President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the setting up of a Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages to receive complaints and review salaries, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has said.

The President also directed that the negotiations of the implementation of a new national minimum wage should be fast-tracked.

But Ngige, who spoke with the leadership and members of the Labour Correspondents Association of Nigeria in Abuja during a courtesy visit on him, said Buhari was worried about the continued delay in implementing the new minimum wage.

According to him, the continued delay is improper as state governments are waiting for the negotiating team to complete its job to avoid the government having to clear huge arrears after concluding talks on the consequential adjustment.

Ngige said, “The President signed new minimum wage into law in April; it is a pity that after signing it, May came and a lot of us were sent on compulsory leave. We have now come back. If you remember, a committee was set up and I was a member. When we left, the Permanent Secretary took over and negotiated with the JNPSNC (Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council) on the consequential adjustment.

“The states are waiting for that and it is not proper for us not to fast-track the negotiations for the states not to have too much backlog to pay when the consequential adjustment is concluded.

“We have our own budget in the 2019 budget and we are going to also budget for it in the 2020 budget. We are concerned about the states because some of them are not proactive like us. So, the sooner we conclude at the federal levels, and the JNPSNC takes it from there and negotiate with the states, the better for everybody.

“If we spill this into next year, I am not sure how many states will be able to pay the backlog which will lead us to another round of negotiations. It is the determination of the President and this administration to fast-track the negotiations.”

The minister said he had received correspondence from the Chief of Staff to the President “and we are putting a deadline to that negotiations”.

Ngige said unemployment was one of the major reasons for the growing security challenges facing in the country.

However, he said Buhari was committed to generating employment by lifting no fewer than 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.

He said the ministry would come out with programmes to help the government to recreate the middle class which, he said, had vanished.

The minister said, “Even down there at the bottom, you still have people who cannot be compartmentalised into the middle class. Most of what we did in the ministry is to prevent job losses, especially in the oil industry.”

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