Minimum Wage Bill quickly passes 1st and 2nd reading in Senate

Legislators debate during senate plenary (Punch)

A specially set-up adhoc committee will now commence work on the bill.

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary on Thursday, January 24, 2019, said the senate decided to accord the bill accelerated hearing due to its importance.

Ekweremadu added that this is the first time the 8th Senate would suspend its rules to take a First and Second Reading of an Executive Communication.

Senate Majority Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye (South West), was named the Chairman of the Special Ad-Hoc Committee.

Other members include Senator Abu Ibrahim, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour; Senator Shehu Sani (representing the North West), Senator Sam Egwu (South East), Senator Suleiman Adokwe (North Central), Senator Francis Alimikhena (South South); and Senator Binta Masi Garba (North East).

Speaking after the bill went through a 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.

“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.

“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. 

“I believe that at the public hearing, we will be able to clarify and sort it all out. We must try our best to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor,” the Deputy Senate President said.

The committee was directed to report back to the senate in plenary within two weeks.

Before the bill went through a second reading, senators weighed in on the proposed national minimum wage.

“Let me congratulate the Federal Government, the 36 States of Nigeria and stakeholders on this Bill for the increase in the minimum wage from N18,000 to N27,000. Our Civil Servants will be excited about this. It may not be all they hoped, but it is still an improved situation. Nigeria cannot develop without the help of our civil servants,” said Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan.

“It is important that we lend our voice to see to the realization of this Bill. Even though this may not be enough, productivity is sure to increase,” Senator Shehu Sani stated.

“We will work hard, but it is important that this does not become another election gimmick. Let the people who should get paid, actually get paid,” said Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi.

“This increase, to me, is just a little scratch,” said Senator Barnabas Gemade, “I think the federal government should be able to pay N30,000 as opposed to N27,000. Let us accelerate the passage of this Bill, it should not be delayed any further.”

Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on legislative matters, Ita Enang, transmitted the bill to the national assembly on Wednesday, January 23, 2019, after its approval by the National Council of State (NCS) a day earlier.

The minimum wage bill has become a subject of dispute between government and the organised private sector since September of 2018.

State governors had insisted that they can only afford to pay N22,500, while the federal government had proposed N24,000.

A tripartite committee consisting of representatives of the private sector, government and organised labour submitted its recommendation of N30,000 as new minimum wage to President Buhari on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, after threats of a national strike from the NLC.

On Tuesday, January 22, 2019, the national council of state approved the sum of N27,000, while the federal government said it would increase the sum to N30,000 for workers on its payroll.

The NLC rejected the N27,000 new minimum wage approved by the NCS, stating that the body consisting of former presidents, serving governors, senate president and speaker, and current cabinet members, has no power to determine a new minimum wage for workers.  

Labour has threatened to shut down the Nigerian economy if the N30,000 proposal as new minimum wage, doesn’t become law.

Nigeria currently pays N18,000 as minimum wage, an amount labour considers grossly inadequate and one long overdue for an upward review.

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