Governors under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) yesterday shocked organized labour when they described the N30,000 allegedly approved by President Muhammadu Buhari as the new national minimum wage as impracticable .
Last week, the tripartite committee set up by the federal government to review the minimum wage submitted its report to President Buhari.
The committee recommended N30,000 as the new minimum wage, which the President purportedly approved. But the presidency swiftly refuted the report, saying that Buhari was still studying the proposal and would act accordingly.
On the basis of the deal, Labour shelved it’s planned strike. But on Tuesday, the workers threatened to embark on indefinite strike if the agreement was not implemented.
LEADESHIP had exclusively reported then that the battle for the implementation of the new pay had shifted to the states because they governors had vowed to hold on to the N22,500 they had offered the workers,
In a communique they issued after an emergency meeting last night in Abuja, the governors resolved to set up another committee to meet with the president to work out another new minimum wage.
The governors however gave conditions under which they could consider the new minimum wage as including downsizing their workforce and an upward review of the allocation formula by the federal government.
Members of the committee raised by the NGF to meet with Buhari on the matter are the governors of Lagos, Kebbi, Plateau, Bauchi, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Enugu and Kaduna States.
The communique reads in part: “Following a meeting of the Nigeria Governors Forum where we deliberated on the national minimum wage, governors resolved to restrategise and put together another committee to meet with the president once again to work out another formula.
“Towards quickly resolving the problems associated with the proposed N30,000 minimum wage which is impracticable unless labour agrees to a downsizing of the work force all over the country or the federal government itself accedes to the review of the national revenue allocation formula.”
After the meeting, the chairman of the NGF and Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, said that most of the states lack the capacity to pay the new minimum wage.
According to him, only Lagos can afford to pay N30,000 as minimum wage, pointing out that most states would go bankrupt if they were compelled to pay the new amount.
He lamented that their proposal of N22,500 as the new minimum wage was not considered by the tripartite committee.
Yari said: “We have seen what has been presented to the president by the committee, as a member of the committee the governor said that the panel did not take our submission of N22,500 because it came late.
“I am surprised how you can do this without the input of the states, because the states are the key stakeholders in this business. So the situation whereby our report is not taken or considered by the tripartite committee to present to the president then I don’t know how the committee wants us to work.
“But, we still say we want to pay, the issue is the ability to pay. If we say no, it’s not about the ability to pay, just pay. I don’t know how this formula will work and I don’t know how we can get solution to the issue. N18,000 today, when the president assumed office many states were not able to pay, not that they chose not to pay.
“So, now you say N30,000, how many of them can pay? We will go bankrupt. So, as Nigerians, we should look at the issues seriously. While other people are saying that governors are riding jets and living in affluence, that one is not luxury but compulsory,” he said.
“From our calculation, it is only Lagos State that will be able to pay N30, 000. As Nigerians, this is our country, there is no other country we have and we should be fair to this country.
“As for the way forward, we will continue to talk with labour, let them see reasons why governors have difficulties. For instance the money Lagos State is using to pay is not coming from Abuja.
“They have a way of getting their money from the IGR and that is why they can afford to pay. They get money through VAT. Apart from Lagos, even Rivers State cannot afford the proposed wage. So, we have been crying out about this since 2011, but no one will listen.
“One critical example is that some states ration their salaries while other puts everything they earn on the table and ask labour to suggest how much should go for capital and personnel costs.
“Some say 70% for personnel cost and 30%for capital projects and yet the states cannot pay and they put the remaining as outstanding.
“If you are talking about oil, from last year to date, it is $20 less from $75 to $55. So where is the money to pay?” Yari queried.