By Joan Nwagwu
The National Assembly will fast track the passage of the new national minimum wage bill, once the executive bill is sent to it.
Sen. Mao Ohuanbuwa, Deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour, made this known while speaking with newsmen on Friday in Geneva, Switzerland.
Ohuanbuwa said that the Senate President had already given the assurance that the bill would be given express hearing and passage by the legislature.
He said: “w are going to fast track the bill for accelerated passage and that is what the Senate President had said.
“It is unfortunate that both the ministry and the executive have been going back and forth. We thought that by now, that would have been resolved.
“So we are looking forward to that bill because it is going to come out as an executive bill.
“We are looking forward to rounding off or concluding that bill before we go on our annual break.
“But the way it is, it looks like we are going to wait. You know there is little or nothing we can do because it is an executive responsibility.
“They are the ones who will make the payment. Ours is that we have to support and agree that there is very urgent need to review the minimum wage.’’
He said the need to review the minimum wage is sacrosanct.
“But we cannot go ahead as a parliament to legislate on that without the executive coming up with a bill. We are waiting for them to do that.
“We will allow the executive and the labour leaders to resolve their differences. What we had promised and we still stand on is that once that bill comes to us, we are going to give it accelerated hearing.’’
He called on the Federal Government and the organised labour to resolve their differences on the issue of the new national minimum, in the interest of Nigerian workers.
Ohuanbuwa said that states should be allowed to negotiate with labour on what they would be able to pay.
On whether the National Assembly allow labour matters to remain on the exclusive legislative or concurrent list.
He said that “But personally and since I am one of the advocate of devolution, I still believe that the issue of labour should go into concurrent list.
He said that “Because there are states which can decide to negotiate with labour and pay within their limits. You cannot compare somebody working in Abuja with somebody working in Zamfara.
“They can look at the rate of transport, accommodation, feeding and all that. They are not the same and you cannot compare Abuja level to Zamfara or Bayelsa.
“So you should allow the states some liberty to negotiate and decide and have their own pay. The only thing the Federal Government can do is decide what the minimum wage would be.
“As some states can pay, some cannot pay and you can see the level of wage debt across the country. Most states cannot pay.
“So, we can allow some freedom. It is just like in the oil companies. They don’t pay the same rates; construction companies don’t pay the same rate.
“Even in Nigeria, if you are working in the ministry, you do not earn the same pay with a person working in Central Bank or in NNPC,’’ he explained.
Also speaking to newsmen, Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, said that the September date for the minimum wage was just a “target date”.
Ngige said that the minimum wage might not be feasible in September due to the processes and procedures involved.
He explained that the tripartite committee’s the report would pass through the Federal Executive Council and the National Economic Council, before an executive bill is sent to the National Assembly for passage.
NLC and TUC had, on May 1, jointly proposed N56,000 as new national minimum wage, since the existing wage was due for review on the basis of the extant Labour law.
But the Federal Government had also resolved to set up a joint government, labour committee to begin negotiation.