CLARIFICATION OF THE 2019 NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE BILL
BY HONOURABLE MINISTER OF LABOUR AND EMPLOYMENT, SENATOR (DR.) CHRIS NWABUEZE NGIGE, OON; MD
The attention of the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment has been drawn to the various misrepresentations being given to the Press Briefing on the New National Minimum Wage, given at Aso Villa on January 22, 2019, after the meeting of the National Council of State. For avoidance of doubt, the Honourable Minister wishes to clarify as follows:
1) A National Minimum Wage is the minimum amount of remuneration that an employer is required to pay wage earners (workers) at the lowest rung of the salary scale for the work performed during a given period.
2) At the expiration of the last National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Act, which was enacted in 2011, Mr. President constituted and inaugurated a Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage (TCNMW) in November, 2017, to consider the issue and recommend a new National Minimum Wage to the Government. The constitution of the Tripartite Committee was in consonance with the provisions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention Nos. 26, 99, and 131, as well as the guidance provided by the accompanying Recommendations. In a bid to achieve a holistic and democratic coverage, the prescribed Tripartite structure went beyond the requirements of Tripartism (the Government and Social Partners) to extend to Tripartite – Plus in order to cover other stakeholders which included Nigeria Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN), and National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME); in addition to the recognised employers’ Federation – the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA).
3) It is very important to note that the constituted TCNMW was mandated by Mr. President to deliberate on the issue of a review of the National Minimum Wage and make recommendations for its upward review. The output from the TCNMW was therefore never meant to be sacrosanct but to provide a guide for the Competent Authority (The Government) to take a final decision. The ILO Conventions on Minimum Wage cited above succinctly stipulate that each Member State shall be free to decide the nature and form of the Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery, and methods to be followed in its operation. They further provide that before the Competent Authority takes the final decision on a National Minimum Wage, there should be full preliminary consultations with the most representative Organisations of employers and workers. This was done when Mr. President constituted and encouraged the work of the TCNMW.
4) The Report of the TCNMW asked Mr. President to note the figure of Thirty Thousand Naira (N30, 000.00) recommended by the TCNMW by way of motion and not by consensus, and also to note the Federal Government figure of Twenty Four Thousand Naira (N24, 000.00). Mr. President considered the Report in full and looked at the differing statistics/figures presented by everybody before he arrived at the figure of Twenty – Seven Thousand Naira (N27, 000.00) per month. I must reiterate that the output by the TCNMW was a recommendation and is not cast in stone but advisory to Mr. President.
5) In conformity with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), three (3) Constitutional Bodies further considered the figures. They are:
1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)
ii. The National Economic Council – Section 153 and Third
Schedule of same Constitution
iii. The National Council of States – Section 153 and Third
Schedule of same Constitution
These are all advisers of Mr. President and he is required by the Constitution to take advice and consult these three Bodies on any Political, economic, Security, and other sundry issues of the nation requiring Presidential Consultations/Advice. These bodies are therefore qualified to further consider the recommendation by the TCNMW and advise Mr. President on the best national position that would be equitable and fair to all stakeholders on the matter of a new National Minimum wage. IT IS NOT THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF STATES ALONE THAT CONSIDERED THESE FIGURES AND THE NEW BILL. THE JOB OF THESE THREE BODIES TO MR. PRESIDENT ARE ADVISORY AND CONSULTATIVE IN NATURE ESPECIALLY THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF STATE.
6) The recommended new National Minimum Wage of Twenty Seven Thousand Naira (N27, 000.00) is for ALLcategory of workers in Nigeria whether Public or Private Sector and is so contained in the new National Minimum Wage Bill. The workers in the Public Sector are those working in the Federal, State, and Local Government tiers of Government. The National Minimum Wage is for workers occupying the lowest rung of the remuneration ladder on Grade Level 1 step 1, and are the most vulnerable segment of Nigerian workers. It is of utmost importance to note that any Public or Private Sector employer who is capable of paying more than the statutory Twenty Seven Thousand Naira (N27, 000.00) should be ready to do so even without subjecting the concerned workers to a tortuous negotiation by the applicable Negotiation Councils. The Federal Government has taken the lead in this direction by proposing to augment the Twenty Seven Thousand Naira (N27, 000.00) National Minimum Wage of Federal workers by Three Thousand Naira (N3, 000.00) per month to bring it up to Thirty Thousand Naira (30,000.00) for the least paid worker per month. The Federal Government accordingly, expects others in the Public and Private Sectors to do the same, and if the financial capacity permits, employers can pay more than Thirty Thousand Naira (N30, 000.00) especially where their workers are very productive and the Private Sector is a very profitable enterprise.
7) As the matter of a National Minimum Wage is in the Exclusive Legislative List as item No. 34 of the Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), it is therefore the Executive arm of Government that has the responsibility to prescribe a new National Minimum Wage and send to the National Assembly (NASS) for legislative action of getting the Bill passed and/or amended and reverting same to Mr. President for Assent like any other law of the nation. It is important therefore, to use this medium to ask the different groups who have interest agreeing or disagreeing on the contents of the 2019 National Minimum Wage Bill already transmitted to NASS, to get ready to make their views known at the Public Hearing.
8) Finally, we wish the Nigerian workers well and thank the NASS for expeditiously treating the Bill by letting it pass the first and second readings in one legislative day and also in setting up an urgent and ad hoc Committee to treat this matter in both Chambers very swiftly.