Parliament under pressure over compliance with new minimum wage law

Parliament under pressure over compliance with new minimum wage law

• Orji Kalu says 62,000 naira won’t do anything, insists on 90,000 naira
• NLC opposes decentralisation of minimum wage negotiations

Ahead of the resumption from the Sallah holiday next month, both houses of Parliament are under immense pressure on how to exercise their legislative powers to resolve the national minimum wage dispute and ensure compliance by all stakeholders.

The pressure further increased following reports that the top legislative body was considering sanctions against states that do not comply with the soon-to-be implemented minimum wage law.

The Federal Government, including both the executive and legislative branches, are in agreement that they will ensure that states and the private sector receive wage hikes above the N62,000 that was rejected by workers.

Ensuring state governments and the private sector comply with the figures contained in the minimum wage law has proven to be a major challenge, with pressure compounded by opposition from state governors who say they have no intention of paying N60,000 as the minimum wage.

It also became clear within the National Assembly that lawmakers loyal to the governor were pressuring the legislature to enact laws acceptable to the state.

President Tinubu is expected to present the new minimum wage executive bill to the National Assembly by the end of this month, ahead of the parliament reconvening in the first week of July 2024.

There is no indication that Congress will amend the document before passing it.

It was also revealed that state governors, through their supporters, have resumed lobbying the National Assembly to amend relevant clauses in the constitution to allow for the introduction of a decentralized minimum wage.
To achieve this, it has been learnt that a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to legalise decentralisation will be revised and resubmitted for legislative action in both houses of parliament.

In 2021, a bill to decentralize minimum wage negotiations by moving them from the exclusive legislative list to the parallel legislative list passed second reading in the House of Representatives, but failed to secure final passage in the 9th National Assembly before the end of its term in June 2023.

The bill, the “Differential Wage Bill,” would allow both the federal and state governments to freely negotiate minimum wages with workers “in line with true federalism.”

Following state governors declaring that they do not have the financial capacity to pay the 60,000 naira minimum wage, there has been growing pressure for and against the National Assembly to use its legislative powers to enforce compliance with the law and punish non-compliance.

The National Assembly is granted constitutional powers by Article 34 of the Exclusive Legislative List relating to “labour, trade unions, industrial relations, working conditions, safety, welfare, industrial disputes, the provision of a national minimum wage for the federation or any part thereof, and labour arbitration.”

The new minimum wage bill is the only major piece of legislation to be passed before the parliament recesses in late July, sources said, and is expected to be fast-tracked for consideration and passage.

Senate Spokesperson and Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Yemi Adaramodu, acknowledged that pressure was on and suggested sanctions against non-compliant states were imperative. He said the National Assembly would make ample provisions for sanctions for non-compliance with the new minimum bill.

The Senate, speaking through Senator Adaramodu, who regretted the failure of many stakeholders to fully comply with the N30,000 minimum wage, vowed to enact a minimum wage law that would be difficult to violate.

“We intend to have a watertight bill. We are proposing it to the President to sign to ensure that it is strictly adhered to as law. Once it becomes law, we intend to have a watertight bill.”

Adaramodu further stated in the interview: “Once the minimum wage bill is passed, whatever is in it or what is not, we are going to make sure it is leak-proof and that everyone follows it. But as I said, Parliament is going to take this law seriously.”

“Sanctions will be imposed on any state or local government or organized private sector player that does not comply. This time they must. But the labor centers need to look after the welfare of their members as well as the federal government.”

On whether the federal government could impose sanctions on non-compliant states, the senate spokesman said: “If there is a national law… we run a federal government. We have a National Assembly. The National Assembly makes laws for Nigeria, not for President Tinubu.”

Asked to explain the sanctions, Adaramodu said lawmakers and the public would have time to give their opinions on the sanctions when the Senate resumes plenary sitting.

He explained: “Once the executive bill is tabled and we start debating it on the floor, opinions will emerge. We are not just inviting MPs to debate it, trade unions will also contribute to drafting the bill. When the time comes, we will all decide on sanctions.”

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) warned all stakeholders to consider sustainability issues before adopting the final figures.

“All things considered, the NGF is of the view that the proposed 60,000 naira minimum wage is unsustainable and unfeasible. This will simply mean that many states will spend their entire federal allocation on paying salaries and have nothing left for development purposes,” the forum declared in a statement by its Acting Director, Media and Public Affairs, Hajiya Halima Salihu Ahmed.

It appealed to “all parties involved, especially trade unions, to take into account all socio-economic variables and reach an agreement that is sustainable, lasting and fair to all other segments of society that have legitimate rights to public resources.”

However, the NGF agreed that a new minimum wage needed to be introduced and said it was equally sympathetic to trade unions calling for higher wages.

Speaking on behalf of his colleagues at the hearing, Governor Ademola Adeleke of Osun State argued that the revenue sharing formula should be reviewed in tandem with the national call for increased resource allocation to states since most Nigerians live in the state.

However, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) opposed the demand to decentralise minimum wage negotiations.

The Secretary-General of the NLC in Oyo State, Mr Adebayo Alibatise, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday in Ibadan, said decentralising minimum wage negotiations would disadvantage workers in some states.

NAN reports that some politicians had recently called for decentralised minimum wage negotiations.

One of them, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, a former governor of Ekiti State, stressed the need to allow states to negotiate wages with trade unions separately from the federal government.

The former Governor explained the wider impact of a centralised minimum wage, noting that only a small proportion of the population directly benefits from minimum wage negotiations.

However, Alibatise rejected Fayemi’s proposal, saying decentralising minimum wage negotiations was not ideal for the country.

He noted that despite efforts by the NLC at the national and state levels, the old 30,000 Naira minimum wage has yet to be fully implemented in some states.

Moreover, labor leaders said that if state governors were allowed to negotiate minimum wages with workers in their states, some governors would abuse that privilege.

“The fact remains that states are required by law to pay a minimum wage. The federal government is expected to continue to set the minimum wage. If they don't, some governors will continue to do what they like. If we allow that, some governors will undermine the agreement and lower-level workers will continue not to earn what they deserve,” he said.

Also, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu from the North has called for the Federal Government to pay Nigerian workers a new minimum wage of 90,000 naira.

Speaking on Channels TV, he said: “I believe the president has done well in some areas but he needs to improve in many others. I am a very practical person. I am not afraid of anyone and I stand for the truth.”

“I am advocating that local governments should be adequately funded and I believe 62,000 naira will not do much. The reason I am proposing 90,000 naira is simple: the minimum wage has not been increased for five years. Civil servants deserve good treatment.”


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