• Inaugurates c’ttee on minimum wage
By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari has called on state governors to ensure that they clear all their staff salary arrears before Christmas.
This is just as the president yesterday inaugurated the Tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee at the Presidential Villa.
Briefing State House Correspondents after governors meeting with the President yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Imo state governor and Chairman of the APC Governors Forum, Rochas Okorocha said Buhari, has agreed to release the second tranche of the Paris Club refund.
According to Okorocha, the governors requested Buhari’s approval that the balance of the second tranche of the Paris Club Refund be captured in their 2018 budget.
The Imo governor said “It was a brief meeting between the governors and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is the end of the year and the President has expressed the need to ensure that every Nigerian, especially the workers, have a beautiful Christmas and the issue of outstanding Paris club was discussed and that was taken care of, to ensure that workers in various states and everywhere in the country get to celebrate the Christmas.
“We are looking at getting the balance of Paris Club refund thrashed out once and for all. We also made a request for Mr. President’s approval that the balance should form part of our 2018 budget, because we can’t include it until we are sure that the money is coming. That was also sorted out.
“So, as it is now, the issue of workers took the centre stage and Mr. President was concerned about those who depend on their salaries to feed their families and pay their house rent and he had the assurance from the governors that we will meet up those obligations. It was emphasised that states and federal governments must work together to get Nigeria out of its present economic predicament to make Nigeria a better society for all of us.”
Asked specifically whether all salary arrears would be cleared, Okorocha said “Yes, with the Paris Club coming, every worker should enjoy his/her Christmas. I made it clear.”
Reminded that he said that the same money would be integrated into the 2018 budget, Kaduna state governor, Nasir el-Rufai interjected and offered to clarify the issue.
el-Rufai said “Let me explain. The Paris club figures need to be reconciled. While the reconciliation process was going on, the President approved that 50 per cent of the original amount be paid to the states. The payment started from last year. We still have the balance of the first 50 per cent. This is what the President said should be paid to state governments to meet their obligations before Christmas because he’s concerned that many families depend solely on their salaries to for rent, for the festive period. That had been decided. The balance of the first 50 per cent is what we are expecting now before Christmas. The President has approved that and said it must be paid.”
Asked the exact amount the governors are expecting to be paid, the Kaduna state governor said “I don’t know the amount. I’m sure that if you contact the Ministry of Finance, they can give you the total amount. I only know what my state is likely to get.”
On the minimum wage, Buhari in his speech, said the committee was necessary because the last Minimum Wage Instrument has expired.
According to him, such was in recognition of the need to ensure a fair and decent living wage that the Federal Government put in motion necessary mechanisms for the inauguration of the committee.
Buhari said the outcome of the negotiation would be forwarded to the National Assembly as an Executive Bill to undergo appropriate legislative scrutiny ahead of its passage into law.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said “The minimum wage is a wage that is aimed at removing the problem of what the International Labour Organisation (ILO) calls poverty pain which is a pain that exists when earnings from paid work do not result in a living wage and thereafter fail to push people out of poverty and this concurrently will result in decent work deficit.”
According to him, the government would be playing double roles of employer of Labour and a protector element of tripartism.
The committee would be chaired by a former Head of Service of the Federation (HOSF), Ms Ama Pepple who would be deputized by the Labour minister.
Other notable members of the panel include a team from the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Budget and Planning minister, Finance minister, NLC, TUC NUPENG amongst others.