JOHN AMEH and SUNDAY ABORISADE
The resolution of the dispute over the national minimum wage is far from being over following the decision of the House of Representatives to pass N30,000 as the new wage, SUNDAY PUNCHhas gathered.
The lawmakers, on Wednesday, passed the N30,000, an amount higher by N3,000 than the N27,000 President Muhammadu Buhari presented to the National Assembly earlier in his bill.
However, the N30,000 tallied with the recommendation of the tripartite committee on the minimum wage, which submitted its report to Buhari in November, 2018.
But following a meeting of the National Council of State last month, the President eventually presented a minimum wage bill of N27,000 to the National Assembly.
Findings indicated that the President had again come under pressure not to sign the N30,000 should the Senate concur with the decision of the House of Representatives.
A reliable source stated, “The governors are the main problem. Recall that the majority of governors had all along opposed any increment above N18,000. They reluctantly agreed to pay N22,500 after a series of meetings at a time when the Federal Government too said it could offer N24,000.
“When there was much threat from labour, insisting that it must be N30,000, the National Council of State tried to find a middle ground by approving N27,000.”
Investigations showed that while the governors had yet to come to terms with the N27,000, the House of Representatives reportedly “compounded” the issue with the passage of the N30,000.
A senior official, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH in Abuja, said, “The second-term governors are among the most rigid. If they put more pressure on the President not so sign and he succumbs, it means that there will be more crisis after the elections.
“Recall that labour has already started warming up, kicking against the N27,000. The Senate, as constituted today, is most likely going to concur with the position of the House by passing N30,000 as well.”
The Senate had proceeded on election recess to reconvene on February 19, three days after the presidential and National Assembly elections.
Meanwhile, the Presidency tried to play down the issue when one of our correspondents contacted its officials on Friday, saying Buhari was awaiting the final decision of the National Assembly before taking any further steps.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, told SUNDAY PUNCH that it was too early to make reach a conclusion since the Senate had yet to consider the bill.
Enang stated, “There is no problem yet. The bill is still within the National Assembly. We don’t want to make any issue about it yet. We will still wait for the Senate to go on conference (with the House).
“Our own is that we have submitted it (N27,000) to them, but the Senate will still have to go on conference. There is no problem for now.”
The House, in jacking up the presidential proposal to N30,000, had stated that the money (N30,000) was still not enough for the lowest-paid worker.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Ad-hoc Committee on the Minimum Wage (amendments) Bill, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, has said the panel had started deliberation on the bill through electronic means.
Adeyeye, who stated this in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday, however, refused to confirm whether the panel would concur with their counterparts in the House of Representatives by jerking up the minimum wage to N30,000.
The chairman said it would be unfair to his other colleagues if he declared that the panel would also recommend a wage higher than the N27,000 presented to the National Assembly Buhari.
He said, “The Senate adjourned on the day the panel was set up. I am not running for office. So, I have been available for the job. Unfortunately, members who are running for elections, have not been able to make themselves available despite all efforts to get them physically together for a meeting. They are either busy with their campaigns or having problems of communication in their villages where the network is not working well.
“Because of this situation, what I have resorted to do is to develop a strategy whereby we have been holding meetings electronically and I can tell you categorically that we are already achieving progress.
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“It would be unfair of me to give a specific amount of money that would be fixed when the panel members have not actually sat physically to deliberate on the bill. It would amount to prejudging them.”