Ahead Jan 8 strike: Govs insist N30, 000 minimum wage not sustainable

The Nigeria Governors Forum, yesterday, reiterated its position on the controversial N30, 000 minimum wage proposal, insisting that it is “neither realistic nor sustainable.”

Rather, the NGF said, states should pay a minimum wage of N22, 500, pointing out however that any state with the capacity to pay more is at liberty to so do.

But the adamant workers are also insisting that it’s either N30, 000 or nothing, threatening that anything short of this would lead to a prolonged strike.

Both the Nigeria Labour Congress and the federal government have been at ‘war’ over a new minimum wage.

While the body and other unions want the current N18, 000 minimum wage jerked up to N30, 000, President Buhari has however remained non-committal.

Rather, President Buhari, during his 2019 budget presentation, hinted of plan to set up a technical committee to review the N30, 000 proposed by a tripartite committee earlier set up by the federal government.

But Labour clearly ruled out any further participation in any form of negotiation, saying all that president needed to do was to forward a bill to the National Assembly on the N30, 000 proposal.

To this end, the NLC has announced that it would call out its members on a one-day warning protest against Buhari’s decision on January 8, 2019.

Govs advance reasons

But in reiterating its position yesterday, the governors described the insinuations by labour that they were unwilling to pay N30, 000 minimum wage, as untrue.

The governors, whose position was contained in a statement by Head, Media and Public Affairs of the NGF, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, explained that the governors were willing to pay, but that the states’ resources were unable to meet the workers’ demand.

The forum said a report; “Minimum Wage: NLC wants governors who diverted bailouts probed”, is an attempt by the NLC leadership to steer the public away from the promise by President Muhammadu Buhari to constitute another committee to review the minimum wage impasse.

According to Bello-Barkindo, the governors have collectively said they would have been happy to pay workers the N30, 000 “but many states cannot afford it due to financial constraints and other limitations.”

Bello-Barkindo said:  “Let it be known that governors have met the president twice on this matter and presented their books to buttress their point. First, a batch of state governors, led by the NGF Chairman, Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar of Zamfara state, in company of Governors  Ambode of Lagos, Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Bagudu of Kebbi attended a closed-door meeting with the president where the financial standing of six states, one each from all the geopolitical regions in the country, were shown to the president.”

At  the president’s instance,  all the states forwarded their books, revenues, both internally generated and their earnings from the federation account along with their other sources of revenue, “for examination, and the president appears satisfied with the governors’ position, thus the decision to set up a new committee.”

He further noted that there was never a time in the country when states embarked on a more aggressive revenue drive than they are doing today, adding that “this is without exception or prejudice to any state.

“The president at his last meeting with governors (December 15, 2018), had admonished them (governors) to expect harsher economic tides from New Year’s, thus validating governors’ fears that even those states that had hitherto looked comfortable financially, may in the course of the new year, falter.”

While saying the governors were not duty bound to open their books to the NLC, the NGF spokesman said, “but they (governors) have, with a view to letting NLC know that what they are asking for is neither realistic nor sustainable.

“Yet, NLC remains adamant that its will must be done, or the heavens will fall. Already, revenue to states has dropped drastically while demands by competing needs keep rising astronomically.

“Last year alone, revenue to states dropped from N800 billion when the Tripartite Committee was appointed (November 2017) to between N500 billion and N600 billion by the time Ms Amma Pepple submitted its report in October 2018.”

Bello-Barkindo further said it will be pretty difficult for state governors to dedicate the states’ entire resources to workers’ salaries alone, “knowing that they constitute less than five per cent of the nation’s population.”

No going back, NLC insists

And from the NLC came a strong charge to workers to brace up and get set for a prolonged industrial action if the minimum wage issue is not resolved in their favour, as recommended by the Tripartite Committee.

NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba made the position known in his New Year massage. He however said the strike was avoidable, if only the government at all levels would do the needful.

Wabba said government’s dilly-dallying on the issue has strained the government -labour relations, with a potential for a major national strike which could just be days away. 

He said: “We would use this opportunity to appeal to the government to do the needful by urgently transmitting the bill on the new national minimum wage to the National Assembly. 

“We also would like to use this same opportunity to urge workers to fully mobilise for a prolonged national strike and enforce their right.  This strike action becomes the inevitable last option for us, and we crave the understanding and support of all Nigerians and businesses. 

“We would want to assure workers that their labour, patience and diligence will not be in vain, and that this leadership remains committed to giving all that it takes to ensure that they get just and fair wages due to them in a decent work environment appropriate to their well-being. This leadership is similarly committed to ensuring there is social protection for workers.”

According the NLC boss, the Congress in 2018 invested in the struggle to protect workers interests, promote democratic values, advocate for the rule of law and defend human cum trade unions’ rights. 

The union, he further said, also sustained the fight against anti-labour practices at the work place, and insisted on the observance of the rules of decent work and fair wages.

 “We kicked against the rising incidence of unemployment, especially, youth unemployment and the danger it portends. We canvassed for the preservation of existing jobs and creation of new sustainable ones through alternative policy options with potential for expanding the economy,” he said.

On general elections

On the February general elections, the labour leader said the Congress would continue to demand for a free, transparent and credible election in the country.

“The Nigeria Labour Congress will continue to insist that our elections are clean. Our focus is particularly centred on the 2019 general election. 

“The Nigeria Labour Congress will continue to demand that both the election umpire and political actors play to the rules of the game by shunning violence, election malpractices, vote buying, manipulation of election rules and politics of bitterness,” the labour leader added.

Wabba also assured that,”we will also deepen our campaign for good governance and fight against corruption, in the same manner that we sustained the campaign for tax justice and illicit financial flows. We also demand that the recovered loot be invested transparently for the benefit of all Nigerians.”

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