Recently, the Honourable member representing the good people Of Sabon Gari Federal Constituency Kaduna State proposed the Constitution Alteration Bill seeking to transfer the subject matter of minimum wage prescription from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List set out under the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Expatiating on the importance of the bill during the plenary session of Tuesday, 22 February 2021, Hon. Garba Datti Muhammad who represents Kaduna South Constituency under the platform of the APC explained that the Bill aims to amend both the Exclusive Legislative List by deleting the words “ prescribing a national minimum wage for the Federation or any part thereof” under Item 34 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and inserting a new paragraph 21 and 22 into the Concurrent Legislative List such that the legislative power over the prescription of a minimum wage becomes a concurrent power shared between the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly.
Hon. Muhammad in his submissions, noted that every attempt to provide a minimum wage has been saddled with oppositions and controversies by several States citing unavailability of funds to pay the prescribed amount. He stated that the Bill will provide for the decentralisation of minimum wages on the basis of the socio-economic variables across different States and allow for negotiations of a minimum wage that is reasonable to the specific circumstance of the State.
This includes local peculiarities such as differences in the cost of food, housing, education, health, transportation etc.
Hon. Muhammad stated that the Bill if passed, will bring Nigeria closer to achieving true federalism by devolving powers to the States. Unfortunately, Hon. Muhammad’s well articulated and intended proposal was misconstrued by a section of Nigerians who felt that the proposal was anti workers.
The most bizarre thing is that most of those who swiftly condemned Hon. Muhammad and his proposal neither identified the error in his proposal nor came up with superior arguments and facts to counter those adumberated by him which propelled him to come up with his proposal.
Anyone who had followed the too many confrontations that had ensued between different state labour unions and the state governments in the course of negotiating the implementation of every minimum wage would have every reason to agree with Honourable Muhammad’s intervention.
The erudite Kaduna lawmaker who has consistently shown uncompromised pro people passion in the representation of his constituents and defence of Nigerians at the floor of the National Assembly clearly understands that every good policy that is devoid of implementation is useless, and amounts to a waste of precious energy, time and resources, hence his desire to ensure that the issue of minimum wage is handled in a manner and at a level where implementation would cease to be a problem.
He understands that the only way an effective implementation of every minimum wage initiated by the government could be achieved is if there’s a holistic deliberation involving the national assembly and states through their state assemblies, and by so doing, no state government would have the grounds to renege or refuse to pay after its state assembly must have been part of the deliberation that gave room for minimum wage increase.
The real business of law making is not for indecisive persons, but for courageous minds who are ready to stand up for what is right even if they are standing alone. Honourable Muhammad could have chosen the path of political correctness and refused to come up with the proposal since he’s not a civil servant and thus stands to make no personal profit should the proposal go through, but as a patriot who desires to play critical roles that could see to the end of the reoccurring industrial disputes witnessed across the 36 states of the federation over the implementation of every minimum wage, he felt the need to act.
If labour unions could be going back to negotiate minimum wage implementation with their various state governments even after the passage of every minimum wage bill by the national assembly, then it makes no sense to object or criticize Honourable Muhammad’s proposal which seeks to create room for accelerated implementation and end industrial disputes that most times cripple economic activities.
To understand Hon. Muhammad’s altruistic and thoughtful intervention on the minimum wage issue, we must take away emotionsj and sentiments and look at the long term benefits that could come out of his proposal if passed into law and implemented.
A Public Affairs Commentator
Writes from Owerri.