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Friday, 20 November 2015

We can no Longer Pay N18,000 Minimum Wage-Governors Insist

The 36 state governors have said that they can no longer pay the N18,000 minimum wage that was signed into law in March 2011 by former President Goodluck Jonathan, owing to the poor state of the economy. Organised labour in its immediate reaction, however, kicked against the governors’ stance, saying workers are ready to shut down the country, if the governors push them into it.

Rising from a crucial meeting that ended at the early hours of yesterday, at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja under the umbrella of Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, the governors said that dwindling prices of oil had drastically affected their states’ income.

Specifically, they said that the burden of the wage was lighter when oil sold at $126 as against the current $41 per barrel.

They, therefore, sought audience with President Muhammadu Buhari on the economy, resolving that the only way out of the quagmire was to diversify the economy towards agriculture and mining.

Reading the communique issued at the end of the meeting, Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari hinted that the Forum also backed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over the N1.4 trillion sanction  on MTN.

According to him, the governors agreed that the fine must be paid in full.

He explained that they received briefing from the Acting Executive Vice-Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NCC, Professor Umar Dambata who explained the matter to them.

He 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.

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.”

President of NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, while insisting that Nigerian workers totally reject the governors’ position, warned that if the governors wanted organised labour to close down the country, labour was ready to do so. He confirmed that the NLC would be meeting today on the platform of the Central Working Committee, CWC, and the issue would feature prominently after which a statement would be released.

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.

“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.


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