By Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJA — THE Senate has approved the N18,000 new national minimum wage for workers proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The bill was given an expeditious passage as the Senate suspended order 79 of its standing rules to amend the National Minimum Wage Act, thus increasing the minimum wage from N7,500 to N18,000.
Section 2 (1) of the National Minimum wage states, “As from the commencement of this act, it shall be the duty of every employer to pay a wage not less than the national minimum wage of N18,000 per month to every worker under his establishment.”
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the passage of the bill, yesterday, said the new wage would alleviate the sufferings of workers.
He said: “We have responded appropriately to the yearnings of our workers whom we are representing in this chamber. Today is a happy day because we have shown that we are conscious of the sufferings of our people. This country is rich enough to cater for everybody if we avoid the avarices of some few people.”
Ekweremadu, however, urged workers to be more responsive in paying taxes to enable government fund the new wage increase, saying: “The need has come for us to pay more tax to support the new wage.”
Senate Leader, Senator Taslim Folarin, who led the debate on the bill advocated the amendment of the Constitution to give state governments the rights to legislate on wage increment.
He said: “I recommend that a more pragmatic approach should be evolved in future to address the subject of wage increase. There is need to alter the Nigerian Constitution by delisting of the subject of minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list to enable both the federal and state governments free hand in negotiating wage increase matters separately with their workers which will further strengthen our fiscal federalism.”
Also contributing, Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, said workers deserve more than N18,000, noting that wage increment must correspond with standard of living.
He said: “Nigeria workers deserve it if you look at the wastage of government. It is also time for revenue commission and the salary and wages commission to index wages against cost of living. It should not be all the time that we should always come to the National Assembly to increase wages.”
Senator Smart Adeyemi, PDP, Kogi who was also in support of the new wage said it will be unrealistic for some state governments to claim that they cannot pay the new wage.
He said, “I want to disagree that it will be practically impossible for some state governments to pay. We have more resources to pay, states in Nigeria are richer than some of the states in West Africa, so they can pay.
“The problem is mismanagement of resources and corruption. People divert money from this country to abroad for selfish gains. I hold the strong view that N18000 is not enough.
I am also of the view that we should have a bill to review the minimum wage annually because of the rate of inflation is on annual increase.”