President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday during the 2019 budget presentation suggested there would be a review of the N30,000 proposed by a tripartite committee as the minimum wage in the country.
The president’s proposal was promply criticised by labour unions who insisted all the president needed to do was to send a bill to the parliament for a N30,000 minimum wage.
In his speech, Mr Buhari, however, said he would soon send an executive bill to the National Assembly for approval as a demonstration of his administration’s commitment to pay a new national minimum wage.
The president made these known while presenting the 2019 Budget proposals to the joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja. The session was presided over by both the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
“I am committed to addressing the issue of a new (national) minimum wage. I will be sending a Bill to the National Assembly on this,” he told lawmakers.
However, he urged the lawmakers to ensure that in handling the bill, they take steps to avoid a fiscal crisis for both the federal and state government, by devising ways to ensure the implementation of the new wage structure does not precipitate an increase in the level of borrowing.
To avoid a resort to additional borrowings to pay the new wage bill, the president said a technical committee has been set up to advise the government on how to fund the anticipated increase in the minimum wage.
He said the committee would work on a finance bill to be submitted to the National Assembly for approval along with the Minimum Wage Bill.
He said the committee would recommend modalities for the implementation of the new minimum wage in a manner to not only minimise its inflationary impact but also ensure it does not lead to job losses.
The president’s non-committal of the amount he has approved, and his suggestion of a possible review was promptly criticised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
The NLC said it would reject any amount separate from the N30,000 agreed by a tripartite committee on the issue; an agreement that was submitted to the president.
The NLC also said it would not want to be party to any other arrangement to review the resolution of the tripartite committee on the national minimum wage.
On November 5, the tripartite committee set up in 2017, after prolonged consultations, submitted a report which showed N30,000 was agreed as the new national minimum wage.
Before the submission of the report, both the federal and 36 state governments rejected the amount, opting to pay N24,000 and N20,000 respectively, despite labour’s insistence on N30,000.
The tripartite committee which arrived at the N30,000 includes labour leaders, state and federal government representatives and private employers of labour.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos shortly after watching the budget presentation by President Buhari that his group would not be party to any technical committee to review the N30,000 minimum wage.
“We cannot accept the use of any technical committee to look into the already agreed N30,000 minimum wage,” Mr Ayuba said.
“The president promised to pass the report to lawmakers a week after it was presented to him. Once the tripartite committee has met and agreed on an amount, no other committee can meet on the same issue,’’ Mr Wabba said.
He said with organised labour scheduled to meet next week to take a final decision on the issue, there was no going back on the agreement.
On his part, the president of the United Labour Congress (ULC), Joe Ajaero, also kicked against the proposed technical committee. He said the tripartite committee had considered the ability of governments to pay the N30,000 before agreeing on it.
“We (Labour) have resolved to fight for the new minimum wage even after the upcoming general election. There would be no retreat or surrender until workers receive the wage,” Mr Ajaero said.
Earlier in his presentation, President Buhari said government proposed an estimated expenditure of N8.83 trillion for 2019, including grants and donor funds of N209.92 billion.
He said as part of the recurrent expenditure, personnel costs would gulp an estimated N2.29 trillion, nearly about 40 per cent of projected revenues.
He said substantial savings is expected from wider use of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) platform. He said ministries, department, and agencies (MDAs) have been directed to implement the IPPIS latest by March 2019.
According to the president, provisions have been made for staff promotion arrears and recruitments by the armed forces, police and para-military agencies during the year.
Besides, he said, the government has equally provided for the settlement of inherited outstanding pension liabilities, while one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (N51.22 billion) has been earmarked for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund and other related commitments.
A breakdown of the proposal shows about N4.04 trillion will go for recurrent costs; debt service (N2.14 trillion); statutory transfers (N492.36 billion); Sinking Fund (N120 billion) to be used to retire maturing bond to local contractors; and Capital Expenditure of N2.031 trillion.