Ndubuisi Francis and Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate Thursday adjourned plenary to February 19 after the National Minimum Wage Bill transmitted to it on Wednesday by President Muhammadu Buhari scaled the second reading.
Contrary to the N30, 000 approved by a 30-member Tripartite Committee put together by him, President Buhari had transmitted a N27, 000 Minimum Wage Bill to the National Assembly.
The bill scaled through the second reading in the Senate, which also set up an eight-man ad-hoc committee to study the provisions of the bill and make necessary recommendations to the Senate within two weeks.
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary, said the Senate was adjourning plenary till February 19 after listening to the motion moved by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan , that the Senate should adjourn to another legislative day “having exhausted all the agenda on the day’s Order Paper.”
Commenting on the new minimum wage bill before the Senate, Ekweremmadu noted that the Senate decided to give the Bill an accelerated hearing due to its importance.
He added that this was the first time the 8th Senate would suspend its rules to take a First and Second Reading of an Executive Communication.
“This will be the first time the 8th Senate is reading an Executive Communication and suspending our rules to take a First and Second Reading and assigning the Bill to a committee, all in one day. This shows how committed we are to this issue,” he said.
With the bill passing the second reading, Ekweremadu said: “Let me congratulate the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and all those who have brought this to this point. I would also like to thank my distinguished colleagues for the speedy consideration of this bill.
He, thereafter named an eight-man ad-hoc committee headed by Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, to do further legislative duties on the bill within two weeks.
Other members of the committee include Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour, Senator Abu Ibrahim; Senator Shehu Sani ( North West), Senator Sam Egwu (South-east), Senator Suleiman Adokwe (North-central), Senator Adeola Olamilekan, Senator Francis Alimikhena (South-south); and Senator Binta Masi Garba (North-east).
“I believe what we have said so far will suffice in guiding the Committee. Just to clarify: the new minimum wage brought to us is set at N27,000. There were news reports of N27,000 for state workers and N30,000 for the federal government workers, but this is a single national minimum wage of N27,000.
“Another issue of concern is whether this affects organisations and establishments employing less than 25 persons. If this does not affect these people, it means a whole number of people are left outside the minimum wage and that is not right. In most countries, the minimum wage applies to all workers, regardless of the number of people in an establishment.”
He further stated that “the other issue that should also draw our attention is the ability of states to pay. I will like to commend our colleagues for insisting that any state that is committed to paying will definitely pay. That means that they may have to make sacrifices in some areas including cutting the overheads.
“The states also have to step up their internally generated revenues and make more efforts in collectable taxes, not imposing more taxes. If we are able to do that, I am sure that we can pay not just a minimum wage but also a living wage to every Nigerian. There must be a conscious effort to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. We must be our brothers’ keepers. We must make efforts and sacrifice to ensure that every Nigerian will have opportunity to have a meal, two or three everyday”.
Before the Bill passed the second reading, several Senators commented on the proposed National Minimum wage.