- NLC urges immediate implementation
Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Henceforth, workers in Nigeria will smile home with N30,000 as minimum wage with assent yesterday in Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Minimum Wage (Repeal and Enactment) Bill 2019 passed by the National Assembly.
The president’s assent to the bill laid to rest several months of agitations and controversies over a new national minimum wage.
With the president’s assent to the bill, henceforth, workers in both the private and public sectors will not earn below N30,000 as minimum wage.
Briefing journalists in the State House after the president assented to the bill, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, said with yesterday’s presidential assent, the implementation of the National Minimum Wage (Repeal and Enactment) Act 2019 would take immediate effect.
Enang, who said with the assent, no employer of labour must pay any of its employees below the stipulated N30,000 minimum wage, added that only employers whose workers are below 25 in number were exempted.
The presidential liaison officer also added that the Minimum Wage Act empowers any employee who is paid below N30,000 approved minimum wage to drag his employer to court, adding that the law also authorises the Minister of Labour and Employment or his nominee to take up such a case on behalf of the affected employee and recover his/her balance.
He also said the Act mandates the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission as well as the Minister of Labour and Employment to serve as the chief and principal enforcers of the provisions of the law, adding that the law is applicable throughout the country.
He said: “You can see me smiling on behalf of Nigerian workers. President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to the Minimum Wage Repeal and Enactment Act 2019.
“This makes it compulsory for all employers of labour in Nigeria to pay to their workers the sum of N30,000. And this excludes persons who are employing less than 25 workers, persons who work in a ship which sails out of jurisdiction and other persons who are in other kinds of regulated employment which are accepted by the Act.
“It also gives the workers the right if you are compelled by any circumstance to accept salary that is less than N30,000 to sue your employer to recover the balance and authorises the Minister of Labour and any person nominated by the Minister of Labour, or any person designated by the Ministry of Labour in any ministry, department or agency to on your behalf take action in your name against such employer to recover the balance of your wages.
“It also ensures and mandates National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission and the Minister of Labour, to be the chief and principal enforcers of the provisions of this law. And this law applies to all agencies, persons and bodies throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The effective date is 18th of April, 2019, as Mr. President has assented to it. It has been assented to today and it takes effect today, except such other provisions as contained in the Act. But the enforcement and the right to start the implementation of the provisions commences today (yesterday), including such steps that are to be taken gradually under the provisions of the Act.”
Enang said in appreciation of the president’s good gesture, workers should celebrate Buhari and support his administration, including its policies, arguing that the president had shown his love for Nigerian workers.
He pledged that government officials would also join the organised labour during March past events at special occasions.
He said: “I want Nigerian workers to celebrate President Muhammadu Buhari, to support this administration, support his policies and of course, we will as a government, go out and march together along with Nigerian workers on workers day.
“Mr. President will celebrate with workers and the federal government will celebrate. This is Mr. President showing workers the love he has for them and we are marching as we will march with the Nigerian workers.”
Asked if the new minimum wage covers the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, Enang said: “It covers all persons covered by the Act.”
The president’s assent to the bill Thursday marked the end of several months of struggle for actualisation of a new minimum wage, which began in 2015 by members of the organised labour when the last N18,000 minimum wage ought to officially lapse.
Extant laws have provided that the national minimum wage should be reviewed upward every five years. Hence, as the last minimum wage of N18,000 contained in the National Minimum Wage Act 2010 lapsed in 2015, and consequently, the organised labour began the agitation for the evolvement of a new national minimum wage.
Consequently, following Buhari’s recovery from his ill health and eventual return to the country in September 2017 from London, the president constituted the National Minimum Wage Committee, a tripartite body, which comprised the organised labour, the organised private sector and the government, made up of both the federal and state governments.
Whereas the labour had initially proposed N63,000 minimum wage, it later reviewed its proposal down to N30,000 while the organised private sector, which had earlier proposed N25,000 was compelled to raise its figure to N30,000 following labour’s insistence that it would not go below N30,000.
But both the federal and state governments were adamant as the state governments, citing paucity of funds, insisted on N20,000 while the federal government settled for N24,000.
However, both were forced to raise the figure to N27,000 as contained in the National Minimum Wage Bill sent to the National Assembly on January 22, with the federal government promising that though N27,000 minimum wage had been proposed in the bill, it would eventually pay its workers N30,000.
However, when the National Assembly legislated on the bill, it ended up jacking the figure up to N30,000 as contained in the bill, which was signed Thursday.
NLC Urges Immediate Implementation
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has commended Buhari for assenting to the new minimum wage bill.
In an interview with THISDAY yesterday, the Head of Information and Publicity, Mr. Benson, Ukpah, said labour expects the implementation of the new minimum wage to commence immediately.
He said: “We are delighted by the signing of the new minimum wage Act by the president. We commend him for it and urge for the immediate implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage considering that the matter has been pending for so long.
“We urge various governments and employers of labour to commence immediate implementation with arreas.”