The National Council of State (NCS) yesterday approved N27,000 as the new national minimum wage and asked President Muhammadu Buhari to quickly transmit an executive bill to that effect to the National Assembly for passage into law. The NCS is made up of former heads of state and presidents, and governors of the 36 states, among others.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, who briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the closed-door meeting, said President Buhari would transmit the bill to the National Assembly before the end of Wednesday.
The Federal Government had promised to conclude work on the New National Minimum Wage Bill for onward transmission to the lawmakers on or before 23rd January, 2019.
According to Ngige, while employers of labour in both private and public sectors and the state governments, will pay N27,000 as the minimum wage, the Federal Government will pay its workers N30,000.
"The bill will now amend the 1981 and 2011 Acts and the highlights are; the figure of N27, 000 monthly has been approved for transmission to the National Assembly, frequency of review of the bill is five years to get in consonance with the pension law of the federation as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. Exemptions to this Act will be establishments that are not employing people up to 25 in number and the various fines prescribed have also been altered.
"States or organisations that are able to pay more than N27, 000 could do so, it depends on their financial capacity. For example, the Federal Government has resolved that its own workers will not get anything less than N30, 000. It had decided even before now that it would top up its own minimum wage to bring it in consonance with N30, 000," he said.
On the stand of the organised labour not to take anything less than N30, 000 as minimum wage, Ngige said: "The minimum wage is for the lowest paid, the most vulnerable, the person on Grade Level one step one, that is the import. The labour unions understand that and so we don't envisage any problem on that."
Members of the NCS said they were unaware of threats to stall the conduct of the forthcoming general elections in the country.
The meeting presided over by Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said it was also not presented with reports of threats as raised by the Federal Government on Monday.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had accused opposition parties of orchestrating widespread violence across the country in order to truncate the forthcoming general elections.
He alleged that armed bandits and Boko Haram insurgents had been mobilised to engage in massive attacks and other acts of violence in several states.
The areas being targeted, according to the minister, include Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Benue, Kano, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara states.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, said: "Seriously, there was no discussion on that. I am not too sure that we have that fact.
"What we received was a briefing by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on how prepared they are for the election. So, their level of preparedness, that was what we listened to. There is no way INEC will come and tell us they have information on what opposition is doing or what opposition is not doing, but what INEC is doing is what was received and there was no discussion about that."
The Ondo State governor said that INEC assured council members that it has received adequate funding for the exercise to ensure free, fair and credible polls on February 16 and March 2, 2019.
The INEC chairman informed us that rather than using collapsible ballot boxes, they are going to use framed boxes, transparent ones because we have lost so many and a lot have been purchased.
"He informed us that the commission will use university vice chancellors, university students, at times, and corps members. So, everybody was convinced. INEC, as at today, is ready for the election. Questions were put, he was interrogated and he responded and gave adequate explanations to the satisfaction of every one of us."
After a scathing attack on the administration of Buhari the day before, Obasanjo yesterday attended the NCS meeting. He offered the opening Christian prayer while the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mohammed Uwais, said the Muslim prayer at the closed-door meeting held in Aso Rock, Abuja.
Obasanjo had, in a statement released at the weekend, compared Buhari's administration to the discredited regime of the late former head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha, and alleged the president was unfit mentally and physically to handle the affairs of the country. He also criticised Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and expressed doubts about the competence of the INEC to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
Others present at the meeting were Chief Ernest Shonekan, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Former heads of state, Generals Yakubu Gowon and Ibrahim Babangida, and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Aloma Muktar were absent.
The embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, was also not on the roll call. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha who announced the attendance did not offer explanation for his absence.
A one-minute silence was observed in honour of the late former President Shehu Shagari, Aloysius Katsina Alu and Idris Kutigi.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki were in attendance. State governors present included those of Osun, Kebbi, Zamfara Plateau, Ebonyi, Adamawa, Edo, Lagos, Niger, Borno, Ogun, Ekiti and Kogi states. Governors of Bauchi, Kaduna and Rivers states were represented by their deputies.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has rejected the N27,000 new national minimum wage adopted by the NCS.
Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, the NLC General Secretary, made this known to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday in Abuja.
According to him, the council has no jurisdiction determining another amount after a tripartite committee has submitted its report.
"It is abysmal of government to be delaying the submission of an Executive Bill to the National Assembly and by wrongfully adopting N27,000 through the council of states," he said.
Ozo-Eson, however, said the NLC had called an emergency national executive council meeting for Friday on the deadline given to the government to submit an executive bill to the National Assembly.
The NLC general scribe added that the Federal Government was only projecting a shutdown of the economy with its latest action, stressing, "workers should not be held responsible for any development after its NEC meeting on Friday."