The inauguration of a 30-member tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee for the negotiation of a new National Minimum Wage for Nigerian workers has elicited a lot of expectations and hope among Nigerians.
On November 27, 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the committee Abuja which governors and senior government officials, among other stakeholders witnessed.
Although the committee has yet to begin sitting after inauguration, workers are keeping the hope alive in 2018 that the committee will come out with useful decisions when it completes its assignment.
Mr Solomon Michael, a civil servant, said: “I wish the Federal Government will conclude negotiation on the implementation of a new minimum wage so that I will know that my salary will rise to be able to cater for my kids.
“But if a time frame had been given to the 30-member committee, it will help to hasten their efforts in reaching conclusion on the wage’’.
Similarly, Mr Biobelemoye Joshua, President, Medical and Health Workers Union, said the organised labour would not allow government to use the minimum wage issue to score political point.
“We are certain that if the government employs delay tactics for any reason labour will react,’’ he said.
However, the optimism of some of the workers is rooted in Buhari’s statement during inauguration that the re-negotiation of a new national minimum wage had become imperative as the current wage instrument had expired.
They also made reference to one of the president’s comment that “minimum wage must be consensual and generally acceptable and should be anchored on social justice and equity.’’
They recall that Nigeria joined the league of International Labour Organisation member countries that set minimum wage for their workers in 1981, observing that the country has not been reviewing the wage as it ought to do.
During the inauguration, the president explained that the committee was formed following the recommendation of a technical committee put in place after the increase in the price of petrol in 2016.
Analysts, nonetheless, observe that as workers call on the Federal Government to discuss a way forward on the present N18, 000 minimum wage, efforts should also be made to ensure the possibility of paying any increase on minimum wage to private sector workers.
Expressing concern about this observation, Mr Goke Olatunji, President, National Union of Chemical Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non-Metallic Products Employees, called on Federal Government to direct the state and private sector to implement the agreement on minimum wage.
The Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress have, as well, called on the committee to conclude everything concerning the new wage on or before the end of the third quarter of 2018.
It says the committee should expeditiously conclude its assignment since review of the wage has been due for over two years to enable the National Assembly give it an accelerated passage.
The labour had earlier submitted a proposal of N56,000 and N90,000 to the Federal Government as new minimum wage.
Supporting the proposal, Mr Bobboi Kaigama, President, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, noted that Nigeria’s N18,000 might be the lowest in Africa.
According to him, Nigerian workers cannot afford to wait endlessly for the implementation of the new minimum wage in view of the economic realities as their monthly take-home pay can no longer support their demands.
In the same vein, Ayuba Wabba, the NLC president said “it is our expectation that all issues pertaining the new minimum wage will be concluded before the end of third quarter of 2018 to give Nigerian workers a new hope that government and other employers of labour have not totally abandoned them.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari did not give a time frame to the members during inauguration but expressed the hope that the outcome of the deliberation would be consensual and generally acceptable.
“I urge you to amicably consider the issue of a National Minimum Wage and all matters that are ancillary to it with thoroughness and concern not only for the welfare of workforce but effect on the country’s economy.
“We should aim to go above the basic Social Protection Floor for all Nigerian workers based on the ability of each tier of government to pay.
“I say this because minimum wage is the minimum amount of compensation an employee must receive for putting in his or her labour and as such should be anchored on social justice and equity.
“Government’s decision after considering your final recommendation will be sent as an executive bill to the National Assembly for it to undergo appropriate legislative scrutiny before passage into law.
“I am hopeful that the principles of full consultation with social partners and their direct participation would be utilised by the committee, bearing in mind the core provisions of the International Labour Organisation Minimum Wage Fixing Convention No. 131 and Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery Convention No. 26 (ratified by Nigeria).
“The committee is expected to complete its deliberations and submit its report and recommendations as soon as possible to enable other requisite machinery to be set in motion for implementation of a new National Minimum Wage.
With the assurance of its implementation by the president after the committee’s recommendations, observers appeal to state governments to choose to use the federal wage or make their own laws.
Corroborating this observation, Mr Salihu Lukman, an analyst, says issues of minimum wage are popular largely because, in some ways, the benefits are far beyond the target beneficiaries.
“This is because of the consequential effect of wage adjustments for other categories of workers and citizens as a result of increasing the minimum wage,’’ he explained.
A News Analysis by Chinyere Elele-Bassey, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)