GOVERNOR Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, yesterday, disagreed with other governors of the country on the ability of the states to pay the N18,000 minimum wage, saying they must pay.
Recalling that the minimum wage was agreed between the Federal Government and the organised labour by the previous administration, Oshiomhole told the governors and other elected political office holders that democracy cannot be run at their comfort and convenience.
Oshiomhole spoke as the leader of the Northern Elders’ Forum, Prof Ango Abdullahi, blasted governors for claiming that they are broke and can no longer pay workers the minimum wage and as factional presidents of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrades Ayuba Wabba and Joe Ajaero,yesterday, attended the first Central Working Committee ,CWC, meeting organised by labour veterans and stakeholders to resolve the crisis that brought division among labour leaders after its election about six months ago.
Democracy can’t be run at govs, others’ comfort
Speaking at the meeting held at the Labour House, Abuja, Governor Oshiomhole said nobody would question the wisdom behind the payment of minimum wage to workers in the country as it was not imposed on the government, rather it was a product of agreement between government and labour.
His words: “I am a labour man, I have been clear with my colleagues in seeking to find solution to the problem we face. We have to be holistic, we cannot at one hand question the wisdom behind the national minimum wage. I joined the NLC to protest to the National Assembly when they were going to amend the constitution to make the minimum wage a concurrent issue.
“I said workers have a stake in this democracy. They are the ones who could afford to march the streets and they march the streets for democracy. Democracy doesn’t have to run at the comfort or convenience of governors, ministers, and presidents.
“I believe that the issue in the economy hasn’t got to do with minimum wage. I have always also reminded my colleagues that the minimum wage was not imposed, it was negotiated and state governments agreed to it, the president signed it not under duress, there was no strike to compel the then president to sign it, he signed it voluntarily.
“I believe when you look at the minimum wage, as it is today at N18,000, it is less than 100 dollars. I think it is now about eighty dollars. Now, divide eighty dollars by 31 days, you will be getting about two point something dollars.
“Now we cannot argue that workers in Nigeria formal sector should not earn more than two dollars a day, I cannot subscribe to that because the heart of governance is the welfare of the people.”
Economic challenges not enough to reduce workers’ pay
Noting that there were some economic challenges confronting the country, he said it was not enough for governors to start to tamper with an agreement the organised labour entered with government.
“Let me also say that I acknowledge that there are huge issues with the economy, there are huge issues about management capacity and I have been loud about the massive abuse and the looting of our common patrimony. My only complain is that the NLC voice was not loud when it matters, when the looting was going on, there was what I can call a criminal silence by the NLC. When the CBN governor raised the alarm, the NLC would have risen as a partner and I have always warned that the consequences of what the big people would do, will always fall on the small people.
“It is NLC business to interrogate every policy that will have immediate or long time consequences. What we have now is the medium term consequences of the massive looting and the gross mismanagement of our economy at the time when the oil peaked at $108, now at under $50, we are suffering a huge drop of 50 percent of national revenue and with a huge debt profile.
“So, on the one hand, you are looking for huge resources to settle debts incurred even in the midst of plenty and having to grapple with basic needs at the moment when oil prices have crashed. For me even if you abolish wages, it will not automatically translate to solutions.”
Wabba, Ajaero speak, vow to ask for pay raise
Also speaking after the CWC meeting, Comrade Wabba rejected the governors position, saying: ”We reject in its entirety, Nigerian workers will not take it lightly. We are not the problem, rather we are the solution. The problem is that they have not been able to reduce the cost of governance. They should go and reduce their security votes. Let them also cut down on the number of their entourages. They must also be accountable to the citizens that voted them into power. We are going to resist any attempt to tamper with the payment under any guise.
“Let them also note that the N18,000 was not allocated, it was negotiated through a tripartite process and it is a product of law that is even due for review. We are going to champion the review.
“Let us also put them on notice, if attempt is made to reduce, review or do anything outside the legal minimum of N18,000, which cannot even take us home, we are going to resist it. Nigerian workers will be mobilise to resist.”
On his part, Ajaero, who also said that efforts had gone far to resolve the crisis in the union, also noted that the organised labour would not allow the governors to toil with the welfare of workers.
He said that NLC would ensure that the governors comply with the agreement entered into with government even as he acknowledged that with more efforts in the process of resolving the crisis in NLC, they will be able to consummate their discussion.
Apologise to workers, reduce your pay by 50%, Ango Abdullahi tells govs
Backing the workers, Prof Ango Abdullahi asked any of the governors who cannot pay the minimum wage to resign and pave the way for those who can do so in the interest of Nigerian workers.
In a chat with Saturday Vanguard, yesterday, Prof Abdullahi described the governors’ claim as irresponsible, insensitive, embarrassing and unacceptable to Nigerians given the huge amount they and their retinue of aides pocket monthly.
The former Ahmadu Bello University Vice Chancellor noted with displeasure that governors, who were taking billions of Naira monthly under the guise of security votes, which they don’t account for, could wickedly refuse to pay their workers a worthless minimum wage of N18,000 monthly.
He said any governor who does not resign but continues to stay in office while claiming inability to pay the minimum wage should not be taken seriously by the Nigerian workers.
“If certain political appointees of the governors take home at N1 million monthly, how can the same governors not be able to pay as little as N18,000 to each worker who works daily for the state?” he asked.
Abdullahi, who was Obasanjo’s Special Adviser on Food Security, asked the 36 governors to reduce their earnings by 50 percent so as to leave more money available for their states.