President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said he was committed to ensuring that the nation’s workers get a new minimum wage as soon as possible.
Mr Buhari made the promise at Presidential Villa, Abuja, shortly after receiving report of the Tripartite Committee on New Minimum Wage from the Chairman, Mrs Amal Pepple.
This happened just as the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, Mr Atiku Abubakar, said he welcomed news that government had accepted to pay the new minimum wage recommended by the committee.
The panel recommended N30,000 as the new minimum wage for the country.
The President promised to immediately put in place the necessary machinery that would address what he called “open areas” in the report.
He said his plan was to transmit an Executive Bill to National Assembly for passage within the shortest possible time.
He said, “The committee chairman highlighted some of the challenges encountered during your deliberations, especially as it relates to having a consensus position acceptable by all parties.
“I understand, on the government side, the concerns raised were around affordability – that today many states struggle 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 added, “Our plan is to transmit the Executive Bill to National Assembly for passage within the shortest possible time.
“I am fully committed to having a new National Minimum Wage Act in the very near future.”
Buhari said the government would continue to engage members of the committee as it commenced a review of the report.
He however warned workers against being used as political weapons.
“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.
“May I therefore, implore workers and their leaders not to allow themselves to be used as political weapons,” the President said.
Buhari said the need for a review of the minimum wage became necessary because the last review was done in 2011 and since then, prices of key consumables had increased while the most vulnerable workers were struggling to make ends meet.
He said successes recorded by the country since 2011 did not benefit majority of Nigerians.
While presenting the report to the President, Pepple said the committee recommended N30,000 as the new minimum wage and produced a draft bill to be sent to National Assembly on the matter.
In arriving at the figure, she said the committee weighed demands of the workers predicated on the high cost of living occasioned by unfavourable exchange rate and rising inflation over the past few years, among other factors.
She said the committee also considered the overall macro-economic indicators, including the revenue and expenditure profile of government as provided by Ministers of Budget and National Planning and Finance as well as the minimum wage proposed by some state governments in their memoranda submitted to the committee.
She added, “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 growth of the sector and the overall economy.
“After carefully weighing these critical factors and bearing in 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 existing minimum wage from N18,000 to N30,000.
“We believe 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.”
Meanwhile, Atiku, in a statement said he welcomed the news that the Federal Government had agreed to pay the 30,000 minimum wage.
The former Vice-President reiterated his commitment to a living wage, adding that one of the pillars of his soon-to-be-launched policy document was making workers welfare a priority.
“The Nigerian worker is the goose that lays the golden egg and is worthy of the best pay that Nigeria can afford,” he said.
Atiku commended the patriotism displayed by leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress and its affiliates in calling off the nationwide strike initially scheduled for Tuesday.
He called on National Assembly to speedily pass legislation that would make the new minimum wage a statutory requirement.
He also called on the present administration to keep to its word and abide by the new minimum wage agreement.
“No sacrifice is too great to make for us to get Nigeria working again and that is what Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation is all about.”