The minister spoke on Sunday when he featured on the current affairs programme of Channels Television, Sunday Politics.
Workers under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress have called on the state governors to fully implement the N30,000 minimum wage approved by the Federal Government.
The workers, who spoke on Saturday at separate events held across the country to mark the International Workers’ Day, said the new minimum wage was not only their rights, but also non-negotiable.
The anchor, Seun Okinbaloye, who noted that while the move by the House of Representatives to move the issue of minimum wage from the Exclusive legislative list to the Concurrent list was still being debated, asked about the sanctions being proposed for states who have yet to implement the minimum wage.
Ngige said, “Why not? Did you read the Act well? If you read it, you will see the applicability of the Act. The applicability in Section 2 says ‘all parts of the country’…it is there. Section 3 also says (that) ‘N30,000 shall be paid’ – the operating word there is SHALL; it does not give you a room for picking and choosing, it is a must.
“The state governments that are not paying, they are breaching the law of the land. They are breaching the law.”
Responding to a question on what his ministry was doing about non-payment by states, Ngige said, “Don’t worry. You will see what I will do. That is why I said go and read that law.”
The minister added, “This minimum wage is different from a CBA – Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is a national law that says what you will pay…that you will always pay employees – workers – in your establishment. State governments are employers. Private sector people – UAC, banks and the rest if them – are private employers. But all of them are in this basket. They are caught in the web of this law, until it is repealed.
“For today, any state government or employer that goes and renegotiate the minimum wage like some of them are doing; their (labour) unions, they are running afoul of the law.”
Asked again what he was going to do, the minister said, “I’m already negotiating with the Attorney General of the Federation. The law permits me to take them to court. It is there in the law. I can take any employer to court. If governors have immunity (from criminal prosecution), I can decide to start from the Secretary to the State Government, Head of Service and go down to members of the State Executive Council; take them all to court. I can. I don’t need any permission.”