Governors of the 36 states of the fededration yesterday agreed on N22,500 as the new minimum wage they can afford to pay workers. Zamfara State governor and chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Abdulaziz Yari, disclosed this after an emergency meeting of the forum in Abuja last night.
The governors are not comfortable with the figure being proposed by the federal government on the ground that some states are still struggling to pay N18,000.
Organised labour are insisting on N30,000, while N24,000 is the figure proposed by the federal government.
The governors last night insisted that the minimum wage must be handled in such a way that total personnel cost does not exceed 50% of the revenue available to each state.
According to Yari, the forum is even more concerned about development, particularly in the health, education and infrastructure spheres.
He said, “Following a meeting of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum where we deliberated on the national minimum wage after a briefing from our representatives at the Tripartite Committee, we submit as follows: the welfare of all Nigerians is our ultimate concern. In all our states, we are concerned about the deteriorating economic situation experienced by the vulnerable segment of our population.
“In agreeing to a national minimum wage however, the Forum is even more concerned about development, particularly in the health, education and infrastructure spheres.
“It is therefore our considered position that since the percentage of salaried workers is not more than 5% of the total working population, our position must not just reflect a figure, but also a sustainable strategy based on ability and capacity to pay, as well as reflective of all our developmental needs in each State”.
Backing the governor’s position with provisions of the law, Yari said, “After all, Section 3 of the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission Act provides that ‘the Commission shall recommend a proposition of income growth which should be initiated for wage increase and also examined the salary structure in public and private sector with reasonable features of relativity and maximum levels which are in consonance with the national economy’.
“It is in this sense that we feel strongly that our acceptable minimum wage must be done in such a way that total personnel cost does not exceed 50% of the revenue available to each state. Governors therefore agreed to pay a national minimum wage of N22,500”.
We Can No Longer Guarantee Industrial Peace, Harmony – Labour
But the Organised Labour yesterday insisted that there is no going back on its planned nationwide strike slated for November 6, warning vehemently that it can no longer guarantee industrial peace and harmony in the country.
The workers also threatened that they will vote out governors who refuse to support the N30, 000 for a new minimum wage.
The workers, during a protest held across the country, insisted that the federal and state governments have the capacity to pay N30,000 as a new minimum wage.
In Abuja, the protesting workers carried placards with inscriptions, ‘No minimum wage, No work from Nov. 6’, ‘minimum wage of N30, 000 not negotiable’, ‘minimum wage will boost Nigerian economy’, ‘no minimum wage, no vote’, ‘upward review of minimum wage will not trigger inflation’, ‘Ngige and governors do not own Nigeria; Nigeria belongs to all workers’, among others.
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Ayuba Wabba, while speaking at the protest rally tagged, `National Day of Mourning and Outrage’, organised by NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC) decried what he said is a deliberate manipulation and bending of facts in an attempt to delay or derail the processes needed to promulgate a new National Minimum Wage Act.
“We call on the federal government to take necessary steps to ensure the enactment of a new national minimum wage act as we cannot guarantee industrial peace and harmony,” he declared.
Wabba explained that the new national minimum wage was both legally and materially due since 2016, saying “the Minimum Wage Act prescribes a five-yearly cycle of review.”
He also said that coupled with the delay, the increase in the pump price of petroleum products by over 85 per cent and the devaluation of the Naira by 100 per cent in 2016, have massively affected the cost of living.
According to him, the exchange rate and inflation rose to an all-time high, rendering the N18, 000 unjustifiable as basis for continued national minimum wage.
“Given the realities of our economic condition, the least any worker should earn is N30, 000,” he added.
Also, TUC president, Mr Bobboi Kaigama, said implementation of the national minimum wage is imperative, as workers in the country are faced with hard times.
Kaigama called on the federal and state governments to do the needful as N30, 000 was not too much for them to pay workers as minimum wage.
He said, “They cannot say they do not have money; the political office holders have the money and also the government. We also know how much they are putting into politics and the forthcoming general election.
“Workers are not slaves but rather they create the wealth of the nation, they cannot continue to suffer. After all the minimum wage is long overdue”.
The organised labour had threatened to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike with effect from November 6, unless the government accepts and commences the payment of the negotiated N30, 000.
They noted that the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage had since completed its assignment for onward submission of its report to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, had said that the tripartite committee on new national minimum wage was yet to conclude negotiation on the agreed figure.
However, the federal government is offering N24, 700, while the state governors settled for N22,500 as minimum wage yesterday.
Meanwhile, in Lagos, the organised Labour yesterday held a national mourning day to sentise Nigerians ahead of the nationwide strike slated to hold on November 6.
Addressing newsmen, deputy president of NLC, Comrade Amechi Asugwuni, told Nigerians to stock up food items in the house ahead of the nationwide strike.
According to him, the struggle is to defend the people and the mourning day is to sensitise Nigerians to stock up food in their houses because once the strike commences, there is no going back except government agrees to their terms and conditions.
The Organized Labour Leaders in Ondo State yesterday took to the streets to join their counterparts across the nation to sensitize the workers over impending nationwide strike.
The labour leaders who marched on the popular Oba Adesida streets of Akure, the state capital, said that public workers are not happy about the refusal of government to implement the new minimum wage.
They demanded for the sack of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Ngige, whom they accused of not being sensitive to the plights of the Nigerian workers on the new minimum wage.
The labour leaders accused Ngige of playing politics with the destinies of workers on the issue of the new minimum wage, even as they tagged him an anti-workers Minister of labour.
Many of them noted that for backtracking on agreement reached with the organised labour leaders shortly after a closed-door meeting held in Abuja on the new wage, Ngige is not fit to be Minister of Labour.