Nigeria: Senators Oppose N27,000 Minimum Wage

President Muhammadu Buhari; Senate President Bukola Saraki and former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the National Council of State Meeting at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
24 January 2019

Some lawmakers have opposed the N27,000 new National Minimum Wage adopted by the National Council of States on Tuesday.

During plenary on Thursday, senators read and passed the minimum wage bill for first and second reading.

The passage was done hours after the bill was transmitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly for consideration and passage.

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, had read out the letter of transmission at the start of plenary.

In the letter, the president said the purpose of the letter is to forward to the lawmakers, for legislative action, a new minimum wage bill 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.

After acknowledging the president's letter, the lawmakers agreed to suspend their Order 79 and deliberate on the bill.

Debate

Most of the lawmakers who made contributions during the deliberation and passage of the bill, opposed the proposed N27,000 and called on the executive to make it N30,000.

Shehu Sani who commended the organised labour for the struggle said the national minimum wage is not just about Nigerian workers but a social, political and economic issue.

Describing the bill as important, he said the proposed N27,000 is not enough.

"It is clear today that our country, we rank as one of the most impoverished nations on earth. It has to do with the logistics on poverty. The alarming level of suffering, hardship that our people have faced over the years. When a minimum wage is increased, the standard of living of the citizens also improves.

"To us, N30,000, if we are going to be realistic, is even not enough. If we will be able to pay our workers this money, I believe that productivity will increase and also there will be reassurance of services on the side of the workers.

"The struggle of Nigerian workers has been realised but N27,000 is not goo enough. It should be N30,000," he said.

The Minority Leader, Biodun Olujimi also frowned at the proposed wage and called for a constant review.

"Nigerians workers are suffering. I asked myself a question, what could N18,000 do to feed a family of two not to talk of a family of four. I also have asked myself a second question; what can N27,000 do in the life of a family and I say not much, it is just that half bread is better than chin-chin.

"There is a need to keep reviewing the scheme. There are issues, it is an election year and we should not allow this go down as one of those gimmicks for election. Most of the states are not capable of paying this N27,000. Government must sit down and wear their thinking caps and meet such (state) governments halfway so that it does not become a gimmick again and then at the end of it all, the people who are supposed to benefit don't get anything out of it and the agitations continue.

"The Federal Government must sit with the Governors to ensure that this N27,000, which is just palliative is paid and ensure it is not our usual election gimmick," she said.

Sam Anyawu said the government's decision on the issue is nothing to smile home about.

"When the leader said this is the good thing the APC has brought, APC has brought nothing. This is not what people expected from them. This is a decision of all the state governments and it is nothing to smile about.

"This people demanded for N30,000 and we are giving them N27,000. In America, the conversion of $100 a day is N36,000 and that is not even enough to take care of civil servants. I have tried to calculate the N27,000 per month and it is about $78 for a whole month, so what makes them happy?

"A nanny from Imo to America is being paid $5 per hour and she will work for an average of eight hours per day, which is $40. If you calculate it, it is about N14,400 within eight hours for a nanny that did not go to school not to talk of a civil servant that has put in years, went to school and you want them to clap hand, I don't think this is manna from heaven.

"If we can meet up with that N30,000 there is nothing wrong with it because we are rich whether we like it or not. We cannot be rich and eat like beggars," he said.

Suleiman Adokwe called on the government to increase the minimum wage to N30,000.

"Why our people have been debating on what should be paid as minimum wage especially in the state, it has always been an issue because we look at the percentage in the increase of the minimum wage.

"What we are concerned about now is that anybody earning 18,000 now should be paid 30,000 first before we start looking at the percentage," he said.

Barnabas Gemade described the controversy between the state and federal government as unnecessary. He also described the N27,000 minimum wage as a "scratch" as he said the federal government can do better.

"This bill is long overdue. And the controversy between state and federal government was totally unnecessary. N27,000 is just a little scratch. This government can do better for the lowest paid worker.

"Judging from the number of past governors that have been arraigned for misappropriation of funds, it is clear that state governments are lamenting because they don't know how to manage the resources of the nation, they are so greedy in accumulating this wealth rather than looking at the needs of the people.

"If not the fact that we have had too many bills coming back from the president, I would have suggested that we take the third reading. The federal government should be able to pay 30,000 instead of 27,000 and force states to pay 27,000," he said.

On his part, Emmanuel Paulker simply said pensioners should be carried along in the implementation of the bill.

Differing Views

Of all the lawmakers who contributed to the debate of the bill, only the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan and Barau Jibrin described the new N27,000 minimum wage as a 'major increase'

Mr Lawan who led the debate, commended everyone who worked on the realisation of the bill irrespective of political parties.

"This bill was worked on by this administration and all the state governments irrespective of their political parties. This bill is so critical because government at all levels require the civil service for the implementation of its policies.

"Therefore, such people and their family require motivation, need incentives and need to be cared for. To whom much is given, much is expected. From 18 to 27 (thousand naira) is definitely a major increase. It may not be what our civil servants hoped for but it is still an improved situation," he said.

Barau Jibrin was full of praises for the president and did not oppose the proposed amount.

He congratulated Mr Buhari for leading the effort that culminated in setting N27,000 which he said, is in line with his (Mr Buhari's) promises in 2015.

"He promised to better the lives of Nigerians. He began by transforming the agricultural sector. Introducing the SIP programmes and trader moni and the likes. I think it should be commended."

After the bill was passed, it was referred to an eight-member committee for consideration to report back in two weeks.

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