…Bill to Decentralize Minimum Wage Prescription Scales Second Reading in House of Reps
BY OBUTE JAMES
The Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) to among others transfer the subject matter of Minimum Wage Prescription from the Exclusive Legislative List set out under Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Concurrent Legislative List set out under Part 11 of the Second Schedule has passed Second Reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill which is being sponsored by Hon. Garba Muhammad Datti, a representative of Sabon Gari Federal Constituency of Kaduna State, if passed to law will remove the uniform minimum wage Prescription as being witnessed to day.
Hon. Garba Datti who is the Chairman, House Committee on Port and Harbour during his lead debate argued that the various component states in the country have different revenue profile hence the need to bring the issue of minimum wage prescription to the Concurrent Legislative List.
He said the move is in line with the principles of true federalism.
He said every attempt to stipulate the national minimum wage has always been controversial. The attempt to bring it up to N18,000 was met with vehement opposition by many states.
He said while some of them (states) had not been paying the national minimum wage of N18,000 and owing up to 4 to 5 months, it was then raised to N30,000 with many states vehemently opposing it.
“There does not appear to be any propriety in the federal government imposing a national minimum wage when the resources available to the federal government are at variance with those available to the states.
“The resources available to the states are also differ and while some states may be able to afford the national minimum wage, others may not.
“Within the state, the resources available to the local councils also vary but they are also subjected to the national minimum wage,” Datti said.
He said the governor of Ebonyi State had alleged that the local governments would borrow N1 billion to service salaries while some states alleged that they would spend 100 percent of their earning to pay salaries of workers.
According to him, under the Independent and 1963 Constitution, prescription of minimum wage was a concurrent matter.
He said “A decentralized minimum wage is justifiable on the basis of several socio-economic variables i.e local peculiarities – differences in the cost of food, the cost of transportation, the cost of children’s education, the cost of health care services, rent or the cost of housing, all these vary from place to place and from state to state. These are usually factors that determine what is appropriate as minimum wage.
“As Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) a foremost legal luminary and a huge advocate of the proposed decentralization, notes that what will pay rent in FCT may purchase valuable property in some other state in the federation.”
Datti said in the United States , minimum wage is a concurrent subject matter such that in 2018 the minimum wage in 29 states was actually higher than the federal minimum wage. Noting that the scenario is also not unlikely in Nigeria as certain states appear to have the capacity to surpass the federal government.
He said you cannot expect what a state like Lagos and Rivers States pay as minimum wage to their workers will be what a state like Zamfara and Nasarawa States will pay their own workers too.