The Senate fast-tracked its consideration of the National Minimum Wage bill after it passed both first and second reading during plenary on Thursday.
The bill was transmitted by the executive to both chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate and the House and Representatives on Wednesday after the National Council of State approved the sum of N27,000 as the new benchmark for the national minimum wage across the federation.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President, who presided over Thursday’s plenary, read the executive communication signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Deputy Senate President quoted the president as saying the bill was transmitted to the National Assembly after the new amount was approved by the tripartite committee and the various councils of the federal government.
“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.
“This 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 advice the government on this issue.
“The tripartite committee comprise representatives of the federal government, governors’ forum, organised private sector and organised federations of trade unions in Nigeria. The federal executive council (FEC), National Executive Council, National Council of State have all noted and approved this recommended amendment,” the letter read.
Ahmed Lawan, the Senate Majority Leader, moved a motion after the letter was read, urging that order 79 of the rules be suspended so that the bill could be passed the first and second time.
Biodun Olujimi, the Senate Minority Leader, concurred, but warned that bill should not be “another election gimmick.”
“We will work hard, but it is important that this does not become another election gimmick. Let the people who should get paid, actually get paid,” Olujimi said.
The Deputy Senate President then put the motion to a voice vote, which was supported by majority of the lawmakers.
Senator Ekweremadu thanked his colleagues for ensuring the accelerated hearing of the bill, stating that the Senate rules were suspended for the bill because the upper chamber was “committed to this issue.”
He said: “Let me congratulate the NLC and all those who have brought this to this point. I would also like to thank my Distinguished Colleagues for the speedy consideration of this Bill.
“This will be the first time the 8th Senate is reading an Executive Communication and suspending our rules to take a First and Second Reading and assigning the Bill to a Committee, all in one day. This shows how committed we are to this issue.
He, however, raised reservations over the discrepancies of the amount: the N27,000 benchmark and the N30,000 as promised by the Federal Government to its workers.
“I believe what we have been saying so far will suffice in guiding the Committee. Just to clarify, the new minimum wage brought to us is set at N27,000. There were news reports of N27,000 for states and N30,000 for the Federal Government, but this is a single national minimum wage of N27,000. Another issue of concern is whether this affects organisations and establishments employing less than 25 persons.
“If this does not affect these people, it means a whole number of people are left outside the minimum wage and that is not right. In most countries, the minimum wage applies to all workers, regardless of the number of people in an establishment. I believe that at the public hearing, we will be able to clarify and sort it all out. We must try our best to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor,” the Deputy Senate President said.
Senator Ekweremadu then announced that an ad-hoc committee on the National Minimum Wage bill has been constituted and would be headed by Senator Olusola Adeyeye, the Senate Majority Whip.
Other members of the committee include Senator Abu Ibrahim, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour; Senator Shehu Sani, representing the North West; Senator Sam Egwu, representing the South East; Senator Suleiman Adokwe, representing the North Central; Senator Francis Alimikhena, representing the South-South; and Senator Binta Masi Garba, representing the North East.
The committee is expected to present its report to the full Senate in two weeks time, ahead ofthe bill’s third reading.