24 December 2009

Nigeria: Minimum Wage - 'National Assembly Can't Legislate for Journalists'

Abuja — The ad hoc Committee set up to review the Nigerian Press Council Amendment Bill yesterday declared that that the National Assembly lacked the constitutional powers to legislate a minimum wage for practicing journalists in the country.

The declaration came as the Committee led by its chairman; Prince Tony Momoh submitted its report to the House of Representatives Committee on Information and National Orientation. The report which came in twelve parts of 79 sections has made recommendations on the way forward for the controversial bill.

Momoh, who gave highlights of the report said that in the opinion of the Committee, it was wrong and unconstitutional for the National Assembly to embark on fixing a minimum wage for journalists as such an issue was better left to the media owners and the journalists in their employ.

"Media organisations in the country reserve the right of negotiation with their staff on salaries. The National Assembly cannot decide on the salaries media houses should pay their staff; it is unconstitutional for the National Assembly to do so," he said.

Although the Committee picked holes on the bill, it applauded the courage of the sponsor of the Bill, Honourable Abike Dabiri for bringing the issue of media practice and reforms in the media industry to the front burner.

Momoh, a former Minister of Information, said the bill was a good effort, but contained clauses that betrayed the fears on the part of politicians for the press. He however said there was no cause for alarm as the best way to ensure the best of relationships is to entrench mutual trust and respect between the media and the political class.

"Hon. Abike Dabiri did a wonderful job of sponsoring the Bill, but the lawmakers and politicians in the country should not be afraid of the media. We the media are very powerful, but people should not be afraid of us, people should not fear us. What we should be working for is respect," he said.

Acting Chairman, House Committee on Information and National Orientation, Honourable Mustapha Khabeeb commended the Committee for contributing their own quota not just to the debate during the public hearing but for the painstaking job of putting together a report that will guide the legislators in their consideration of the bill. The Ad-hoc Committee is comprised of representatives of the Nigerian Press Council (NPC), Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigerian (NPAN), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), Nigerian Guild of Editors(NGE), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU), Ministry of Information and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

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