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Senate Accelerates Minimum Wage Bill Passage …Okays 1st, 2nd Readings Same Day …Says FG Approves Only N27,000 In Bill

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Nigerian Senate yesterday suspended its standing rule 79 and set aside all legislative communication protocols to accelerate legislative actions on the controversial N27,000 Minimum Wage Bill, hence, the bill scaled through first and second reading st a single sitting .
This upper legislative chamber also set up an eight-man ad hoc committee representing the six geo-political zones to fine-tune the final passage of the Bill into law for the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The members of the Senate ad hoc committee on Minimum Wage are Olushola Adayeye, who is the Chairman, Abu Ibrahim, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour, Binta Marsi, representing North East, Shehu Sani, North West, Francis Alimekina, South South, Sam Egwu, South East, Solomon Adokwe, North Central, and Solomon Adeola, South West.
Following a very thorough debate on the bill by the law makers , the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, clarified that contrary to the media reports, there is only a single Bill from the executive to the Senate which he said has a recommendation of N27,000 for both federal and state workers.
Recall that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, was reported to have said that in the recommendation of the Council of State, the federal government will pay its workers N30,000 while the state governments will pay their workers N27,000 as minimum wage.
To this end, he also said the recommendation in the Bill that the new national minimum wage be applied to all companies with up to twenty five workers may not be necessary because many low income workers may not be captured, pointing out that national minimum wage is for everybody.
Members of the House of Representatives, yesterday, faulted the Council of State for approving N27,000 as the new minimum wage when the agreement reached by the government, organised labour and the private sector was N30,000.
The lawmakers, therefore, expressed their readiness to adopt the amount proposed by the tripartite committee, whose report was presented to President Muhammadu Buhari.
At the plenary, yesterday, the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, read a letter by Buhari to the legislature, seeking an amendment to the Minimum Wage Act 1981, to reflect a new minimum wage of N27,000.
The President said the amount was proposed by the tripartite committee and ratified by the Council of State.
The letter read, “The purpose of this letter is to forward to you for legislative action a new Minimum Wage BiII to further amend the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Act, 2011).
“In order to give a new National Minimum Wage of N27,000 per month to the lowest paid Nigerian worker from the current N18,000 per month. Thus, new bill and the amendments contained therein were arrived at after consultations by the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage, which was constituted by me in November 2017 to consider, make recommendations, and advise the government on this issue.
“The Tripartite Committee comprised representatives of the Federal Government, (Nigerian) Governor’s Forum, Organised Private Sector and the Organised Federations of Trade Unions in Nigeria.
“The Federal Executive Council, National Economic Council, and the National Council of State have all noted and approved these recommended amendments.”
Buhari added, “Other highlights of the amendments include: (i) Exemptions for establishments employing less than 25 persons, (ii) five years review period of the Act in consonance with the Constitutional Review for Pensions, (iii) alterations in the amount of fines payable by defaulters on the prosecution.
“Bearing in mind that issue of prescribing a National Minimum Wage for the Federation or any part thereof is within the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and listed as item No. 34 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule, it is my pleasure to forward this Bill for expeditious action.”
After reading the letter, Dogara pointed out that the N30,000, which was proposed by the tripartite committee, and which Federal Government said it would pay its workers in the lower cadre, was not reflected in the letter.
Ekwerremmadu noted that there must be conscious efforts to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in the country, calling on the governors to improve their revenues by expanding all collectible taxes to finance the new minimum wage.
Earlier leading debate on the Bill, the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan pointed out that the Bill is an executive communication, which Rule 79 of the Senate Order Book requires must pass through three readings, different days before being passed for executive assent.
However, he said “This is a very critical bill and I therefore, feel that the Senate should give it a very expeditious passage; and that requires suspension of Order 79, so that we take the first and second reading immediately and refer it to the relevant committee.
His words “This is one bill that enjoys the support of every political party in Nigeria. The public and civil servants require motivation; they need incentives, they need to be cared for. It is my desire and I am sure it is the position of all the senators that this bill be given expeditious passage so that it takes effect immediately in 2019.
“We will work on the Appropriation Bill 2019. We have to reflect the financial implication of this bill. Moving from the current N18,000 minimum wage is certainly a major increase; it may not be what our civil servants hoped for and wanted, but it is still an improved situation”,.
Meanwhile, in their respective contributions, most of the senators canvassed that Senate increase the Minimum wage from N27,000 as recommended by the executive to N30,000, saying that Nigerian workers deserve more, which they all agreed that the nation can offer if the waste in governance will be reduced.
Senator Barau Jibril in his contribution said , the economy of the country is such that there is no doubt that the N18,000 is no longer acceptable for minimum wage. He said governors have to look inwards to generate more revenue to be able to pay the new minimum wage, likewise the private sector.
Emmanuel Paulker, in his remarks, observed that Nigerian workers now live in financial stress to meet their daily needs, punting out that there are still backlog of salaries owed by some state governors. He warned that the senate will not take a situation where when the Bill is passed, some governors will not pay, as that will make a mess of the whole efforts.
Senator Anyanwu Samuel, i pointed out that the wage Bill is still not yet enough compared to other economies, noting that it is not something to celebrate. According to him, though the Council of State has recommended N27,000, the senate can make it better by jerking it to N30,000 so that the labour union does not go on strike again.
Senator Shehu Sani also canvassed that the senate increase the minimum wage to N30,000, just as senator Solomon Adokwe, in his argument said the salary increase should not be fifty per cent across board as being championed in some quarters.
He said this will overbloat the wage Bill of the state governments, but explained that if extra nine thousand extra is added to the salary of every worker as the increase in minimum wage, then, the financial burden will be such that government can bear.
Senator Barnabas Gemade, also said that Nigeria can do better as the nation is not as poor as being made to look, but due to mismanagement of resources by those incharge.
He said governors are facing billions of naira charges by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yet they still claim they don’t have money to pay their workers, warning that government should do more to ensure better life for the workers.

