegates from the South and their counterparts from the North on mines, mineral resources, oil fields and other related issues.
Reaching a compromise yesterday, the delegates agreed that item 39 should be retained in the exclusive legislative list in the constitution with a modification that states should be consulted when issues relating to item 39 are to be discussed.
As part of the modification, the delegates agreed that a special fund be created by the federal government for states bearing mineral resources, to enhance their development.
According to delegates of the Committee on Power Devolution who spoke to journalists, the committee members resolved to accept a position proposed by Prof. Nson Udo Mbana that item 39 be retained in the exclusive legislative list with a proviso that states which have mineral resources should be consulted and that a special fund be set aside by the federal government to help the exploration and exploitation of mines and minerals in states where they exist.
Confirming this, Ann Kio Briggs from Rivers State, Prof Godwin Dara from Delta State and Buba Galadimma from Yobe State said with the compromised position the controversial item 39 should be retained in the exclusive legislative list with a provision that states bearing oil minerals be consulted, a special fund be provided by the federal government to enable quick development of other minerals resources.
Reading the communiqué of the meeting, Attah said: “Item 39 is retained in the federal exclusive list which are mines, minerals, oil fields, oil mining and geological surveys and natural gas which shall remain in the exclusive list provided the governments of the states where the mining activities take place shall be involved in matters relating to them (the resources) while the government of the federation shall make special grants to develop mines and minerals in states where such resources are underdeveloped.”
Meanwhile, the leadership of the country’s labour movement yesterday protested against the removal of labour-related matters from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list, stating that it would breach the implementation of national minimum wage.
The National Conference Committee on Power Devolution had on Monday transferred all labour related matters from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list with the intention to minimise the implication of reducing national labour related industrial actions.
But the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abdulweed Umar; his Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart, Bala Kaigama; Chief Economist of the NLC, Dr. Peter Essoh and the Deputy Chairman of the NLC, Issa Aremo, stormed the committee’s meeting room to protest against the transfer, explaining that the decision was due to narrow mindedness of employers of labour.
According to the NLC president, while addressing delegates of the Power Devolution committee, “This issue of retaining all labour related issues in the exclusive list was a long standing struggle to the extent that even the Senate, after listening to our explanations on this issue, agreed with us that all labour related issues should remain in the exclusive legislative list.
“We were surprised that the Committee on Power has decided to transfer it to the concurrent list. This position by this committee is against the global practice where 96 percent have labour and labour related issued in the exclusive list.
“Removing labour related issues from the exclusive list and transferring it to the concurrent list has great implication for the national minimum wage. What this means, is that some states could opt not to obey the minimum wage policy, as some states could resist implementing and obeying the policy of paying N18, 000.00 as the national minimum wage.
“The idea of the minimum wage being in the exclusive list is protectionist as the least paid worker is in the vulnerable group. It is therefore our position that the committee’s report on labour and labour related matters is not in line with the position of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Speaking in the same manner, the President of TUC, Kaigama, explained that all labour related matters should be in exclusive list, “because the private sector doesn’t care for the welfare of the workers. We urge you to create harmony in the system. Labour is a national issue and therefore should not be in the concurrent list.”
The Chief Economist of the NLC, Essoh, said it is a global practice that all labour issued should be legislated upon as a national issue.
But responding, a member of the Committee on Power Devolution, Ayo Adebanjo, from the South-west region said it is in the overall interest of labour that all labour related matters are left in the concurrent list “because when Chief Obafemi Awolowo made a policy of minimum wage of Five Shiling in the South-west region, it was in the concurrent list.”
He explained that if it were to be in the exclusive list, the regional government under Awolowo would not have the powers to legislate on it.
Prof. UdoMbana Nsongurau queried the reason why labour unions like the Academic Staff Unions of Universities (ASUU) should be dragging the nation into national industrial strikes, if their respective state universities’ lecturers have been paid by the state governors.
The Co-chairman of the committee, Obong Victor Atta, said the committee would look into their request, but that it was regrettable that NLC and TUC were only considering minimum wage and not other issues associated with labour.
He told the two congresses’ officials that moving it to the concurrent legislative list does change anything regarding payment of minimum wage as long as the federal government makes a law and it is binding on the states.