Minimum wage: Labour reacts as FG denies approving N30,000

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…Buhari, Atiku clash over N30,000 minimum wage***

The Federal Government said on Wednesday the N30,000 minimum wage proposal contained in the report of the tripartite committee set up by the Federal Government was still a recommendation and had not been approved.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke with State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council, said President Muhammadu Buhari would still study the report presented to him on Tuesday by the Chairman of the committee, Amal Pepple, before taking a decision on it.

Pepple had while presenting the report on Tuesday disclosed that the committee recommended that the national minimum wage be increased from N18,000 monthly to N30,000.

She also said her committee drafted a bill that the Federal Government would send to the National Assembly to effect the change.

A section of the media had reported that Buhari accepted the report and endorsed the recommendation of N30,000 as the new minimum wage.

Mohammed, however, said Buhari would only take a decision and make his view known after considering the report.

“I think it (N30,000) was a recommendation. Mr President will consider it and will make his views known in due course,” the minister said.

When pressed further, Mohammed said, “I said a recommendation was submitted. Mr President will get back to the committee after he has studied the recommendation.”

On whether the revenue-sharing formula would be reviewed if the new minimum wage was approved to enable the states to pay, the minister said, “Once again, like I said, a recommendation has been made and in responding to the recommendation, all these views will be taken into consideration.”

The committee’s report will still be presented before the National Economic Council and the Council of State before a decision will be made.

Once a decision is taken, the Federal Government will send an Executive Bill to the National Assembly.

It’s N30, 000 or strike, labour declares

Meanwhile, Organised Labour has threatened to go on strike if the Federal Government fails to approve and implement the N30,000 minimum wage recommended by the tripartite committee.

The General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress, Mr Musa Lawal, said this while reacting to comments by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, that the report of the tripartite committee was a mere recommendation.

Lawal said Organised Labour decided to shelve its planned strike because the government had expressed the willingness to accept the report of the tripartite committee.

He warned that anything short of the full implementation of the report would be met with stiff opposition.

The TUC general secretary said, “They can say anything they want to say. Why were they panicky before? Why did they agree to the N30, 000? They can call it a mere recommendation or whatever they want to call it but the important thing is that at the end of the day, if we do not get the N30,000, they know what we will do.”

Attempts to speak with the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, proved abortive as he did not respond to telephone calls on Wednesday.

In the meantime, rather than subside, the row over the minimum wage keeps growing.

President Muhammadu Buhari explained yesterday his position on what the least paid worker should earn.

The Ms Ama Pepple committee set up to resolve the matter recommended N30,000.

The President said he was “fully committed to having a new National minimum Wage Act in the very near future” when the committee’s report was presented to him on Tuesday.

This was interpreted in the media to mean that Buhari planned  to recommend N30,000 to the National Assembly.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar hailed the N30,000 recommendation.

But yesterday, the Federal Government clarified Buhari’s position on the  matter.

The President will study the recommendation of  the tripartite wage review committee before making government’s position known, it said.

Briefing State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting yesterday, Information, Culture & Tourism Minister Lai Mohammed said what was presented to the President was a recommendation which he promised to study and get back to the committee.

But Atiku insisted that Buhari “must keep his word.”

Labour suspended its planned nationwide strike after the tripartite committee agreed to recommend N30, 000.

Ms. Pepple told the President that after extensive deliberations, the committee was recommending N30, 000, which Labour described as a compromised figure

President Buhari promised to send an Executive Bill to the National Assembly on the recommendation as soon as possible for consideration and approval, but he was silent on whether he endorsed the N30, 000 new wage.

Asked to clarify the government’s position on the issue, Mohammed said the President will study the recommendation and get back to the committee.

“I think it was a recommendation. Mr. President will consider it and will make his views known in due course,” the minister said.

Pressed for more comments, he added: “I said a recommendation was submitted. Mr. President will get back to the committee after he has studied the recommendation.”

On the possibility of reviewing the revenue sharing formula should the new minimum wage be approved to enable the states to pay, the minister said: “Once again, like I said, a recommendation has been made and in responding to the recommendation, all these views will be taken into consideration.”

A presidential source, who preferred not to be named, said the President had not endorsed N30, 000 as proposed by the committee and as being reported by some sections of the media.

The source, however, confirmed that President Buhari expressed commitment to ensuring the implementation of a new National Minimum Wage.

It said: “But the President’s speech at the event was immediately made available to the media and nowhere indicated that the President endorsed N30, 000 minimum wage.

“It is not the duty of the President only to endorse a new national minimum wage. The process involves the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the National Economic Council (NEC) and the National Assembly.

“It is imperative for us to always avoid misinterpreting a written speech.’’

President Buhari had pledged that the Federal Government would soon transmit an Executive Bill (on National Minimum Wage) to the National Assembly for its passage within the shortest possible time.

He said: “Our plan is to transmit the Executive bill to the National Assembly for its passage within the shortest possible time.

“I am fully committed to having a new National Minimum Wage Act in the very near future.’’

Signature with additional report from The Nation