The moves by the Federal Government and the organised labour to finalise the new minimum wage issue this month face yet another crisis.
Sources at the National Assembly told The PUNCH on Sunday that the legislature plans to go on another recess ahead of the presentation of an executive bill on a new minimum wage by the presidency, which is one of the agreements reached between the government and the worker unions.
The National Assembly is on Christmas and New Year recess and will resume on Tuesday.
While the Presidency plans to transmit National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Bill to the National Assembly on January 23, sources in the leadership of the National Assembly told a correspondent that the lawmakers might go on another recess by January 24.
He said, “The lawmakers will close on that day to allow members to participate in electioneering, ahead of general elections which will begin in February.”
The Federal Government and the organised labour had on Tuesday reached an agreement that the Presidency would send the minimum wage bill to the National Assembly after their meetings.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, who presided over the meeting, had assured the labour leaders that the Federal Government would send the bill to the National Assembly on January 23, after the lawmakers’ resumption from their Yuletide recess.
Barring any change of plan, both chambers of the National Assembly are expected to adjourn plenary after five sittings. The PUNCH gathered that they would hold plenary on Wednesday, January 16, and Thursday, January 17, before adjourning till Tuesday, January 22.
Upon resumption on January 22, the lawmakers plan to sit on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before proceeding on a three-week break to enable most of them to participate in their re-election campaigns.
Speaking with a correspondent, a National Assembly source said, “That (January) 23 they said they would transmit the bill to the National Assembly, the National Assembly might have embarked on recess again for the elections. And they know that the lawmakers will not resume until after the elections. They know what they are doing.
“We will go (on recess) between this week and next week. We will go by Thursday (January 24). Our (presidential, Senate and House of Representatives) election is on the 16th (of February), so we have less than one month (to campaign). Why can’t they transmit the bill on Tuesday when we will resume?”
When contacted for his comment, Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas, said work would continue on legislative activities except when the lawmakers were on recess.
Speaking on the readiness of the lawmakers to expedite work on the bill, Namdas said, “It is a priority; once it is brought (to the legislature) by the executive, we will consider it as a matter of priority.”
Asked if the lawmakers would have enough time to work on the bill scheduled for presentation on January 23 and pass it before the elections, Namdas said, “The entire House can never close. Once the House is in session, whether there is election or anything, some people will remain. There will always be people in the House, and once they form a quorum, they can continue to work.
“I can assure you we will always have that quorum to consider legislative matters like the minimum wage, (2019) budget and other issues.”
When reminded that the National Assembly was scheduled to go on recess latest by January 24, the lawmaker said, “A bill cannot be passed in one day, it can never be passed. Let them bring the bill first. I think we have to get to the river before we cross it.”
Also speaking, the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Mr Chukwuka Onyema, said, “When we resume on Tuesday, it will be thrown to the open. If it is about time, we will thrash it out.”
When reminded that the National Assembly might go on recess on January 24, he said, “They said they are bringing it on the 23rd and we are resuming this week. When we resume work, we will know what to do.”
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, had said the National Assembly could pass the wage bill within one week, only if it was transmitted by the Presidency to the legislature by Tuesday.
Saraki’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Yusuph Olaniyonu, who spoke to The PUNCH on his behalf, had said the bill could be passed before the lawmakers go on another recess.
“The Federal Government should not wait until 23rd January before bringing it. They should bring it on the first day of resumption. If they do so, by the 17th or 18th, work will be concluded on it – within the week,” he had said.
Following the agreements reached with the Federal Government, the President of Trade Union Congress, Kaigama Bobboi, had warned that if the Federal Government reneged on the date it promised to transmit the bill to the National Assembly, labour would take action without any warning.
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, who observed that workers had been patient with government for more than two years, had said, “The National Assembly will be back on January 16 from their recess; so on or before January 23, the bill must have been transmitted.
“We will shift our lobby to the National Assembly because once the bill is enacted; the money will be in the pocket of workers. We are tired of stories and that is why we insisted on a timeline.”