By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka
DESPITE the apprehension by many state governments over the new minimum wage, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige has said that the new minimum wage, which is already in the works, would be binding on all the states of the federation and the federal capital territory when it is eventually approved.
Some states have been demanding that they be allowed to negotiate with their workers on the minimum wage to enable them come up with what could afford to pay,
But addressing reporters after flagging off the proposed skills acquisition center being constructed at Ifitedunu in Dunukofia local government area of Anambra State at the weekend, Ngige described minimum wage as a national matter and as such, only the federal government could legislate on it as provided in the Nigerian constitution, which placed the issue on the exclusive list.
According to the Minister, the tripartite committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to work out a new minimum wage for Nigerian workers had already swung into action after its inaugural meeting on December 14, 2017, adding that as the deputy chairman of the committee, he would be playing a dual role as a regulator and as a member of the Federal Executive Council.
He said: “The committee, which had brought out a framework that will guide it, will conclude its work by the third quarter of 2018 and then submit its report to enable the Federal Government Issue a white paper and subsequently transmit the content to the National Assembly.
“That is why the President is not over flogging the issue, but he is monitoring the work of the committee. One thing that is clear is that the states will abide by whatever will be the outcome of the work of the committee because they (governors) have nominees there.
“The Governors’ Forum is represented in the committee and the Federal Government component is represented by five Ministers and the Head of Service of the Federation. It will therefore be against the spirit of the constitution for the states to have their own minimum wage.”
The Minister insisted that the national minimum wage would be the baseline, adding however, that states that could afford it could pay more, but not below the national minimum wage.
He also said that whatever minimum wage that would be proposed would be backed up with productivity indices, explaining that it was for that reason that the National Employers Consultative Assembly, NECA, was represented in the committee to protect the interest of their workers.
Ngige also spoke on the 2019 presidential election, arguing that while the opposition had the right to assess President Buhari in any manner they deemed fit; it is the ballot box that would ultimately decide.
“I can assure Nigerians without any equivocation, that if President Buhari decides to run for second term, he will garner more votes than he did against former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. It is the elite and the social media that have been creating the hype about the so-called non performance of the President.
“For a man, who has improved security across the country, fought Boko Haram to a standstill such that people are no longer quivering in Abuja or Kano or Lagos and ensured that kidnapping is considerably reduced in the country using the police; he has won the hearts of most Nigerians,” Ngige said.