Senate Vows Swift Action On Passage Of Minimum Wage Bill As House Urges Economic Caution

Senate Vows Swift Action On Passage Of Minimum Wage Bill As House Urges Economic Caution

The senate, on Tuesday, pledged that the National Minimum Wage Bill would be given fast-tracked hearing any time it was forwarded to the National Assembly by Tinubu for legislative action.

However, the House of Representatives cautioned the federal government against increasing the minimum wage beyond what the economy could sustain.

Spokesman of the House, Akin Rotimi, in a statement issued Tuesday, said the call became imperative to avoid unintended outcomes, such as inflation, layoffs, and other adverse economic consequences.

The Senate said that the bill would be sent to the federal legislature for legal backing whenever organised labour and the federal government conclude negotiations on it.

Senate President Godswill Akpabio gave the assurance at plenary while reacting to news of the suspension of the industrial action embarked upon by NLC and TUC.

The upper chamber was debating a motion on the “Urgent Need for the Organised Labour Unions to Call off their Industrial Action,” when the news of the suspension of the strike was announced by Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Labour and Employment, Senator Diket Plang, from Plateau Central, had moved the motion for deliberation at plenary.

Akpabio said taking the motion would amount to jumping the gun since the labour unions had already put the industrial action on hold.

“On our part, we will continue to do our best by making contributions and at the same time awaiting the incoming bill on minimum wage for us to enact for the benefit of all Nigerians,” Akpabio said.

He appealed to the labour unions to consider all variables surrounding the increment in wage before insisting on a particular amount.

The senate president said, “There are many variables that they will look at. Capacity to pay and the ability of states, local governments and the private sector to even pay.

“They will also be looking at the fact that if the minimum wage is too high, then the possibility of retrenchment of workers will occur.

“I think they will take comparative analysis to know that the last minimum wage, which was fixed by this parliament as an Act, of N30,000.00, how many states were able to pay, how many local governments were able to pay, how many employers were able to pay?”

He added, “One of the excesses by labour was the shutting down of the national grid, which is more of an economic sabotage than agitation for a new minimum wage.

“Also, disruption or prevention of students from writing their West African School Certificate Examination by some labour unionists during the strike was bad because the examination is not organised by Nigeria but by West African countries.”

The House of Representatives, however, warned against increasing the minimum wage beyond what the economy could withstand.

The spokesman of the House said in a statement Tuesday that the call became necessary to avoid inadvertent consequences, like inflation, redundancies, and other adverse economic costs.

Rotimi stated, “While the Green Chamber is in full support of the call for improved wages and working conditions, there is great need to exercise caution in increasing the minimum wage beyond what our economy can sustain, to avoid unintended outcomes, such as inflation, layoffs, and other adverse economic consequences.

“Thus, we restate the importance of approaching this issue from a balanced perspective to ensure long-term stability and prosperity for all Nigerians.”

The House also said it observed with concern the direction of the strike action before its suspension, and what it portended for the future.

It decried the shutdown of critical infrastructure, such as the national grid, which it said constituted economic sabotage and was detrimental to the well-being of the country.

The lower chamber maintained that those responsible for the actions must be held accountable.

It added, “We also find it troubling that the leadership of organised labour, majority of whom live far above the means of the average Nigerian, would engage in actions that exacerbate the suffering of ordinary citizens.

“It is necessary, therefore, to state that while industrial actions and dissent are fundamental rights within our democratic space that must be protected, the manner in which labour conducted itself during the just-suspended strike, largely, shows a lack of empathy for Nigerians.

“Is the objective of the leadership of the unions to compel the government to implement a living wage or to inflict pain on Nigerians?”

The House stressed that it was important to address persistent misinformation and disinformation propagated by the leadership of organised labour regarding the earnings of lawmakers.

It alleged that organised labour had for years contributed to false narratives about the remuneration of members of the National Assembly, exaggerating figures to stoke public resentment and undermine the credibility of the legislature. It said this tactic diverted attention from the core issues at stake and unfairly vilified the institution of the legislature.

The House stressed that It was crucial for all parties to engage in an honest and transparent dialogue rather than resorting to the spread of inaccuracies for political leverage.

It explained that contrary to the insinuations of the labour leadership through its social media platforms, the legislature was on the side of Nigerians and would continue to act in the best interest of its constituents, and giving meaning to its mandate.

 Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Sunday Aborisade

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