Members of the House of Representatives yesterday initiated a bill to prescribe punishment for non-payment and late payment of salaries, wages and pensions to workers in the country.
The move was in view of the prevailing issues of employers owing workers several months of wages and salaries.
The sponsored of the bill and House leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila was however persuaded by the House to make amendments to the piece of legislation and re-present it for consideration.
The bill titled “a bill for an act to prohibit late payment, non-payment and under payment of workers’ wages, pension and other related emolument in Nigeria and prescribes penalties for violations and for other matters connected thereto”
When the bill was presented for second reading at yesterdays plenary, the House resolved that since there was an existing minimum wage act, the sponsor should convert it to an amendment to the minimum wage act instead of coming as a fresh law.
Hon Gbajabiamila said, “For years now, we hear of people not paid up to six months but because people have no alternatives, they continue to work. Every worker deserves his wage. By failing to pay workers, life is threatened and quality of life non dignifying and workers turn to beggars.
“Workers cannot acquire and own properties because they were not paid. The security and welfare of people is the primary responsibility of government which includes payment of wages. In Nigeria, we are actually not paying wages, it is illegal as it is immoral. We cannot say that we are fighting corruption when we cannot pay workers a living wage; of course he has to survive.
According to the House leader, none payment of wages leads to poverty, non payment of schools fees, non payment of rent, people even commit suicide because of poverty.
‘If you do not pay somebody his salary, strictly speaking, what you have done is that you have stolen from the person. If you are not able to pay, then you declare bankrupt or insolvency. It is 419, obtain by trick (OBT), to obtain someone service without paying him.
In his contribution, Hon. Linus okorie pointed out that Section 16 (2B) of the 1999 Constitution stressed that the bill runs foul of the spirit of the Constitution, adding that a law cannot be made on salaries and wages as long as minimum wage is still an issue.
However, Hon. Pajok also relying on the same section of the 1999 Constitution, pointed out that the bill seeks to criminalize late payment of salary, without out taking into consideration the fundamental ingredient in the constitution which does not preclude the intention to pay.
The bill seeks to criminalise late payment of salaries and illegal deductions from an employee without consent.
It also advocated that workers must be paid promptly, stressing that employees cannot make arbitrary deductions from employers without his consent.

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