President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said he was committed to ensuring that the nation’s workers get a new minimum wage as soon as possible.
Buhari made the promise at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, shortly after receiving the report of the Tripartite Committee on New Minimum Wage from the Chairman, Amal Pepple.
This happened just as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, said he welcomed the news that government had accepted to pay the new minimum wage recommended by the committee.
The panel recommended N30,000 as the new minimum wage for the country.
The President promised to immediately put in place the necessary machinery that would address what he called open areas in the report.
He said his plan was to transmit an Executive Bill to the National Assembly for passage within the shortest possible time.
He said, “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.”
He added, “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.”
Buhari said the government would continue to engage members of the committee as it commenced a review of the report.
He, however, warned workers against being used as political weapons.
“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,” the President said.
Buhari said the need for a review of the minimum wage became necessary because the last review was done in 2011 and since then, prices of key consumables had increased while the most vulnerable workers were struggling to make ends meet.
He said the successes recorded by the country since 2011 did not benefit the majority of Nigerians.
While presenting the report to the President, Pepple said the committee recommended N30,000 as the new minimum wage and produced a draft bill to be sent to the National Assembly on the matter.
In arriving at the figure, she said the committee weighed the demands of the workers which was predicated on the high cost of living occasioned by unfavourable exchange rate and rising inflation over the past few years, among other factors.
She said the committee also considered the overall macro-economic indicators, including the revenue and expenditure profile of government as provided by the Ministers of Budget and National Planning and Finance as well as the minimum wage proposed by some state governments in their memoranda submitted to the committee.
She added, “Consideration was also given to 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 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 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.”
Meanwhile, Atiku, in a statement said he welcomed the news that the Federal Government had agreed to pay the 30,000 minimum wage.
The former Vice-President reiterated his commitment to a living wage, adding that one of the pillars of his soon-to-be-launched policy document was making workers welfare a priority.
“The Nigerian worker is the goose that lays the golden egg and is worthy of the best pay that Nigeria can afford,” he said.
Atiku commended the patriotism displayed by the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress and its affiliates in calling off the nationwide strike initially scheduled for Tuesday.
He called on the National Assembly to speedily pass legislation that would make the new minimum wage a statutory requirement.
He also called on the present administration to keep to its word and abide by the new minimum wage agreement.
“No sacrifice is too great to make for us to get Nigeria working again and that is what the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation is all about.”
Also on Tuesday, Buhari said a comprehensive policy of improved remuneration for workers and public servants in the country was being worked out by his administration.
The President said that workers would benefit from a “genuine pension scheme” which would make them better civil servants.
The President stated these in Abuja at the 2018 Nigeria’s Annual Education Conference.
Buhari, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, said, “A comprehensive policy of improved remuneration for the workers in the education sector and a genuine pension scheme are already being worked out for teachers and all public servants in the country.
“With the depression in the labour market, education should now be tailored towards the acquisition of skills and abilities that can make the individual a productive and self-reliant member of society.
“Through the Federal Ministry of Education, the Federal Government has promoted Technical and Vocational Education and Training as well as developed Science and Technology Education Policy for realisation of TVET objectives and dreams.”
He added, “To reduce unemployment, poverty, hunger as well as violence, people must pay less attention to education for white collar jobs and, instead, embrace education for self-reliance, job and wealth creation, which is the cardinal focus of this administration.
“In 2017, the Federal Ministry of Education embarked on a National Enrolment Drive Campaign to boost enrolment, improve retention and completion rates. The exercise kicked off in Bauchi State in January 2018 with the aim of addressing the issue of out-of-school children in the country.”
The Senate has hailed the Federal Government and Organised Labour for reaching an agreement on a new minimum wage, leading to the suspension of nationwide industrial action scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
While the upper chamber of the National Assembly urged both parties to respect their agreements, it lamented that the government failed to use the previous opportunities until the battle for upward review of the wage led to strike threat by workers.
At the plenary on Tuesday, the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, raised a point of order to say that the strike would have had dire consequences on Nigeria.
Lawan said, “Nigeria was on the verge of a serious economic, social and political calamity when Organised Labour and the Federal Government of Nigeria could not agree on a new national minimum wage. Thank God, we were brought back from (the edge of) the precipice. The two sides agreed last night and, therefore, the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and all their affiliates suspended their intention to go on strike. Thank God for that.
“I will pray here that the Federal Government should not wait until when there is a threat of strike before it does the right thing of reviewing salaries and wages. Also, our workers should improve on their productivity. Whatever we pay our workers, we should earn value for money.
“With this, I want to urge ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) to suspend the strike they started two days ago. Our universities are already late in some of the cases of resumption. So, there is the need for the government, particularly the Federal Ministry of Education and ASUU to hold dialogue like the NLC and TUC did with the Federal Government so that our students will remain in our universities.”
The majority leader believes that frequent closure of schools leads to capital flight as Nigerians are usually forced to send their children to foreign schools.
“One of the reasons why many people, if they can afford it, send their children outside Nigeria is the unpredictability of terms (semesters), when our universities could easily be shut.
“I want to urge our Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND to engage ASUU and the Federal Ministry of Education to see the possibility of compromising or taking actions that will lead to the suspension of the strike by the union,” he said.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, criticised the Federal Government for waiting to review the minimum wage until Labour proposed industrial action.
Saraki said, “We are all happy to receive the news that the government and Labour have reached an agreement. We commend the efforts of both sides. As you rightly said, it is unfortunate that we had to get to this point. There had been many opportunities before now for this to have been resolved.
“Be that as it may, we hope that both sides will keep to their commitment so that there will be nothing that will bring us back to the issue of strike. And all promises or terms of the agreement should be fulfilled. ASUU too should reconsider their position.”
The Labour Party has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to approve the N30,000 new minimum wage recommended by the tripartite committee.
The party stated that state governors could pay the N30,000 minimum wage if they stopped receiving security votes and reduced the number of political aides.
The LP National Chairman, Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, who stated this in Abuja on Tuesday, said he was baffled by the governors’ claims that they could not pay the new wage.
He argued that states needed to be innovative in revenue generation, adding that the governors could no longer depend on federal allocations to run their states.
Abdusalam stated that it was only the LP that was established to cater for the interest of workers and those facing poverty, hunger and unemployment in the country.
He said, “Our advice to governors in the short term is that they forgo their security votes, cut down on the number of and salaries of political appointees and reduce the level of stealing in their states in order to enhance their capacity to pay.
“In the long term, governors must be innovative to create wealth for their states instead of this attitude of begging and waiting for allocations from the Federal Government.”
The Trade Union Congress says it will enforce the payment of N30,000 minimum wage at the state level once it is passed into law.
The TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama, said this during an interview with our correspondent on Tuesday shortly after the report of the tripartite committee on the national minimum wage was submitted to the President.
When reminded of the fact that some states owed salaries despite the fact that the minimum wage was still N18,000, Kaigama said the inability to pay was caused by the financial recklessness of some state executives.
He said Labour would enforce the new minimum wage.
Kaigama said, “It is just the willpower that they were lacking. They have the capacity to pay. They just lack the political will because they prefer to pocket the money rather than pay workers or work with the money. It is all about accountability. Let it be passed first. We will enforce it by God’s grace.”