From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The House of Representatives, yesterday, passed for second reading a bill seeking to move issues relating to the minimum wage to the concurrent legislative list.
The bill is sponsored by Garba Datti Muhammed and seeks to alter the 1999 Constitution ( as amended) on issues relating to minimum wage.
The proposed legislation, if eventually passed into law, would empower each state of the federation to fix their own minimum wage , against the current practice, in which only the National Assembly can legislate on the matter.
Muhammed in his lead debate said the bill was necessary owing to the controversy that usually trailed the national minimum wage.
The lawmaker, who said the proposed legislation was in line with the growing demand for the devolution of power in the country, noted that it would afford states the opportunity to negotiate directly with labour unions on what they could afford to pay as minimum wage to workers.
Muhammed, while canvasing support for the bill, noted that the current position where only the National Assembly can legislate on minimum wage is not the best for the country.
However, the proposed legislation generated diverse reactions in the House, with lawmakers in support arguing that is in line with the quest for true federalism in the country.
On the flip-side those opposed to the bill argued that it would put workers at the mercy of state governors. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, while speaking in favour of the bill, stated that there was no need for anyone to pretend that all the states are equal, in terms of financial capabilities.
Deputy speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase, however,dismissed the legislation as anti-people and called on the House to reject it.
“This bill is anti masses and should not be allowed to pass. The welfare of our citizens is very important. We are not yet there, to ask states to go and decide the minimum wage,” Wase said.