Senate Calls for Upward Review of N18,000 Minimum Wage

  • Congratulates Nigerian workers on May Day

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

The Senate thursday called for an upward review of the minimum wage from N18,000 to a living wage, that would ensure some decent standard of living for Nigerian workers.

The Senate also lamented that despite bailouts made to states by the federal government, and monies received in the Paris Club refunds, several states have continued to owe workers salaries in arrears, and pensions to their retired staff.

The lawmakers said the poor wages and failure to pay salaries would mitigate against the anti-corruption war of the president.

They, therefore, urged the government to formulate and implement welfarist policies and establish a surveillance unit that will ensure proper, timely delivery of all necessary welfare packages to Nigerian workers.

The resolution was sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi North), on the welfare of Nigerian workers ahead of the 2017 workers day celebration.

“One of the major agenda of this administration is to fight corruption and you know very well that without productivity, fighting corruption will be an impossibility. If workers are not paid as and when due and their allowances are not taken care of, corruption will certainly continue to be a major problem in Nigeria,” Nazif said.

He noted that Nigeria workers have suffered all forms of injustices including a lack of adequate housing, access to transportation and effective health facilities, pension entitlements, among others.

“The Senate observes that the untold hardships that Nigerian workers are experiencing as a result of poor welfare packages are quite alarming,” he said.

Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West), contributing to the debate, said workers are being owed in his state, despite the bailouts and Paris Club refunds, leading to industrial strike actions by the academic and non academic staff of the state’s tertiary institutions.

“The first set of bailouts was given to governors. Again, a second set of bailouts was given to state governments. As if that was not enough, Paris Club (loan) refund was also released to state governments,” he said.

“If these governors, including my governor, got bailout 1, bailout 2 and Paris refund 1, yet did not pay salaries; if they get the second tranche of the Paris Club refund, they will still not pay salaries. How do we then compel them to become responsible and responsive to the magnanimity shown by Mr. President? It is to make sure that we use our oversight responsibility and constitutional powers to direct the Federal Ministry of Finance to stop the second tranche of the Paris Club refund to state governors who have not paid salaries. The essence of these bailouts was actually to pay salaries, arrears and pensions,” Melaye added.

Senator Emmanuel Paulker  (Bayelsa Central) said the conditions of pensioners in Nigeria remain a sad and wallowing experience.

“I think this chamber has to come up with a definite proposal to see that workers’ wages are paid as and when due. The situation where bailouts were given for the singular purpose of paying workers’ salaries and they are diverted, I agree with Senator Dino that if particular governor has not used the money for that purpose, the federal government should not give the second tranche to that particular state. But in so doing, it is not the governor who will suffer; it is his workers who were intended to be helped who would suffer,” he said.

Presiding,  the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said the upper legislative chamber would always stand with workers just as it has always done.

“This is a timely call for all states to ensure that they address all issues that we raised today, especially those concerning the welfare of our workers. We believe that in doing so, they must also take the cognisance of the fact that those who retire are entitled to their gratuities and pensions. These are being denied despite all the efforts by the National Assembly to provide the legal basis to ensure that these monies (bailouts) were paid,” he said.