There are strong indications that as President Muhammadu Buhari appears ready to assent to a new national minimum wage, following its recent passage by the National Assembly, he may be compelled to prune down the bogus salaries earned by some classes of civil servants in the country, particularly those in the employ of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), among other agencies.
This much became glaring when the president received the report of the Presidential Technical Advisory Committee on Implementation of National Minimum Wage, which was headed by Bismarck Rewane, at the Presidential Villa, on Monday.
Although the National Assembly was yet to transmit the new wage bill it passed to the president for assent, Buhari had on January 9, 2019 inaugurated the committee, with a clear mandate that it should advise the government on how best to fund, in a sustained manner, the additional costs of implementing the imminent increase in the National Minimum Wage.
Part of the terms of reference he gave the committee was that after the new minimum wage had been passed into law, government would go into negotiations for salary review for all the workers who were already earning above the new minimum wage.
The president had underscored in his remarks that it was important to properly prepare the minds of those public servants involved so that they would not be taken unawares when it was to time for implementation.
In tandem with the grievances of organised labour movement, the president had noted that the last time Nigeria’s national minimum wage was reviewed was in 2011, hence it was evident that a review was necessary, despite the prevailing fiscal challenges.
Although full details of the recommendations were still being kept under wraps by the government, Buhari had while receiving the report from Rewane, commended the committee members for their patriotism, hard work, commitment, and sacrifices.
“I understand that you have worked tirelessly to ensure that you deliver the report before we receive the Minimum Wage Bill from the National Assembly,” the president told the members which included Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Dr. Babatunde Fowler, ex-FIRS boss, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, Dr. Ayo Teriba, Chief Executive Officer, and Prof. Akpan Ekpo, among others.
The membership from the public sector included the Director General of Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, who is the secretary of the committee; representative of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF); Chairman of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Richard Egbule; Permanent Secretary, Service Welfare Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Didi Walson-Jack; Permanent Secretary, General Service Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olusegun Adekunle; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Dr. Mahmoud Isa-Dutse; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Olajide Odewale; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, and Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata.
Others were Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Office of the Vice President, Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu; Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Economic Policy, Dr. Joseph Nnanna; Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris; Director General, Debt Management Office, Ms. Patience Oniaga; Director General, National Institute of Social and Economic Research, Dr. Folarin Gbadebo-Smith; Statistician General, National Bureau of Statistics, Dr. Yemi Kale; Mrs. Aisha Hamad, Mamman Garba, and Tunde Lawal.
There were indications that the Federal Government was also mulling an increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) from five percent to about fifteen percent, so as to enable it meet the envisaged wage increase.
“However, we anticipate that after the new minimum wage has been passed into law, we will be going into negotiations for salary review for all the workers who are already earning above the new minimum wage. It is therefore important that we are properly prepared to meet these demands.
“We must therefore look at ways of implementing these consequential wage adjustments in a manner that does not have adverse effects on our national development plans, as laid out in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
“The ERGP sets appropriate targets for levels of capital expenditure, public debt, inflation, employment. It is absolutely important that the implementation of a new minimum wage does not adversely affect these targets, and thereby erode the envisaged gains for the workers.
“It is against this background that I have set up a technical committee to advise government on how best to fund, in a sustained manner, the additional costs that will arise from the implementation of the consequential increases in salaries and allowances for workers currently earning above the new minimum wage,” Buhari had stated.
Prior to the 2019 general elections, government had settled for N30,000 as minimum wage for federal workers, while state workers were to go home with N27,000 after consulting the National Council of State members comprising former presidents, military heads of state, including former chief justices of the Supreme Court.
But with the latest passage, the National Assembly may have pegged the wage bill across all categories of workers at N30, 000.