By Eric Teniola
ON the conviction of an employer under this section for failing to pay to a worker wages not less than the national minimum wage, the court may make an order that the employer convicted shall pay, in addition to any fine, such sum as appears to the court to be due to the worker on account of wages, the wages being calculated on the basis of the national minimum wage : provided that the power to order payment on account of wages under this subsection shall not be in derogation of the right of the worker to recover wages due to him by any other proceedings in a court of competent jurisdiction, 4.-(1).
If the Minister is satisfied that any worker employed or desiring to be employed, in any occupation to which the national minimum wage is applicable is affected by any infirmity or physical injury which renders him incapable of earning the national minimum wage, the Minister may, if he thinks fit, grant to the employer (subject to such conditions, if any, as he may impose) a permit exempting the employer from the provisions of this Act relating to the payment of wages less than the national minimum wage in respect of that worker; and, while the permit is in force and any conditions imposed thereon are complied with, the employer shall not be guilty of an offence if he pays to the worker a lesser wage than the national minimum wage.
A permit granted under this section may be so granted as to have effect from the date on which the application therefore was made to the Minister, and may be suspended or revoked at any time by the Minister. It shall be the duty of every employer of workers in respect of whom this Act applies to keep such records of wages or conditions of employment as are necessary to show that the provisions of this Act are being complied with in respect of workers in his employment, and to retain the records for a period of three years after the period to which they refer, and if he fails to do so, he shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction shall be liable to a fine not exceeding N100 and to a penalty not exceeding N10 for each day during which the offence continues. 6.-(1).
The Minister may authorise any public officer in the Civil Service of the Federation to act for the purpose of this Act; and every authorised labour officer within the meaning of the Labour Act 1937 shall be deemed to have been so authorised. Every authorised officer shall be furnished with a certificate of his authority and when visiting an employer’s premises for the purposes of this Act shall, if so required, produce the certificate to the employer or other person holding a responsible position of management at the said premises.
An authorised officer may- (a) require the production by an employer of wages sheets or other records of wages and records of conditions of employment, and inspect and examine them and copy any part thereof; (b) order any person or body of persons found to have contravened any of the provisions of this Act to take remedial action within a specified period of time ; and (c) subject generally to the powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation, institute proceedings for any offence under this Act and, if he so wishes appear and have all the necessary powers for the conduct of the proceedings.
An officer who is authorised in that behalf by general or special directions of the Minister may, if it appears to him that a sum is due from an employer to a worker to whom this Act applies, or to a person who has been such a worker, on account of the payment to him of wages less than the national minimum wage may institute on behalf and in the name of that worker or person civil proceedings for the recovery of that sum, and in any such proceedings the court may make an order for the payment of costs by the authorised officer as if he were a party to the proceedings.
The power given by subsection (4) above for the recovery of a sum due from an employer to a worker or other person shall not be in derogation of any right of that worker or other person himself to recover that sum by civil proceedings. 7.-(1) Where an offence for which an employer is by virtue of this Act liable to a penalty has in fact been committed by some agent of the employer or by some other person, that agent or other person shall be liable to be proceeded against for the offence in the same manner as if he were the employer.
Where an employer is charged with an offence under this Act, he shall be entitled, upon complaint duly made by him and on giving to the prosecution not less than three days’ notice in writing of his intention, to have any other person to whose act or default he alleges that the offence in question was due, brought before the court at the time appointed for the hearing of the charge, and, if after the commission of the offence has been proved the employer proves that the offence was due to the act or the default of that other person, that other person may be charged with the offence, or, if the employer further proves that he has used all due diligence to secure that this Act is complied with, he shall be acquitted of the offence.
Where a defendant seeks to avail himself of the provisions of subsection (2) above- (a) the prosecution, as well as the person whom the defendant charges with the offence, shall have the right to cross-examine him if he gives evidence, and any witness called by him in support of his plea, and to call rebutting evidence; and (b) the court may make such order as it thinks fit for the payment of costs by any party to the proceedings, other than the prosecution, to any other party thereto.
Where it appears to an authorised officer that an offence has been committed in respect of which proceedings might be taken under this Act against an employer, and the officer is reasonably satisfied that the offence of which complaint is made was due to an act or default of some other person and that the employer could establish a defence under subsection (2) above, the officer may cause proceedings to be taken against that other person, and in any such proceedings the defendant may be charged with the offence and on proof that the offence was due to his act or default, be convicted for the offence for which the employer might have been charged.
Any person who—(a) refuses or neglects to furnish the means required by an authorised officer as being necessary for any entry in the exercise of his powers under this Act ; or (b) hinders any authorised officer in the exercise of his powers under this Act; or (c) refuses or neglects to produce any, document or to give any information which any authorised officer in the exercise of his powers under this Act requires him to produce or give; or (d) makes, or causes to be made, or knowingly allows to be made, any wages sheet, record of wages or record of conditions of employment which is false in any material particular; or (e) produces, or causes to be produced, or knowingly allows to be produced, any such wages sheet or record to an authorised officer acting in the exercise of his powers under this Act, knowing the wage sheet or record to be false or, (f) furnishes any information to any authorised officer acting in the exercise of his powers under this Act knowing the information to be false, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N500 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months, or to both such fine and such imprisonment. 9.-In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires- “authorised officer” means an officer authorised or deemed to have been authorised under section 6 of this Act ; “national minimum wage” means the national minimum wage prescribed by section 1 of this Act ;”Minister” means the Federal Minister charged with responsibility for labour matters ; “part time work” means work of a duration of less than 40 hours per week; “wage” means a total emolument paid every month to a worker for performing services on the basis of a 4o-hour week howsoever the emolument may be designated ; “worker” means any employee, that is to say any member of the civil service of the Federation or of a State or Local Government or any individual (other than persons occupying executive, administrative, technical or professional position in any such Public service) who has entered into or works under a contract with an employer whether the contract is for manual labour, clerical work or otherwise, expressed or implied, oral or in writing, and whether it is a contract personally to execute any work or labour. 10.
This Act may be cited as the National Minimum Wage Act 1981 and shall come into operation on the day it is assented to by the President”.
Eric Teniola, A Former Director At The Presidency Wrote From Lagos.