Just a few weeks after the last nationwide strike, signs of more public disorder are currently hovering as federal and state governments apply tactical delay to forestall the implementation of new minimum wage anytime soon. NFG reports reports
In the last two weeks, developments around clamour for a new minimum wage appear to have finally put paid to an early implementation.
Just while organised labour was still trying to fathom Federal Government’s stance on the report it received from the Tripartite Committee on New Minimum Wage, the governors also made it clear that they would have nothing to do with the N30,000 proposed in the report.
Waiting on FG
Till date, the Federal Government is yet to take a definite position on the report as there were series of denials on its part that it had agreed to pay the proposed wage.
The Presidency was emphatic enough when it said accepting the document did not automatically translated to an agreement to pay the amount. Even while the Federal Government is yet to sort itself out in this regard, the state governor, who are insisting on paying nothing more than N24,000, raised a committee to dialogue with the president.
As it is at the moment, the battle appears to have shifted from the Federal Government to the governors as labour is insisting that the amount so proposed must be paid by the states.
Irrespective of the fact that not less than 25 states are struggling to pay the current N18,000 minimum wage, with most of them owing backlog of salaries, labour’s belief is that the states have enough resources to meet the new wage if only the governors are creative enough to boost their internally generated revenue as well as cut down on executive overheads and other financial recklessness.
As the governors threaten to downsize workforce to enable them pay the new wage, a new dimension was again introduced into the whole process with labour girding its loins to do battle with them.
The Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Alhaji Abdul’aziz Yari, reportedly made it clear after an emergency meeting in Abuja that payment of N30, 000 wage was impracticable.
Yari, however, said the proposed wage would be paid if labour would agree to downsizing of the workforce across the country “or Federal Government itself accedes to the review of the national revenue allocation formula.”
He was particularly bitter that the Tripartite Committee tactically excluded the governors’ submission of N22, 500 in its proposal to the president.
“A situation where our report was not taken or considered by the tripartite committee in the presentation to the president, then, I don’t know how the committee wants us to work.
“We still said that we want to pay but the issue is the ability to pay. If we say no, just pay, I don’t know how this formula will work and I don’t know how we can get solution to the issue.
“Today it is N18, 000. In 2015 when the president assumed office, 27 states were not able to pay, not that they chose not to pay. Now you say N30, 000, how many of us can pay? We will be bankrupt. So as Nigerians, we should look at the issues seriously,” he said.
Although the governor promised continued dialogue with labour, the latter appears not to be prepared for anything short of implementing the new wage as soon as possible.
Corroborating this position, the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama and the Secretary-General of the Association of Senior Civil Servant of Nigeria (ASCSN), Comrade Bashir Lawal, warned that labour would not accept anything less than the N30,000 agreed by the Committee.
Kaigama stressed the urgent need to fast-track the implementation of the newly agreed national minimum wage, saying that the expectation of labour was that the full implementation of the N30,000 new minimum wage should not exceed December.
Though Kaigama stated that he would not pre-empt President Buhari that the N30,000 agreed through the process of tripartite negotiation could be reduced, but he quickly warned that the consequences of reducing or delaying its implementation would be very devastating.
He said: “The Federal Government is advised to avoid any action that can delay or truncate the process of enacting the new Minimum Wage Act as the consequences of allowing that to happen can be very devastating.”
According to Kaigama: “It is worthy of note that the single most important issue agitating the mind of an average Nigerian worker today is that of the new National Minimum Wage, the report of which was presented to Mr President on Tuesday 6th November 2018. It is apt to state that against all odds the Tripartite Committee that negotiated the new Minimum Wage was able to scale all hurdles and agreed to the sum of N30,000 as the new Minimum wage for the country.
“It is on this premise that I strongly want to appeal to the Federal Government to fast-track the process of enacting the new National Minimum Wage into law.
“Our expectation is that the government should be able to complete the entire process before the end of this year so that workers who have waited for so long can begin to enjoy a new lease of life provided by the newly agreed minimum wage.”
In an attempt to find a common ground to the issue, the NGF raised a committee comprising governors of Lagos, Kebbi, Plateau, Bauchi, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Enugu, Kaduna and Zamfara states to meet with the president.
The meeting, however, ended in a stalemate as the both parties were unable to resolve the issues. This came even while the Federal Government is yet to take a clear position on its readiness to pay the proposed N30,000.
From the look of things, neither the Federal Government nor states are prepared in any way to fully implement the new wage anytime soon.
While it has become very necessary for states to review what they have been paying workers, it is also expedient for labour to tow the path of wisdom by not imposing what is not immediately implementable on the governors, considering the fact that some of them are already owe what they are not even prepared to pay anytime soon.