Reps move to criminalise late, non-payment of salaries

The House of Representatives on Wednesday began debating a bill seeking to make non-payment or late payment of salaries by employers a criminal offence.

The bill covered both the public and private sectors.

It was sponsored by the Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila.

However, the House stepped down the bill after ta brief debate for further consultations.

This came after some members observed that what the bill sought to achieve was already captured by existing labour laws.

The long title of the bill read, “A Bill for an Act to Prohibition Late Payment, Non-Payment and Under-payment of Workers’ Wages, Pensions and other Emoluments in Nigeria and Prescribe Penalties for Violations and other Related Matters.”

But, earlier, Gbajabiamila defended the bill,saying that news of workers being owed salaries for months was troubling.

He argued that the affected workers were being denied their rights.

He added, “It infringes on the right to life, which is determined by the quality of that life.

“It infringes on the right to dignity because the person goes begging from neighbours, family and friends to feed his children.”

He also noted that the workers lost their self esteem.

Gbajabiamila explained, “It builds resentment. You cannot tell a child who sees the effects of his parents not being paid, to be patriotic.

“It encourages criminality; if we talk about security, we must talk about prompt payment of salaries.”

One member from Ebonyi State, Mr. Linus Okorie, noted that the Minimum Wage Act also took care of the provisions of Gbajabiamila’s bill.

The Chairman, House Committee on Rules/Business, Mr. Orker Jev, shared the same view as Okorie, saying that an option was to amend the the Minimum Wage Act.

The speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, who presided over the session, advised Gbajabiamila to step down the bill, having read the mood of members.

The majority leader reluctantly stepped down the bill, but he agreed to consult further with his colleagues before presenting it again.

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