Labour yesterday told workers to brace for a prolonged strike over the new minimum wage.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum has accused Labour of mischief on its claim that governors are unwilling to pay the least worker N30,000.
Labour is insisting on N30, 000, saying the states could pay with effective management of resources. The Federal Government is proposing N24,000.
But the NGF described as mischievous and misleading, Labour’s claim that the governors were not willing to pay N30, 000.
The Nigerians Labour Congress (NLC) urged its members to get set for a prolonged strike to force the government to accede to their demand.
The NGF Head, Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, reacting to a report quoting the NLC Secretary-General, Peter Ozo-Eson on the minimum wage, said the NLC’s demand for governors’ probe on alleged diversion of bailout funds was needless, describing it as an attempt to steer the public away from the promise by President Muhammadu Buhari to constitute another committee to review the minimum wage impasse.
It warned NLC against pitting the workers against the governors.
The NGF stressed that the N22,500 offer was arrived at after extensive deliberations among the 36 governors, considering the country’s economic situation and the states’ other obligations to the majority of the people of their various domains.
The forum claimed that the governors were guided by the report of the tripartite committee set up by the President.
The statement reads: “Governors have collectively made it abundantly clear that they would have been happy to pay workers the N30, 000, but times are hard and because of financial constraints and other limitations, many states cannot afford it for now.
“The NGF had offered workers a token increment to the sum of N22, 500 from the current N18, 000 after the submission of the report of the tripartite committee set up by the President and headed by a retired Head of Service, Ms. Amma Pepple, on October 6th.
“Governors also emphasised that N22, 500 is a ‘baseline threshold’, meaning that any governor, who can pay more than N22, 500 is, therefore, free to go ahead and do so.
“Let it be known that governors have met the President twice on this matter and presented their books to buttress their point. First, a batch of state governors, led by the NGF Chairman, Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar of Zamfara State, in company of Governors Ambode of Lagos, Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) attended a closed door meeting with the President, where the financial standing of six states, one each from all the geo-political regions in the country, were shown to the President, after which, on Mr. President’s request, all the states forwarded their books, their revenues, both internally generated and their earnings from the Federation Account along with their other sources of revenue for examination. The president appears satisfied with the governors’ position, thus the decision to set up a new committee.”
The NGF added: “It is important to add that there has never been a time in this country, when states have embarked on a more aggressive revenue drive than they are doing today. And this is without exception or prejudice to any state.
“To put the records straight, governors are not under any obligation, by law, to show their books to the NLC. But they have, in their pursuit of the understanding of the union, done so, not once, but several times over, with a view to letting NLC know that what they are asking for is neither realistic nor sustainable. Yet, NLC remains adamant that its will must be done, or the heavens will fall.
“The President, at his last meeting with governors on December 15, 2018, admonished them (governors) to expect harsher economic tides from New Year’s, thus validating governors’ fears that even those states that had hitherto looked comfortable financially, may in the course of the New Year, falter.
“Moreover, since that last meeting, of the middle of December, between the governors and Mr. President, the economists of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat have been working closely with the relevant departments in all the states of the federation and looking into other ways of collating financial standing of states that will help the President in ameliorating the situation.
“Already, revenue to states have dropped drastically while demands by competing needs keep rising astronomically. Last year alone, revenue to states dropped from N800 billion when the tripartite committee was appointed (November 2017) to between N500 billion and N600 billion by the time Ms. Amma Pepple submitted its report in October 2018.
”Moreover, state governors are making concerted efforts to improve education, health and infrastructure and, for this, would not, therefore, dedicate their states’ entire resources to workers’ salaries alone, knowing that workers constitute less than five per cent of the nation’s population.
“In that regard, governors emphatically announced, collectively, that no state would devote more than 50 per cent of its revenue to salaries.”
The NLC urged its members to prepare for a prolonged strike to force the government to send a bill on the N30,000 national minimum wage to the National Assembly. It urged the government to do everything possible to halt the impending strike.
In his New Year message to workers, NLC President Ayuba Wabba said the strike had become “an inevitable last option for workers while craving the understanding and support of all Nigerians and businesses”.
“Wabba also said that the Congress will embark on a mobilisation of workers against the selective application of the no work, no pay policy of the government which, it said, is in violation of Collective Bargaining Agreement by the same government that seeks to use the policy against workers.
He assured workers that their labour, patience and diligence will not be in vain and that the leadership remains committed to giving all that it takes to ensure that they get just and fair wages due to them in a decent work environment appropriate to their well-being.
The NLC boss said: “In spite of these relative successes, the year remains one of the most traumatic for workers especially given the failure of government to enact and implement the new national minimum wage of N30, 000. This is in spite of the unimpeachable tripartite process leading to the agreement by the social partners on the new national minimum wage.
“It is unfortunate that the Federal Government is yet to transmit to the National Assembly an executive bill for the enactment of N30, 000 as the new national minimum wage.
“Government’s dilly-dallying on the issue has strained Government -Labour relations with a potential for a major national strike which could just be days away.
“Accordingly, we would use this opportunity to appeal to the Government to do the needful by urgently transmitting the bill on the new national minimum wage to the National Assembly.
“We also would like to use this same opportunity to urge workers to fully mobilise for a prolonged national strike and enforce their right. This strike becomes the inevitable last option for us and we crave the understanding and support of all Nigerians and businesses.”