Task Before New Minimum Wage Committee


Apparently succumbing to persistent agitations by the organised labour in the country, coupled with the prevailing economic realities the Nigerian workers face, the Federal Government finally bowed to pressures by inaugurating a 30-man tripartite committee to review the current minimum wage.
The committee, headed by a former Minister and Head of Service of the Federation, Ms Ama Pepple, was charged with the task of recommending a fair, decent and living wage for Nigerian workers. With this development, it appears that the machinery for a new minimum wage regime for the country is underway.
Inaugurating the committee in Abuja, penultimate Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari said the re-negotiation of a new national minimum wage had become imperative as the current wage instrument has expired and “in recognition of the need to ensure a fair deal for workers.”
As President Buhari succinctly put it, “minimum wage must be consensual and generally acceptable and should be anchored on social justice and equity.”
The President went further to implore the committee to apply principles of full consultations with stakeholders while bearing in mind the core provisions of the International Labour Organisation Minimum Wage Fixing Convention N0 131 and Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery Convention No 26 in the task ahead.”
The Tide commends President Buhari for conceding, albeit belatedly, to the demands of Nigerian workers to have a new minimum wage. Given the economic realities in Nigeria today, there is no gainsaying the fact that a review of the current N18,000 minimum wage put in place by late President Shehu Yar’Adua and implemented by his successor, President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration five years ago is inevitable.
We, therefore, implore the new minimum wage committee to expediently hasten the process to enable the Presidency present an executive bill to the National Assembly for a new national minimum wage regime, more so that the present one had expired since 2015.
We expect the committee to come up with a living wage for Nigerian workers who bear the brunt of economic malaise in the country, occasioned by high inflation, devaluation of the Naira and over 300 per cent increase in pump price of petroleum products with its adverse effects on prices of goods and services.
Considering the fact that the current N18,000 minimum wage is just about $40, it is incontrovertible that the paltry wage can hardly take any Nigerian worker home. This underscores the high level of corruption in Nigeria’s public sector, as workers look for the slightest opportunity to make ends meet.
More appalling is the fact that the current N18,000 wage is being implemented in the breach by some employers of labour, especially states and local governments which initiate all manners of deductions from workers’ salaries.
The Tide is not unaware of state governments’ agitation for upward review of their allocations from the federation account. While we acknowledge the challenges some of the states are facing, we insist that a new minimum wage is long overdue. We, therefore, appeal to the state governors, many of whom are owing salaries for months, not to jeopardise the process of having a living wage for Nigerian workers.
As members of the new minimum wage committee, the governors are expected to demonstrate sufficient maturity, sympathy and commitment to workers’ welfare by working in synergy with other stakeholders in the committee to ensure the adoption of an acceptable new national minimum wage.
Indeed, posterity beckons on the Ama Pepple-led committee and most especially the governors who, in the first instance, rode to power on the mandate of Nigerian workers. The time to truly appreciate the mandate given to them by workers is now.