Though President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the minimum wage into law, Nigerians may not substantially feel the effect of the wage increase until each sector negotiates how it cascades down the ladder.
Right now, many, especially private sector workers, worry that the implementation of the new wage would drive up the prices of foodstuffs and other essential items, as traders are wont to cash in on the wage increase, not minding that only a small percentage of the national workforce would be affected.
The General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said signing the Bill into law is not an end in itself, but the beginning of another process to ensure that Nigerian workers feel the impact of the upward adjustment in the national wage structure.
He stated that the labour movement would lead the process of ensuring that each sector negotiates with the unions to ensure credibility of the process across all levels of the workforce in the country, explaining that the take-off date of the minimum wage is the date the President signed the Bill into law, which is Thursday, April 18, this year.
He added: “Yes, the last minimum wage ought to have started in 2016, but that did not happen. The negotiation took over two years, but that does not mean this take-off date of this will be 2016. The day a Bill is signed into law is the day such law takes off. Therefore, this one has a provision of a five years review and it will lapse in 2023.”
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NLC, while expressing its appreciation to Buhari for signing into law the new National Minimum Wage Bill of N30, 000, noted: “However, we would use this opportunity to call for immediate implementation of the law, given the fact that this process has dragged on for nearly two years.
“In furtherance of this, we urge employers, particularly federal and state governments, to commence immediate negotiations with the appropriate unions on the impact of the new law on the wage structure, with a view to timely and judicious implementation.”
On its part, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) commended the President for assenting to the Bill, saying the new wage would in no small measure give workers a sense of belonging.
President of TUC, Bobboi Bala Kaigama, and Secretary General, Musa-Lawal Ozigi, however, noted in a statement that while the organised labour appreciates the approval of the new wage, it is also instructive to note that its gains have been eroded by inflation, adding that prices of commodities have gone up even when employers have not commenced payment.
Kaigama said: “The N30, 000 monthly National Minimum Wage that we are even asking for a family of six actually amounts to less than N50 per meal per person. It is exclusive of utility bills, school fees, etc.
“Given our extended family system as Africans, we are also expected to once in a while extend hands of fellowship to parents, in-laws, relations, friends who have lost their jobs, brothers and people of the same faith.
“We recall that some lawmakers promised to give the wage Bill supersonic attention whenever it was brought before them and they have kept to their word. To us, it means we still have men and women with milk of human kindness left in them.”
He, therefore, called on the 9th National Assembly and well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on state governors to pay workers their salaries and pension to pensioners as and when due to avoid crisis in the industrial sector.
The TUC boss lauded the federal government, lawmakers and Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA) for taking steps to improve the quality of workers by working hard to see the birth of a new national minimum wage for the country.
“We also want to use this opportunity to tell Nigerian workers that the battle for the actualisation of N30, 000 minimum wage is not yet over. We still have to wait for the template to be released by the National Salaries and Wages Commission.
“We want our members to be very calm and await the release of the table and also the consequential increases,” he told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
“The federal government does not have issue, in terms of implementation; the states and local governments will have issues on the implementation. That is why I said the battle has just started.
“We will begin to hear from state governments on how they will announce the implementation and which of the states that will have one obstacle or the other, and we plan to confront those governments.
“The Nigerian workers also expect that by May, they should start enjoying the new wage and I am sure the implementation has started from Thursday and we also start counting the areas from that day.”
Kaigama said as the Workers’ Day approaches, workers also expect the federal government to do the needful as it concerns their welfare.
Some of the labour leaders, who spoke on the issue in Abuja, described the action as a way forward. Head of International, NLC, Uche Ekwe, commended the President for signing the Bill into law, saying: “Nigerian workers are happy about the signing into law of the national minimum wage and we also hope that the state governors will also do the needful.”
Meanwhile, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has commended Buhari for his assent to the Bill, saying: “Truly, our workers deserve a new, improved and implementable minimum wage in view of current economic realities. Commendably, the welfare of workers has remained a top priority of the President Buhari-led APC administration, as exhibited in the federal government bailouts to state governments to pay workers salaries, housing schemes for civil servants, among other welfare packages.
“We congratulate stakeholders that ensured the achievement of this laudable feat, particularly the National Assembly, state governors, the Ama Pepple-led tripartite committee, labour/trade unions and indeed Nigerian workers.”
APC, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said this is another solid demonstration of a President who matches his words with action, adding: “Nigerians will recall the President had severally assured of a new and improved national minimum wage for workers.
“The assent of the N30, 000 minimum wage by the President is, indeed, another election promise delivered.”