By Victor Young
Employers, Organised Labour and Civil society organisations, have called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to assent to the N30,000 Minimum Wage Bill transmitted to him by the National Assembly over two weeks ago, without further delay for implementation to commence in earnest.
The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council , JNPSNC, Trade Union side, United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, and umbrella body for pro-labour civil society groups in the country; Joint Action Front, JAF, urged President Buhari to quicken action on the signing of the bill.
Speaking, Director General, Timothy Olawale, said “We have been made to understand that Presidential assent is not as simple as that and that there are processes the bill has to pass through. In other words, signing is not automatic and that the Presidency needs to compare the one sent to the National Assembly with the one the National Assembly sent to the President for assent.
“Nevertheless, we expect the Presidency to expedite action in whatever due diligence it is doing and not unnecessarily delay the implementation of the minimum wage which the Nigerian workers have been eagerly looking forward to. If there is any gap between what was sent to the National Assembly and what was returned to the presidency, the presidency should liaise with the National Assembly as quickly as possible to sort things out. We know it is not just a new bill, but a comprehensive review of the 2011 Act. So, if there is any gap, it should not cause undue delay, it should be sorted out for the presidential assent so that implementation will commence immediately.”
President to sign before May
Also, President of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, Joe Ajaero, said “We do not know the reason behind Mr. President not signing the Bill two weeks after. But we are equally aware that Mr. President has not refused assent. We think we should give Mr. President a benefit of doubt, believing that because Mr. President was not around within this period that is why he has not really settled to sign it. That is the only reason we can give now in as much he has not said he is not going to sign it. If Mr President does not sign it, we will have cause to protest. But we know that the necessary things have been done and it is expected that before long, Mr. President would sign it. In fact, we believe Mr. President will sign it before the workers’ day.”
Similarly, JNPSNC in a statement in Lagos, its Chairman, Abdrafiu Adeniji and the Secretary, Alade Lawal, stressed that the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage and the National Assembly had done a good job by approving N30,000 as monthly National Minimum Wage and accordingly deserved commendation.
“All that is now left is for Mr. President as the father of the nation to sign the Bill into Law and bring the National Minimum Wage saga to a positive conclusion. The Nigerian people including millions of workers gave President Buhari a resounding victory at the poll for his second term in office and as such we expect Mr. President to reciprocate this gesture by signing the N30,000 monthly National Minimum Wage Bill into Law without further delay.
”The current N18,000 monthly minimum wage has become very much inadequate and workers are finding it extremely difficult to cope with daily challenges thrown up skyrocketing prices of goods and services. This underscores the need for Mr. President to sign into law the N30, 000. National Minimum Wage bill so that appropriate bodies that will work out the consequential adjustments arising from the new National Minimum can be put in place. The State and Local Governments should also be prepared to implement the National Minimum Wage to boost the morale and productivity of their workers.
”We urge the three tiers of Government to realise that the welfare of the people is the main reason why Governments exist in the first instance. They should, therefore, take special interest in the well-being of their workers that oil the wheels of governments by implementing the new National Minimum Wage as soon as it becomes law.”
On his part, President of TUC, Bobboi Kaigama, said “We do not over rush the executive because they have to study what the National Assembly sent to them. It is not just about figure, it is about law which specifies penalties, threshold and frequency of review.”
Labour should demand arrears
Reacting, Secretary of JAF, Abiodun Aremu, said “This is just one more act of government to undermine and shortchange the workers in the implementation of the long overdue new Minimum Wage. The more delay in the assent, the more room for excuses not to implement Minimum Wage at employers’ chosen time of commencement.
“What should be made clear to the Buhari presidency is that the new Minimum Wage Bill as passed into law by the National Assembly two weeks ago is not a benevolent disposition of the Government, rather it is a product of long-drawn struggle that included combative negotiations at the Tripartite Committee, warning strikes and mass protests that enjoyed the solidarity and support of Nigerians across the country, including the collaboration of JAF in the prosecution of those actions.
“Therefore, the Buhari presidency has no excuse to further delay assent to the Bill despite that the National Assembly endorsement of N30,000 upturned the divisive and dichotomous executive bill of N30,000 for Federal Government workers and N27,000 for other workers that was presented.
“JAF is urging Labour to insist not only on immediate and unconditional assent to the Bill as passed by the National Assembly, but demand that implementation of the new wage should commence as from March 23, 2016 in line with the Minimum Wage Act of 2011 that makes it statutorily mandatory for upward review of new wage every five years. JAF equally demands that Labour should insist on payment of arrears and that no retrenchment of workers would be tolerated from employers and government on the condition of full implementation of the new wage.”