President Muhammadu Buhari, last week, did the right thing by signing the National Minimum Wage Bill into law. By doing so, some days to the May Day celebration, the President has, no doubt, endeared his administration to Nigerian workers. President Buhari has also demonstrated his avowed commitment to the welfare of Nigerian workers. He equally used the occasion to charge Nigerian workers to be more dedicated in their jobs. The President enjoined the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to show more understanding of the prevailing socio-economic situation in the country.
With the President’s assent to the Minimum Wage Repeal and Enactment Act 2019, it has become compulsory for all employers of labour in the country to pay their workers the sum of N30,000 with effect from April 18, 2019. However, the Act provides that 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 are excluded.
Similarly, under the new Act, any worker compelled to accept a salary that is less than N30,000 can sue his employer to recover the balance. The Act also empowers the Minister of Labour or any person nominated by him to take action on behalf of the affected worker against his employer to recover the balance of his wages.
The Act also mandates the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission and the Minister of Labour to be the chief and principal enforcers of the provisions of the law. The law applies to all agencies, persons and bodies throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The struggle for the new minimum wage by organised labour was heightened last year before the general election. The intensity of the struggle made the government to accede to the new minimum wage of N30,000 after negotiations with labour. On March 19, the Senate passed the bill approving N30,000 as the new national minimum wage. The House of Representatives had earlier passed the new wage bill before the National Assembly was closed to enable lawmakers participate in the 2019 polls.
On April 16, 2019, workers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, literally begged the President to sign the new minimum wage bill submitted to him by the National Assembly on March 27 into law before this year’s Workers Day celebration. It is encouraging that President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to the Minimum Wage Bill. The new minimum wage is worth celebrating considering the fact that the former could not take home any worker or defray his expenses.
Therefore, we commend the President for rising to the occasion and having the compassion to promptly assenting to the new wage bill into law. We also commend members of the National Assembly for their efforts to ensure that the new wage bill was timely passed into law and transmitted to Mr. President for his assent. We laud the leaders of the NLC, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC) for their relentless agitations to enhance the welfare of Nigerian workers.
We believe that the new wage will enhance the purchasing power of Nigerian workers and thereby stimulate the nation’s economy. It will also improve their productivity and the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We call on Nigerian workers to reciprocate the President’s kind gesture and put in their best in their jobs.
However, we urge the state governments to be more creative and look inwards in terms of revenue generation so that they can pay the new minimum wage to their workers. We say this because of the inability of some of them to pay the hitherto N18,000 minimum wage. All states must tighten their economic belts and pay the new wage.
The private sector should also endeavour to pay their workers the new minimum wage. They should not wait to be coerced before they can do so. Above all, we call on the Federal Government to create the enabling environment that will make the private sector be in a position to pay the new minimum wage. Let the implementation of the new minimum wage commence immediately. We enjoin every sector of the economy to comply with the provisions of the Act.