The Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF on Thursday said it was not opposed to new minimum wage for workers in the country.
After their meeting in Abuja Thursday, the governors though agreed that the Organised Labour was right to agitate for salary increase, but raised the concern on the ability to implement it and pay, adding that the problem was not just about agreeing to a figure, but the availability of resources to meet up with the commitment.
Speaking to Journalists after the meeting in Abuja, governor of Zamfara State and Chairman of NGF, Abdulaziz Yari stressed that with the present minimum wage at N18,000, many states were struggling to pay with some of them already hugely indebted. The Organized Labour is asking for N30,000 whereas the government is offering N24,000. Yari said: “Like we said, we can do minimum wage on any amount we need but the issue is the ability to pay the minimum wage agreed in the last meeting which the Minister of Labour attended with the negotiation committee and also the committe that we also set up. “We made it clear that we are not against the upward review of salary, we are in tandem with the NLC to get the minimum wage reviewed but the problem we are having is the capacity to pay what is agreed . “As at today, most of the states are struggling to pay the N18,000 minimum wage. Some states are paying between 35 to 50 per cent of the minimum wage and some states are owing salary arears. “If we say we are going to do an upward review of the minimum wage, it is not about only reviewing it but how we are going to get the resources to cater for it.”
Meanwhile, the National President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, was invited to brief the Forum on states’ performance in the use of London and Paris Club refunds.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government disbursed the fund to states with the condition to use larger percentage of the money to pay workers’ salaries. Speaking further, Yari said, “Also, sometimes ago, London and Paris Club refund was paid and part of the agreement was that we will deal with the issues of workers and it was a serious agreement that we signed with the Minister of Finance and the Federal government that the larger chunk of the money will be channeled to payment of salaries . “Some states are in the process but one of the conditions critically accepted is to ensure that this funds was utilised acccording to the agreement. “We invited the National President of the Nigerian Labour Congress to give us a details on how some states have performed.
Some states that are not up to date have signed an MOU with the NLC and their representatives in states on how they can overcome the issue of salary arears and that has been done and it will be taken to the CBN so that those states will be paid.” Also speaking to reporters after the meeting, Wabba who insisted that workers cannot continue to provide services on empty stomach, said that even though Labour was prepared to dialogue on the minimum wage issue, but there is limit to it. Wabba said: “All through history of minimum wage in Nigeria, it has never been given on a platter of gold. We thought the situation has changed, things have improved, and therefore, through collective bargaining and dialogue, we will be able to reach a compromise.