President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday received the report of the Tripartite Committee on the Review of National Minimum Wage, with an assurance that his administration remains committed to having a new National Minimum Wage Act soon.
Receiving the report from the Chairman of the committee, Ms Amal Pepple, at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the president said he was delighted that the committee had successfully completed its assignments in a peaceful and non-controversial manner.
While assuring the workers that he would soon transmit an executive bill to the National Assembly on the new minimum wage, the president also called on the leadership of the labour unions and the Nigerian workers to avoid being used as political weapons.
“May I, therefore, employ workers and their leaders not to allow themselves to be used as political weapons,” he said.
“Our plan is to transmit the Executive Bill to the National Assembly for its passage within the shortest possible time. I am fully committed to having a new National Minimum Wage Act in the very near future.
“Let me use this opportunity to recognise the leadership of the Organised Labour and private sector as well as representatives of state and federal governments for all your hard work. The fact that we are here today, is a notable achievement.
“As the Executive Arm commences its review of your submission, we will continue to engage you all in closing any open areas presented in this report. I, therefore, would like to ask for your patience and understanding in the coming weeks,” he said.
President Buhari admitted that the review of the national minimum wage had become necessary for many reasons, recalling that the last review took place in 2011.
“We all know since then, the prices of key consumables have increased and the most vulnerable of our workers are struggling to make ends meet. Since 2011, many changes have taken place. Nigeria rebased its GDP to become the largest economy in Africa. We reported very strong GDP growth rates and exceptional performance of our capital markets.
“However, these reported successes did not flow into the pockets and homes of majority of Nigerians. In the last three years, we focused on correcting this deficiency. We are working to create a diversified and inclusive economy,’’ he said.
He said the present administration had been pushing to clear pension arrears owed to retired workers with the limited resources available to it, and also supported state governments to pay workers salary.
The president acknowledged that the concerns raised by representatives of government in the committee were around affordability, while many states struggle to meet their existing salary requirements.
“On the side of labour, the points raised focused on the need for any increase to be meaningful. In a way, both arguments are valid. I want to assure you all that we will immediately put in place the necessary machinery that will close out these open areas,” he said.
In her remarks, Chairman of the committee, Ms Amal Pepple, said the recommendation in the report was predicated on the high cost of living, occasioned by the exchange rate, and rising inflation in the country.
She said the committee also considered micro-economic indicators, including the revenue and expenditure profile of government, adding that implementation of the recommended minimum wage would boost the purchasing power of the working class, increase consumption expenditure and stimulate economic growth.
“Consideration was also given to the critical role of the informal sector in employment generation and the need for a realistic minimum wage that will not stifle the growth of the sector and the overall economy.
“After carefully weighing these critical factors and bearing in the mind the overriding interest of the economy the committee while noting the offer of N24,000 by the federal government, is recommending an increase in the existing minimum wage from N18,000 to N30,000.
“We believe that the implementation of the recommended minimum wage, will, no doubt, boost the purchasing power of workers, increase consumption expenditure and ultimately stimulate business and overall economic growth.
“The committee has also produced a draft national minimum wage bill 2018 for condition by government. We strongly believe that the enactment of the draft bill into law is very critical to the operation and future reviews of the National Minimum Wage,” she said.
Meanwhile, Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Peters Adeyemi said Organised Labour was happy “because we have achieved our aim which is for the Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage to recommend N30,000 which was the compromise figure arrived at.”
Adeyemi, who was a member of the committee, further said: “You know the report would have to go through some processes, like the National Economic Council, the Council of State before the president can send an Executive Bill to the National Assembly.”
On whether the president was not playing politics by endorsing the N30,000 as presented by the committee, Comrade Adeyemi said it is too early for such speculation.
He said: “I am not sure the president would want to play politics with the welfare of workers, and even if he did, it would be to his advantage to ensure that the process is completed before the election and that would motivate Nigerian workers to see him from a positive angle and may be, vote for him.”
Atiku lauds move
Also, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has commended the federal government for agreeing “to pay the ₦30,000 minimum wage it had previously negotiated with the Nigerian Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and other labour affiliates.”
A statement by his campaign organisation noted that “as he said last week, he is committed to a living wage and one of the pillars of his soon to be launched policy document is making workers welfare a priority. The Nigerian worker is the goose that lays the golden egg and is worthy of the best pay that Nigeria can afford.
“The former vice president commends the patriotism displayed by the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress and its affiliates in calling off the planned nationwide strike. In addition to this, he calls on the National Assembly to speedily pass legislation that makes the new minimum wage a statutory requirement.
“The Waziri Adamawa further calls on the Buhari administration to keep to its word and abide by the new minimum wage agreement.
“No sacrifice is too great to make for us to Get Nigeria Working Again and that is what the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation is all about. Atiku means JOBS, jobs that would pay the minimum wage and above because Nigeria should benefit the masses and not those who are in top government positions.”