NIGERIA’S MINIMUM WAGE Repeal and Enactment Act 2019, signed into law by President Buhari makes it compulsory for all employers of labour in Nigeria to pay workers N30,000 monthly minimum wage. Nigerian workers owe it, foremost, to the National Assembly for expeditiously working on the bill and approving, not N27,000 proposed by Buhari’s government in the National Minimum Wage Act Amendment Bill, but N30,000.
Both chambers of the National Assembly passed the bill before the general elections—House of Representative, January, while Senate, March, 2019. Buhari’s assent was being awaited, which necessitated labour to have issued warning, and gave the president up till May 1, to sign the bill into law.
Under a tripartite structure, the present N18,000 minimum was negotiated in 2011, and signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Provisions in the enacted law by the National Assembly, included regular “review of the national minimum wage every five years”. Review of Nigerian workers minimum wage was due in 2015.
The already existing seamless provisions for future negotiation of minimum wage for Nigerian workers, would have removed possibility of crisis, if President Buhari had taken advantage of it when he assumed office in 2015. This led to agitation by Nigerian workers, through organized labour, from 2015 to 2018, to earn N30,000 minimum wage.
Buhari’s government, inaugurated tripartite committee chaired by Ama Pepple, former head of Nigerian civil service, to negotiate what could fit into government desirable minimum wage for workers. Governments at the federal and 36 state were looking for minimum wage benchmark affordable by federal and state governments.
Ama Pepple’s tripartite committee and stakeholders, including Organized Labour, meet severally, and considered not only what would be ideal minimum wage for Nigerian workers; but also considered the effect of such increase on the economy. The committee finally arrived at N30,000 national minimum wage for Nigerian workers. Government’s inconsistent positions after agreement has been reached infuriated Labour.
Organized labour saw government’s forward and backward positions on affordable minimum wage for Nigerian workers as provocative —“inhuman and insensitive” to plight of workers, given that minimum wage of N18,000 was no longer tolerable by workers in the face of hyper-inflation in the country.
Governors of the 36 state became spoilers in successful negotiations of a national minimum wage for the workers. Buhari’s government negotiating team, led by Chris Ngige, Labour and Employment Minister made matters worse—they were inconsistent on government’s positions.
Organized labour, unwilling to yield to government antics, resorted to strike actions, and further threatened indefinite nationwide strike action, and vowed to paralyse the economy and make governance unbearable. Under intense pressure, President Buhari approved N30, 000 new national minimum wage after he received Ama Pepple’s tripartite committee report and recommendation.
That was not the end of government’s prevarication, according to Labour. There was “Technical Committee” headed by Bismarck Rewane, set up by government, to review Ama Pepple’s report and recommendation. It was followed by presentation of government’s final position to the National Council Of State, for consideration.
Thereafter, the president forwarded N27,000 national minimum wage bill to the National Assembly, against N30,000 recommended by Ama Pepple’s tripartite committee. Organised labour kicked and insisted it would not accept any figure lower than N30,000 national minimum wage.
Labour appealed to the National Assembly to enact a law on N30,000 national minimum wage, and nothing less. It urged the lawmakers to discountenance inputs from National Council of State and the President’s Technical Committee on the national minimum wage, and stay on the tripartite committee’s recommendation. The National Assembly, expeditiously did just that—enacted a law on N30,000 minimum wage.
Providing details of the minimum wage law to journalists, after President Buhari assented to it, Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the president on National Assembly Matters said it has become “compulsory for all employers of labour in Nigeria to pay their workers the sum of N30,000”.
Enang said the law exempted employers with “less than 25 workers; persons who work in a ship which sail out of jurisdiction; persons who are in other kinds of regulated employments” from paying N30,000 minimum wage”. The law gives workers right to “sue employers to recover the balance”, if they were “compelled by any circumstance” to accept salary less than 30,000.
The Minimum Wage Act authorizes Minister Of Labour and any person nominated by him, or designated by him in any ministry, department or agency to “take action in your behalf and in your name against such employer to recover the balance of wages”, Enang said.
“It also ensures and mandates the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission and the minister of labour to be the chief and principal enforcers of the provisions of this law; and this law applies to all agencies and persons and bodies throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Enang said the law takes immediate effect—April 18, 2019, the date President Buhari assented to the law. The enforcement and the right to start the implementation of the provisions commenced immediately, including steps that would be taken progressively under the provisions of the Act.
Having come this far, governments—federal and 36 Nigerian States, should enforce the provisions in the 2019 National Minimum Wage Act. Nigerian Workers deserve their hard-earned wages. Nothings less.