Adjourns till February 19 NLC hails lawmakers, urges Senate to concur
Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
The House of Representatives yesterday amended two provisions of the New National Minimum Wage Bill forwarded to it by President Muhammadu Buhari, and approving N30,000 as the lowest wage payable to workers in the country.
By the decision, the House has overridden the National Council of State which had approved N27,000 as the new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
In a swift reaction, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has welcomed the passage of the N30,000 new minimum wage bill, urging the Senate to quickly align with the House of Representatives to adopt the amount as the new national minimum wage.
While the minimum wage bill was passed for third reading, the 2019 Appropriation Bill was also passed for second reading and referred to the standing committees led by the Committee on Appropriations for further legislative action.
This is as lawmakers in the lower chamber joined their Senate colleagues in over three week-long recess to attend to their re-election campaigns.
Adopting the report by the ad-hoc committee set up on the New Minimum Wage Bill, which held a public hearing Monday and presented the report to the House, the lawmakers altered two of the 17 clauses contained in the bill.
The green chambers held a public hearing on the new Minimum Wage Bill on Monday where the organised labour, workers in the civil service and the private sector made contributions on the bill sent to the National Assembly by President Buhari last Wednesday.
Though the clause 3(1) of the bill had provided that “As from the commencement of this bill, every employer, except as provided for under the bill, shall pay a wage not less than a national minimum wage of N27,000 per month to every worker under his establishment,” the ad-hoc committee presided over by Deputy Speaker, Hon. Lasun Yusuf and which had the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara and other members of the committee in attendance recommended N30,000 minimum wage.
Also clause 10(2)(a), which provides that “Any employer who fails to comply with the provisions of sub-clause (1) of this clause commits an offence and is liable to (a) a fine not exceeding N5,000 (b) an additional penalty not exceeding N10,000 for each day the offence continues,” was amended.
Rather than the N5,000 recommended by the presidency, the committee recommended “a fine not exceeding N75,000 while the (b) part was retained.
The National President, Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, who addressed the ad-hoc committee on behalf of workers had pressed for amendment of five clauses in the president’s minimum wage bill.
First and foremost, the workers wanted N30,000 minimum wage, insisting that it was the position collectively agreed upon by the tripartite committee set up to look into the issue of the new minimum wage.
Though they agreed to a four-year circle for the review of the wage, they wanted periodic reviews in case of a major economic issue that will reduce or affect the value of what may be the current minimum wage.
They also wanted the issue of threshold that says employers with less than 25 employees could be exempted removed and that future reviews should be done by a tripartite committee as was done previously.
The lawmakers were unanimous in their support for the N30,000 recommended by the ad-hoc committee.
Commenting on how the ad-hoc committee arrived at its position, Lasun said: “Sometime last week the executive sent a bill to amend some sections of the principal act of the minimum wage act, of which one of the most important amendments that we are about to carry out is moving the minimum wage from N18, 000 to N27, 000 that was recommended in the bill.
“Yesterday (Monday), we had a public hearing which was aired live and it was there and then that we realised that the tripartite committee that was set up by Mr. President actually did recommend N30, 000 as the minimum wage. It was a public hearing that was well attended.
“They all presented their reports but of importance was the report of the tripartite committee, which of course formed part of the attachment that was used in reaching this final position. And I want to quote Mr. Speaker; when you were delivering your speech yesterday to declare the hearing open, everybody believes that a worker must have a living wage called the minimum wage. Everybody is of the opinion that the time is right and that it is even overdue. So, in the executive bill that the executive sent, the only thing that was touched is the minimum wage itself.”
He, however, underscored a fundamental issue relating to taxation as the existing tax law will consequently make some workers earning N30,000 come under the tax net.
According to Lasun, “A question was asked yesterday (Monday), which the Minister of Finance appropriately answered. Now that the minimum wage is N30,000, and because of that the person who is earning the minimum wage will now be earning more than N200,000 per annum. Is it taxable? And the Minister of Finance answered in the affirmative; that the tax law says that if you earn about N200,000, then you will be taxed.
“Nigerian public should know this, because from the past when it was just N18,000 those at that level were not taxed. But once this one is assented to, that means everybody will now be taxed. That now depends on the tax authorities, maybe to come forward with some sort of amendments in their tax law, to see if we can provide succor for the people at that level.”
NLC Hails Lawmakers, Urges Senate to Concur
Meanwhile, the NLC has welcomed the passage of the N30,000 new minimum wage bill by the House of Representatives.
The congress urged the Senate to quickly align with the House to adopt N30,000 as the new national minimum wage.
While reacting to the passage of the bill last night, the General Secretary of NLC, Peter Ozo-Eson, said the legislators had lived up to the expectations of Nigerians.
However, the NLC scribe raised issues with the aspect of the bill that tended to exclude some categories of workers.
For instance, Eson said the exclusion of employers with less than 25 employees could lead to abuse.
According to him, “Members of the House of Representatives have done what Nigerians are expected of them. At the public hearing yesterday, it was clear that all the major stakeholders wanted to be Honourable by aligning with what was agreed through negotiation at the tripartite committee level.
“We, as organised labour has maintained this position all along. NECA came out to say they were part of the agreement that produced N30.000 and are standing by that agreement, even the small and medium scale enterprises said the public hearing that they were part of the agreement,” he said.
Expressing the joy of the labour movement, Eson said it was important that an arm of the lawmaking body has given its endorsement of the new minimum wage.
“It was only the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, that was even in the committee who tried to argue in support of the governors who were not committed to this process.
“But it is the National Assembly that makes law. The House of Representatives has demonstrated that and we are happy. There is this aspect which we are not comfortable, which is the exclusion of those employers who have less than 25 in their employ.
“We think that is already been abused, for instance a situation where secondary schools whose teachers are taking less than minimum wage, they will just organise a pay roll and ensure that they are not up to the number captured by Law.
“Also, some lawyers’ chambers paying young lawyers ten thousand naira which can’t even pay their transportation and they are hiding under the guise of not captured by law. But everything taken together, we want to commend the House of Representatives. We therefore urge the Senate to quickly do what is needed of them by aligning with the House of Representatives on the matter so that it can be brought to conclusion,” he said.