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Ogoni Youths Give FG 14 Days To Fix East-West Road

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No fewer than 400 youths under the aegis of Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), yesterday, staged a peaceful protest at the Eleme axis of the East-West Road, giving the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to mobilize to site and fix the road or have economic activities in the area grounded.
The protesters, who carried various placards with inscriptions to press home their demands, trekked from Akpajo Junction to Refinery Junction in Eleme LGA, chanting solidarity songs to register their discontent over the neglect of the road.
Addressing newsmen during the protest, President General of the Ogoni Youth Federation, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, said it was regrettable that the road, which was a major route to the economic hub of the nation, has remained in a deplorable state, only becoming a death trap that has terminated the lives of innocent Ogonis.
Yaamabana, who described the mass action of the youths as a ‘warning protest’, said if the contractors handling the road were not immediately mobilized to site, then, the youths will have no option than to shut down all economic activities in the area.
He said, “we cannot continue to watch our people being killed on daily basis by tankers because of the poor state of Eleme axis of the east west road, we are calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency fix the road and save our people from untimely deaths as a result of the sorry state of the road, the only bridge on the road at Aleto has collapse but nothing is being done to avert the disasters faced by our people daily”.
Yaamabana also called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission to address the development needs of the Niger Delta region, noting that the use of interim management for NDDC was “diversionary, self serving and not in the interest of the development of the Niger Delta region”.
The OYF president general also called on the Federal Government to exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots who were extra-judicially murdered by the late Gen Sani Abacha military junta, and given post-humours honour as martyrs of democracy in Nigeria, while the ideals of justice they stood for should be upheld.
Also speaking, the immediate past secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eastern Zone, Comrade James Tobin, who joined the protest in solidarity, decried the neglect of the East—West Road by the Federal Government, and called the immediate fixing of the road to save the teeming road users from untold pains and death.

By: Taneh Beemene

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Rising Prices Push 7m Nigerians Below Poverty Line -World Bank

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The World Bank has said that rising prices pushed about seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020.
This was contained in a press statement titled, ‘Critical reforms needed to reduce inflation and accelerate the recovery, says new World Bank report,’ released by the World Bank’s Senior External Affairs Officer of Nigeria, Mansir Nasir.
The press statement was released, yesterday, in line with the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update.
It was acknowledged that the Federal Government “took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession” but it was recommended that certain policies should be set for a strong recovery.”
The statement read, “The NDU, titled ‘Resilience through Reforms,’ notes that in 2020, the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8 per cent than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2 per cent). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households.
“As of April, 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.”
Quoted in the statement, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, identified some of the challenges faced by the country and recommended a way forward.
“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity.
“While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realise its development potential,” Chaudhuri said.
Also quoted is the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the NDU, Marco Hernandez, who also gave a recommendation.
“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery,” Hernandez said.

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Inflation Dips To 17.93% In May, NBS Confirms

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Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped to 17.93 per cent in May, 2021, from 18.12 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed this in its monthly Consumer Price Index report released, yesterday.
The drop in the headline inflation in May was the second consecutive month this year.
The report indicates that the consumer price index (CPI), which measures the inflation rate increased by 17.93 per cent (year-on-year) in May, 2021, which is 0.19 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in the preceding month.
According to NBS, food inflation dropped in the same month from 22.78 per cent recorded in April, 2021 to 22.28 per cent in May, 2021.
The report reads, ‘‘All items less farm produce which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 13.15 per cent in May, 2021, up by 0.41 per cent when compared with 12.74 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
‘‘The highest increases were recorded in prices of pharmaceutical products, garments, shoes and other footwear, hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishments, furniture and furnishing, carpet and other floor covering.
‘‘Others include, motor cars, Hospital services, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing.
“Other services include personal transport equipment, gas, household textile, and non-durable household goods,” the NBS added.

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