The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) which saw the 36 states governors at a meeting yesterday at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja said that dwindling prices of oil has affected their states income thereby making it difficult to pay the N18,000 minimum wage that was signed into law in March 2011 by former President Goodluck Jonathan saying that it was easier to pay the minimum wage when oil sold at $126 as against the current $41 per barrel.
Reading the communique issued at the end of the meeting, Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari said:
We resolved that we must look at ways to enhance revenue generation and at the same time look at ways to cut our overhead costs, especially the political office holders’ salaries and other overhead expenses.
The situation is no longer the same when we were asked to pay N18,000 minimum wage, when oil price was $126 (per barrel) and we continued paying N18,000 minimum wage when the oil price is $41, while the source of government expenditure is from oil, and we have not seen prospects in the oil industry in the near future.
We will diversify our economy in the area of agriculture and mining. But at the same time, we should understand our situation where some of us (states) today are taking N100 million as monthly allocation and then have salaries of over N2 billion to pay.
We, therefore, agreed here to take this suggestion to NEC in our meeting today (yesterday) so that we can find ways to tackle this problem.
We are also looking at coming together to have discussions with Mr. President and his team, technocrats and experts in the economy to see how we can tackle this problem. We are working harder to deal with it.
However in their reaction, leaders of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) warned that if the governors wanted workers to shut down the nation because of the issue, workers would gladly do so, saying “the governors should not think the Nigerian workers do not have the capacity to retrench them.”
Factional President of NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, said:
We reject it totally. Nigerian workers will never accept it. We all know that it is a reality that N18,000 can no longer take the workers home and cannot sustain any family. Many countries are reviewing their minimum wage upwards to meet the current realities. In Nigeria, there is even greater need to increase the minimum wage because our currency had been devalued; inflation keeps rising among others.
What is the relation of the Nigerian currency to the Dollar or what is value of the N18,000 to the Dollar? We are going to reject the move with all our might. We are not the cause of the problem. They should think out of the box to find solution to the problem. When there was excess crude money, the workers did not benefit and so, we cannot bear the brunt. If the governors want us to close down the country, we will do that.
What about their outrageous salaries, bloated overhead cost, inflated contracts and others? NLC is meeting tomorrow (today) on the organ of the Central Working Committee, CWC. This issue is going to feature prominently and we are going to come with a strong statement on it. Obviously we cannot bear the brunt. They governors should think how to generate revenue instead of depending on oil money and allocation from Abuja.
The governors should know that the N18,000 minimum wage was not just negotiated, it was a product of a tripartite process involving the governors, employers and organised labour. It passed through the National Assembly before former President Jonathan signed it into law. If any party wants to breach or renege on such agreement, they should be prepared for the consequences.
We know there are challenges, but the governors should face reality. The problem is the cost of governance and too many frivolities. Today, with crazy bills from electricity providers, increase in fuel price, school fees, hospital bills, and other utilities, N18,000 cannot take any worker to the bus stop. We want to know their salaries as approved by the Revenue and Fiscal Mobilisation Commission, that of their commissioners, advisers and others, their security votes and others.