Chris Steven, Abuja
Minister of Labour and Employment,Chris Ngige on Tuesday,wrote off agitations over the national minimum wage,saying the National Assembly was the only constitutional body empowered to alter its implementation.
He said despite the lean resources available to the federal government,it was not contemplating reducing the N18,000 minimum wage.
He made this clarification,when the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC)led by comrade Ayuba Wabba paid him a courtesy visit.
“When I hear of such agitations between the governors saying they can’t pay the N18,000 minimum wage and Nigeria Labour Congress says you must pay,we see these arguments as hitting up the polity.
“These governors are also playing politics but this is one matter they cannot play politics with because it bothers on rule of law. The National Assembly derives the power to enact laws through the exclusive legislative list,this gives the National Assembly right to make laws for the country,including the national minimum wage.
“So anybody who want to talk or argue about the minimum wage should go to the National Assembly,so let us leave the sleeping dog to lie on this matter,the country is already passing through a difficult time which requires the cooperation of all citizens,”Ngige said.
While commenting on the 2016 budget,recently presented before the National Assembly by the Presidency,he said government intentionally earmarked N500billion to out of the N6.08trillion overall budget to tackle issues of poverty and mass unemployment.
He explained that one means through which government intends to tackle unemployment is conversion of graduates from other disciplines into teaching profession.
Moreover, Ngige said steps are on to withdraw some bills passed to the 7th National Assembly for review.
He said there was need to review and inject fresh ideas into the bill as most of them were practically obsolete.
The minister however noted that such review will start from the expatriate quota system.
“That people are jobless does not mean that you should under-employ them,we that are at the helm of affairs will do everything to protect Nigerian workers. The situation of trying to make Nigerians second class citizens in their own country will be resisted,”he stated.