*warns workers against becoming political weapons
By Chesa Chesa
President Muhammadu on Tuesday approved the N30,000 minimum wage demanded by Nigerian workers, but implored them and their leaders not to become willing weapons of politicians.
He gave the approval at the Aso Rock Villa when he received the report of the Tripartite Committee on the Review of National Minimum Wage, headed by former Minister of Housing, Ms. Amal Pepple.
The report was signed by organised labour, employers association, state governors and the federal government.
The President promised to forward the report as a bill to the National Assembly to effect the change of minimum wage from the current N18,000.
Insider sources, however, disclosed that two different figures as minimum wage were contained in the Tripartite report, and it would now be left for the National Economic Council and the National Assembly to decide on the final figures.
It will be recalled while the organized labour insisted on N30,000, the state governors had proposed N22,500; and federal government opted for N24,000.
In his remarks while receiving the report, the President had however, hinted at possible tinkering of the figures by the Executive arm of government, even as he implored Nigerian workers not to be used by politicians to fight opponents.
Buhari said: “On 27th November 2017, I inaugurated the National Minimum Wage Committee with a mandate to recommend a new minimum wage for the workers of our country.
“This exercise became necessary for many reasons. The last review took place in 2011. We all know since then, the prices of key consumables have increased and the most vulnerable of our workers are struggling to make ends meet.
“Since 2011, many changes have taken place. Nigeria rebased its GDP to become the largest economy in Africa. We reported very strong GDP growth rates and exceptional performance of our capital markets. However, these reported successes did not flow into the pockets and homes of majority of Nigerians.
“In the last three years, we focused on correcting this deficiency. We are working to create a diversified and inclusive economy.
“We are pushing to clear pension arrears owed to our retired workers with the limited resources available to us. We supported State Governments to pay workers salary. And of course, we set up a committee in order to review the minimum wage of workers.
“In constituting this committee, we took into account the need for all stakeholders to be adequately represented – the government, the private sector and most importantly the workers. Our goal was to get an outcome that was consensual.
“From the onset, we knew the committee had a difficult task ahead of it. But at the same time, we were also confident that the patriotic and professional background of its members would produce realistic, fair and implementable recommendations that will be considered by both the executive and legislative arms of government.
“I am not surprised that the committee has worked for close to one year. I am also not surprised that on a few occasions, the debates got heated and sometimes, these differences came out.
“What is truly inspiring is that, in almost all instances of disagreements, the committee members always came back to the negotiating table with a common goal of improving the welfare of Nigerian workers. On behalf of all Nigerians today, I want to thank you for your commitment and sacrifice in getting us to where we are today.
“In the past few days, I have been receiving regular updates on your deliberations. And today, I am pleased that you have completed your work in a peaceful and non-confrontational manner. The entire nation is grateful to you all.
“The Committee Chairman highlighted some of the challenges encountered during your deliberations, especially as it relates to having a consensus position acceptable by all parties.
“I understand, on the government side, the concerns raised were around affordability – that today many states struggle to meet their existing salary requirements.
“On the side of labour, the points raised focused on the need for any increase to be meaningful. 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 the 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.
“Let me use this opportunity to recognise the leadership of the organized labour and private sector as well as representatives of State and Federal Governments for all your hard work. The fact that we are here today, is a notable achievement.
“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.
“May I therefore, implore workers and their leaders not to allow themselves to be used as political weapons.”
In her remarks, Pepple said that the figure of N30,000 was arrived after considering the high cost of living occasioned by unfavourable exchange rate and rising inflation over the past few years, the overall macro-economic indicators, including the revenue and expenditure profile of government, the critical role of the informal sector in employment generation and the need for a realistic minimum wage that will not stifle the growth of the sector and the overall economy.
“After carefully weighing these critical factors and bearing in the mind the overriding interest of the economy the Committee while noting the offer of N24,000 by the federal government, is recommending an increase in the existing minimum wage from N18,000 to N30,000.
“We believe that the implementation of the recommended minimum wage, will, no doubt, boost the purchasing power of workers, increase consumption expenditure and ultimately stimulate business and overall economic growth.”
“The committee has also produced a draft National Minimum Wage Bill 2018 for consideration by government. We strongly believe that the enactment of the draft bill into law is very critical to the operation and future reviews of the National Minimum Wage”, she stated.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, also revealed that “every member of the committee signed the report. Our recommendation is N30,000 and I think it is not hidden. It has been made public today and that is the recommendation that the committee has made to the President.
“When the N18,000 was actually implemented in 2011, towards 2015, most of the states emptied their treasuries and therefore they had difficulty. If there is the will, we are certain that there will be a way out.
“All of us know that a number of factors have affected the purchasing power. The value of the N18,000 then was almost N140 to the US dollar. So, the economic factor is very germane.”