President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday expressed his commitment to ensuring the implementation of a new National Minimum Wage.
Buhari said this in Abuja on Tuesday while receiving the report of the Tripartite Committee on the Review of National Minimum Wage from the committee’s chairman, Amal Pepple at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He expressed delight that the committee had successfully completed its assignment in a peaceful and non-controversial manner.
He revealed that the Federal Government would soon transmit an Executive bill (on National Minimum Wage) to the National Assembly for its passage within the shortest possible time.
“The fact that we are here today, is a notable achievement. As the Executive Arm commences its review of your submission, we will continue to engage you all in closing any open areas presented in this report. I, therefore, would like to ask for your patience and understanding in the coming weeks.”
The President, however, enjoined the leadership of the labour unions as well as the Nigerian workers to avoid being used as political weapons.
“May I therefore, employ workers and their leaders not to allow themselves to be used as political weapons,’’ he said.
He explained that the exercise had become necessary for many reasons, saying that the last review took place in 2011.
“We all know since then, the prices of key consumables have increased and the most vulnerable of our workers are struggling to make ends meet.
“Since 2011, many changes have taken place. Nigeria re-based its GDP to become the largest economy in Africa. We reported very strong GDP growth rates and exceptional performance of our capital markets.
“However, these reported successes did not flow into the pockets and homes of majority of Nigerians.
“In the last three years, we focused on correcting this deficiency. We are working to create a diversified and inclusive economy,’’ he said.
Buhari further said that his administration had been pushing to clear pension arrears owed retired workers with the limited resources available to it, just as it had been supporting state governments to pay workers’ salary.
He praised the members of the committee for their commitment and sacrifice throughout the period of the assignment
“From the onset, we knew the committee had a difficult task ahead of it. But at the same time, we were also confident that the patriotic and professional background of its members would produce realistic, fair and implementable recommendations that will be considered by both the executive and legislative arms of government.
“I am not surprised that the committee has worked for close to one year. I am also not surprised that on a few occasions, the debates got heated and sometimes, these differences came out.
“What is truly inspiring is that, in almost all instances of disagreements, the committee members always came back to the negotiating table with a common goal of improving the welfare of Nigerian workers.
“On behalf of all Nigerians today, I want to thank you for your commitment and sacrifice in getting us to where we are today,’’ he said.
The President acknowledged that the concerns raised by representatives of government in the committee were around affordability, while many states were struggling to meet their existing salary requirements.
“On the side of labour, the points raised focused on the need for any increase to be meaningful.
“In a way, both arguments are valid. I want to assure you all that we will immediately put in place the necessary machinery that will close out these open areas,’’ he said.
In her remarks, Pepple explained that the recommendation made by the committee was predicated on the high cost of living, occasioned by the exchange rate as well as the rising inflation rate in the country.
She said that the committee also considered micro-economic indicators including the revenue and expenditure profile of the government.
Pepple expressed the belief that the implementation of the recommended minimum wage would boost the purchasing power of the working class, increase consumption expenditure, and stimulate economic growth.
“Consideration was also given to the critical role of the informal sector in employment generation and the need for a realistic minimum wage that will not stifle the growth of the sector and the overall economy.
“After carefully weighing these critical factors and bearing in the mind the overriding interest of the economy, the committee, while noting the offer of N24,000 by the Federal Government, is recommending an increase in the existing minimum wage from N18,000 to N30,000.
“We believe that the implementation of the recommended minimum wage, will, no doubt, boost the purchasing power of workers, increase consumption expenditure and ultimately stimulate business and overall economic growth.”
“The committee has also produced a Draft National Minimum Wage Bill 2018 for consideration by the government.
“We strongly believe that the enactment of the draft bill into law is very critical to the operation and future reviews of the National Minimum Wage,’’ she said.