The 36 state governors of the federation has said they can’t pay the 30,000 minimum wage mandated by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), for fear of running into bankruptcy.
The governors spoke after a meeting of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) in Abuja.
Recall that labour had insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari should uphold the N30,000 minimum wage it proposed and pushed through with the Tripartite Committee.
The committee however submitted its report last week to the President.
Meanwhile, the governors gave two conditions for paying the 30,000 minimum wage:
•the revenue formula should be reviewed to give more money to the states from the Federation Account, and
- labour should agree to downsizing of the workforce.
The governors have also raised a panel of eight to meet with President Buhari next week on its misgivings.
The President will need to take the N30,000 proposal before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the Council of State before sending a Bill to the National Assembly for a new minimum wage.
Governors of Lagos, Kebbi, Plateau, Bauchi, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Enugu and Kaduna are in the panel to meet with the president.
NGR Chairman Abdul’aziz Yari (Zamfara State) was sad that the N22,500 proposed by the states was not considered by the Ama Pepple-led tripartite panel.
Yari said: “We have seen what has been presented to the President by the committee. As a member of the committee, the Kebbi Governor (Atiku Bagudu) said the committee did not take our submission of N22,500 because it came late.
“I am surprised how you can do this without the input of the states, because the states are the key stakeholders in this business. So, a situation whereby our report is not taken or considered by the tripartite committee to present to the President then I don’t know how the committee wants us to work.
“But we still say we want to pay but the issue is the ability to pay. If we say ‘no’, it is about the ability to pay, just pay. I don’t know how this formula will come and I don’t know how we can get solution to the issue.
“The N18,000 today, when the President assumed office, 27 states were not able to pay, not that they chose not to pay. So, now that you say N30,000, how many of them can pay? We will be bankrupt. So, as Nigerians, we should look at the issue seriously.
“While other people are saying that governors are flying private jets and living in affluence, that one is not luxury but compulsory.
“The issue of government overhead cost, if you put it together with personnel cost, it cannot solve this problem. Like Lagos that is paying about N7 billion as salaries, if you say it should pay N30,000, it will now be paying N13 billion. From our calculation, it is only Lagos State that will be able to pay N30,000. “As Nigerians, this is our country; there is no other country we have and we should be fair to this country.”
On the way forward, Yari said: “We will continue to talk with Labour; let them see reasons why governors have difficulties. Some of us have Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). For instance, the money Lagos State is using to pay is not coming from Abuja. They have a way of getting their money from the IGR and that is why they can afford to pay.
“They get money through VAT. Apart from Lagos, even Rivers cannot afford to pay. So we have been crying out about this since 2011 but no one will listen.
“One critical example is that some states ration their salaries while some others put everything they earn on the table and ask labour to come and see and they ask them to suggest how much should go for capital and personnel cost.
“Some pay 70 per cent as personnel cost and 30 per cent for capital projects and yet the states cannot pay and they put the remaining as outstanding.
“If you are talking about oil, the price is not what it used to be; from last year to date, it is $20 less from $75 to $55. So where is the money to pay?
“We should not exploit this matter further. We are leaders today, tomorrow others will be there. So, let us look at this matter seriously to see how we can do it properly. It is our primary responsibility to see that everybody is happy.”
Yari went on: “It is the same labour that is pushing for the N30,000 that will still turn around to say that the governors did not do any infrastructure and how are we going to achieve that by paying only salaries?”
The Federal Government takes 52.68 per cent of the federation account revenue; the states 26.70 per cent and the local governments 20.60 per cent.