Governors under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors forum have declared that they are not against the upward review of minimum wage. Recall that the Nigeria Labour Congress are proposing N30,000 as the new minimum wage.
Speaking to journalist after the meeting of the NGF on Wednesday night, chairman of the forum, Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari said the issue was not just on agreed figure to be paid by the governors, but the ability or resources to take care of that agreed minimum wage.
According to him, some states are struggling to pay the current N18 thousand naira pointing out that some states are even owing several months of salary arrears.
He said, “like we said we can do minimum wage on any amount we need but the issue is the ability to pay the minimum wage agreed and in the last meeting which the minister of Labour attended with the negotiation committee and also the committee that we also set up.
“We made it clear that we are not against the upward review of salary, we are in tandem with the NLC to get the minimum wage reviewed but the problem we are having is the capacity to pay what is agreed.
“As at today most of the states are struggling to pay the N18 thousand minimum wage. Some states are paying between 35 to 50% of the minimum wage and some states are owing salary arrears.
“If we say we are going to do an upward review of the minimum wage .So, it is not about only reviewing it but how we are going to get the resources to cater for it.”
Yari also stated that the National President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, was invited to brief the Forum on states’ performance in the use of London and Paris Club refunds.
The Federal Government disbursed the fund to states with the condition to use larger percentage of the money to pay workers’ salaries.
“Also sometimes ago London and Paris club refund was paid and part of the agreement was that we will deal with the issues of workers and it was a serious agreement that we signed with the minister of finance and the Federal government that the larger chunk of the money will be channeled to payment of salaries .
“Some states are in the process but one of the conditions critically accepted is to ensure that this funds was utilised according to the agreement.
“We invited the national president of the Nigerian Labour Congress to give us a details on how some states have performed.
“Some states that are not up to date have signed an MOU with the NLC and their representative in states on how they can overcome the issue of salary arrears and that has been done and it will be taken to the CBN so that those states will be paid,” he stated.
Yari also said that the forum received briefing on the forthcoming 24th Nigerian Economic Summit (NES) from Mr Laoye Jaiyeola, the Chief Executive Officer of the NES Group.
“Members commended the group for upholding the public-private dialogue and assured the team of the full participation of states as the summit will help align government policies and programmes with the needs of the private sector.”
Stating that the governors took far reaching decisions on the state of security in the country, Yari said that the decisions would be channeled to the right quarters for appropriate actions.
He noted “The issue of security is not what we will be disclosing in camera. We discussed about security and it’s not something I will come and talk about .We are channeling it to the appropriate quarters for the right action to be taken.
Yari also stated that an update was received from the NGF Secretariat on Polio and Primary Healthcare Under One Roof (PHCUOR).
He said governors expressed commitment to facilitate the development of a minimum package and investment plan for State Primary Healthcare Boards.
According to him, “We deliberated on several issues more especially on primary health care in which some many debates were raised and in health we are talking local governments function to state or federal.
“The governors also made it clear that the primary health care has nothing to do with the national but just domestic issues of the local government and the issues were raised and debated and a memo will be sent to the economic council so that it can be discussed,” Yari added.
Also speaking to reporters after the meeting, Wabba insisted that workers cannot continued to provide services on empty stomach.
He said even though Labour is prepared to dialogue on the minimum wage issue, but there is limit to it.
The NLC boss said: “All through history of minimum wage in Nigeria, it has never been given on a platter of gold.
“We thought the situation has changed, things have improved, and therefore, through collective bargaining and dialogue, we will be able to reach a compromise.
“If we do that, fine and good. Where that is not done, you should also know that no worker can continue to work on an empty stomach. That has been our message.
“We will continue to dialogue but there is also a limit to dialogue.”
Wabba said the challenge in the Nigerian economy especially the eroding of the purchasing power of the worker caused by continuous devaluation of the naira, the exchange rate, the increase in pump price of petrol and electricity tariff, have affected the Nigerian worker.
He observed that by law, the minimum wage ought to have been reviewed as far back as 2016 as previously agreed.
“All these factors put together necessitated the NLC and organized Labour to demand for a new minimum wage which is in tandem with best global practice,” he explained.
“He further stated: What we are telling the Governors is that the minimum wage is due and everybody must be committed to it, committed to it in the sense that every state was given an opportunity to…when the (negotiation) committee finished its work, we wrote individually to the state governments to send in input.
“Twenty one states responded in writing. Some quoted figures, some said, whatever is agreed, they are going to pay. Some have made statements that they are going to pay.
“So, for anybody to come under a platform and say ‘well, we have issue with that,’ I think the best thing is to go back to their states, put your workers together and say ‘I will not be able to pay.’”
“That is what I think is honourable, that is what I think is supposed to be done.”
However, the Labour leader said he pleaded with the governors that they should understand that the workers must earn a living from their salary as they provide critical services in the system.