President Muhammadu Buhari has submitted a proposal for a new National Minimum Wage of N27,000 to the National Assembly.
The proposal came in the National Minimum Wage Act (Amendment) Bill submitted by the President to the federal legislature.
Buhari’s letter accompanying the bill was read by Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, on the floor of the upper legislative chamber on Thursday.
When signed into law, the Bill will replace the current national wage of N18,000 earned monthly by the least paid worker in the country.
This development is coming barely two days after the National Council of State approved N27,000 as the new wage for state civil servants.
Buhari said in the letter that the Bill and “amendments therein were arrived at after consultations by the tripartite committee on the National Minimum Wage”.
“The committee was constituted by me in November, 2017 to consider, make recommendations and advise the government on this issue.
“The tripartite committee comprised of representatives of the Federal Government, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, organised private sector and the organised federations of trade unions in Nigeria.
“The Federal Executive Council, the National Economic Council and the National Council of State have all noted and approved these recommended amendments,” he said.
In the Bill, according to Buhari, organisations employing less than 25 persons are exempted from paying the proposed new wage.
It also proposes a five-year review period for the Act in line with the constitutional review period for pensions.
Another highlight of the bill is the alteration of the amount of fines payable by defaulters on prosecution.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Bill, which enjoyed speedy consideration by the senators, passed through second reading.
This came after the Majority Leader, Sen. Ahmed Lawam (APC-Yobe), moved a motion for the suspension of the Senate rules for the first and second reading of the Bill to be taken at once.
Lawan, who based his motion on Order 79 of the Senate rules, said the proposed expeditious hearing was necessitated by the urgency of the matter.
Seconding the motion, the Minority Leader, Sen. Biodun Olujimi, said the National Minimum Wage was one long awaited by Nigerians hence the need to give it speedy consideration.
After the second reading, Ekweremadu raised a number of issues on the Bill.
He emphasised that what the president sent to the Senate was a single figure of N27,000 as the proposed new wage.
“There were news reports of N27,000 for the states and N30,000 for the Federal Government, but what we have before us is a single National Minimum Wage of N27,000.
“So there is no discrimination between federal and state workers that point must be made clear.
“The other issue that is of concern to me, and I believe to other people, is the exemption of organisations employing less than 25 persons.
“If that sails through, and I hope it does not, then it means that a whole number of our workers will be outside the minimum wage bracket.
“That includes our domestic servants because I am not aware of so many people employing more than 25 domestic servants, including drivers and so many other people.”
Ekweremadu, who noted that minimum wage was applicable across board in other parts of the world, urged the lawmakers to critically look into that clause during further legislative work on the Bill.
He also drew attention to the issue of ability of state governments to implement the new wage in view of paucity of funds facing them.
“I will like to commend my colleagues for your insistence that any state that is committed will definitely pay.
“So, that means that they will have to make sacrifices in some areas including cutting their overheads.
“They will have to also step up their Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) and make efforts in collectable taxes,” he said.
The deputy senate president added that Nigerian workers deserved a living wage, and so conscious efforts must be made to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.
“We must be our brothers’ keepers, we must make efforts and sacrifices to ensure that every Nigerian will have the opportunity to have three square meals every day, and meet other basic responsibilities,” he added.
Thereafter, he referred the Bill to an ad-hoc committee for further legislative action.
The committee, which has Sen. Olusola Adeyeye, the Senate Chief Whip as Chairman, was given two weeks to conclude its assignment.
Other members are Sen. Abu Ibrahim, representing the standing Committee on Labour; Sen. Shehu Sani, representing the North West, and Sen. Sam Egwu representing South East.
Others are Sen. Suleiman Adokwe North Central, Francis Alimekhina, South-South, Solomon Adeola, South West and Binta Garba, North East.