There is growing concern among workers in the country as to whether government will fulfil its promise of implementing a new minimum wage with just a month to the September proposed commencement date. For workers excited about a new minimum wage (NMW) coming into effect this September, indications suggest that they may have to keep their celebration on hold for now.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) general secretary, Dr Peter Esson told our reporter over the phone that the minimum wage negotiation committee had been meeting everyday in the last one week to ensure it meets the deadline. “On our part, we are doing everything possible to ensure that we meet the deadline and ensure the report is submitted this month. Ours is to ensure that the work is completed this month and transmitted to the president,” he said.
LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that the organised labour, comprising NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), had in May 2016 demanded an upward review of the national minimum wage from its current N18,000 to N56, 000. Labour argued that the five-years lifespan of the current minimum wage had expired since 2015.
After 15 months of delay, President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2017 inaugurated a 30-member tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee for the negotiation of a new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers. In February this year, while speaking in Abuja at the first series of public lectures to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the NLC, minister of labour and employment, Dr Chris Ngige, had assured workers that the new minimum wage would come into effect this year.
“I can assure you that the third quarter is the maximum time the new minimum wage will be announced,” he said. But the minister caused quite a stir three months later (in May) when he declared that the new minimum wage would not be ready by September.
Workers expressed dismay that the minister was recanting on an earlier agreement that the new minimum wage would be ready by August. LEADERSHIP Weekend reports that once the minimum wage committee concludes its report, it would be submitted to the National Council of State and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval, before a bill is sent to the National Assembly to legalise the committee’s work. Thereafter, it is sent back to the president for assent.
However, the National Assembly last week went on a two-month recess and is not expected to resume until September 22, a situation which, many fear, could further delay the implementation process. Nevertheless, the NLC general secretary said that workers were confident that the National Assembly lawmakers would reconvene by the time the committee’s task is completed. It has been gathered that civil servants in the country are not ready to accept any extension of the date for the new minimum wage implementation to take off. The union for public service workers, Nigerian Civil Service Union (NCSU), has urged the federal government to live up to its promise as it will not brook any laxity on the issue.
“The federal government must match its words with actions so that the high expectations of workers on the implementation of the new minimum wage would be realised on or before September 2018. Failing this, the entire members of the Union will not take it with levity,” said NCSU president, Comrade Lawrence Amechi, in communique issued at the end of the union’s national executive council (NEC) meeting recently. Also, the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) at the end of its NEC meeting on Tuesday expressed concern at remarks credited to the minister of labour and employment – that the September timeline would no longer be feasible, with no other date given. “NAAT is aware that NLC and TUC have jointly made a submission of N66,500.00 as new NMW, and that tripartite meetings in this regard are ongoing. As an affiliate of NLC, NAAT is in agreement with NLC and TUC on the submission made.
However, the union urges parties in the NMW negotiations to fast-track the process to ensure implementation this year, 2018. Undue delay would be unacceptable,” a communique issued by the union stated. NLC president, Ayuba Wabba has expressed confidence that the minimum wage committee will round off its work this August Speaking during NLC’s annual Rain School in Your Village, he said: “The Congress and other stakeholders are still meeting on the issues of minimum wage and, hopefully, will round off by August 2018.
“With minimum wage as one of the most important ways of motivating workers to provide effective service, it is envisaged that its implementation will engender growth, not only among the public sector workers but also among the workers in the private and informal sectors of the economy. In addition, the financial benefits associated with the minimum wage would trickle down to the whole society.”
The TUC president, Kaigama Bobboi, who spoke to our correspondent via telephone, affirmed that labour stands by the September deadline, saying there would not be any room for extension On the fears that the recess by the National Assembly will affect the implementation process, Bobboi said it was possible that the National Assembly will reconvene if it becomes necessary “You know the recess is political. I don’t think it will affect the process. Our is to get the job done and send to the executive arm of government,” he said.
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