Minimum wage: Court dims workers’ hope on early implementation

...Orders tripartite c’ttee to submit report January *Controversies needless –Presidency

The hope of an early implementation of the new minimum wage for workers across the country may have been dimmed, as the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Abuja, on Thursday ordered the tripartite committee on the issue to submit report of its negotiations by January 30, 2019.

Justice Sanusi Kado had on November 2, 2018 adjourned the case till yesterday following an ex parte order stopping the strike which the labour had earlier planned for November 6.

The strike was, however, suspended as an agreement between the labour and the federal government was reached on November 5, with the parties agreeing to forward N30, 000 and N24, 000 proposals to President Muhammadu Buhari for possible consideration.

And upon receiving the report on November 6, President Buhari lauded the committee and expressed his administration’s commitment to a new minimum wage, assuring that he would send an executive bill to the National Assembly.


Court resumes

But at the resumed hearing in the matter yesterday, the three defendants namely; the National Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), were neither present nor represented by counsel.

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However, the federal government and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, both plaintiffs, were represented by their legal team, led by Mr. Emmanuel Omonowa.

Making his submission before the court, Omonowa said, based on the court order of November 2, negotiations on the new minimum wage were still ongoing.

To this end, he asked the court to give the parties in the suit more time, so that they could continue with the negotiations and later give a report on the negotiation efforts to the court.

Omonowa said: “Pursuant to Order 42(1) of the National Industrial Court Rules, the court should allow parties to see the possibility of amicable settlement of the matter.”

Granting the plaintiffs’ prayers, Justice Kado restated his November 2 order restraining the Organised Labour from embarking on the planned strike.

He also warned all the parties to the suit against any action that could disrupt the case, and then adjourned till January 30, 2019, for parties to report to the court on whether or not they had settled amicably or would still be interested in going on with the case.


Presidency cautions

Contrary to some media reports, President Muhammadu Buhari didn’t give a specific figure when the report of the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee was presented on Tuesday, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, has clarified.

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Making the clarification in a statement via his Facebook Page yesterday, Adesina said, the Presidency was concerned about the reports that Buhari had backtracked on his promise to pay the new N30, 000 demanded by labour.

He said: “The Presidency is concerned over recurring reports alleging that President Muhammadu Buhari has reneged on earlier acceptance of the N30, 000 recommended as the new National Minimum Wage by the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee.

“These reports are contrary to what transpired on Tuesday when the committee presented its Report to the President. Responding, President Buhari, while acknowledging the concerns raised by government on affordability and labour’s focus on meaningful increase, stated clearly in a speech, which was made available to the media:

“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.

“Our plan is to transmit an Executive Bill to the National Assembly for passage within the shortest possible time. I am fully committed to having a new National Minimum Wage Act in the very near future.

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“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.”

Continuing, Adesina said: “From the above, and throughout the report-submission ceremony, the president never mentioned any figure. What he committed himself to was a new minimum wage, and only after the report of the committee has been reviewed by the executive and legislative processes of government and an appropriate bill presented to him for assent.

“Until the proposed minimum wage has gone through the whole gamut of lawmaking, president Buhari, who is a stickler for due process, will not be caught in this unnecessary web of controversy, which amounts to putting the cart before the horse and hair-splitting.”

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