State governors Wednesday rose from their meeting in Abuja and restated their inability to pay the N30,000 new minimum wage recommended by the National Minimum Wage Committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to review the N18,000 figure, which organised labour said had become inadequate and legally outdated.

They said the states would go bankrupt if forced to pay the new wage, warning that it might lead to retrenchment of workers.

In the alternative, they proposed that the federal government shed some of its revenue in favour of the states so they could be able to absorb the financial implication of the impending increased wage bill.

But labour would have none of it as it said last night that any governor, who could not afford the new figure, should resign or risk an industrial action.

The governors, under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), at their meeting last night in Abuja, frowned on the action of the tripartite committee, which it said failed to include their N22,500 submission in the final report sent to the president.

As a way forward, the governors raised a committee made up of eight of their colleagues to meet the president to further discuss the issue.

Members of the committee, nominated to see the president include, the governors of Lagos, Kebbi, Plateau, Bauchi, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Enugu and Kaduna States.

Addressing journalists after their meeting last night in Abuja, Zamfara State Governor and Chairman of NGF, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, said asking states to pay N30,000 was impracticable unless labour would agree to a downsizing of the work-force all over the country or the federal government itself accedes to the review of the national revenue allocation formula.

Yari said the governors were not happy that their offer of N22,500 as new minimum wage was not factored into the final report the tripartite committee submitted to Buhari.

He said, “With N18,000, when the president assumed office about 27 states were not able to pay, not that they choose not to pay. So now you say N30,000, how many of them can pay. We will be bankrupt. So as Nigerians, we should look at the issues seriously.”

Yari said that a member of the committee and Governor of Kebbi, Alhaji Abubakar Bagudu, had informed the governors that the committee did not take their submission of N22,500 because it came late.

“I am surprised, how can you do this without the input of the states? 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,” he said.

The Zamfara State governor also countered the insinuation that some governors were flying jets and living in affluence while complaining about poor revenue, saying that the governors’ actions are driven by necessity rather than bogus lifestyle.

Yari, who was flanked by Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, their Benue State counterpart, Dr. Samuel Ortom, said as things stood, only Lagos State could afford to pay the N30,000 being requested.

He said, “But we still say we want to pay but the issue is the ability to pay. If you say no, it is not about the ability to pay, just pay, I don’t know how this formula will work and I don’t know how we can get solution to the problem.

“The issue of government overhead cost put together with personnel cost cannot solve this problem. Like Lagos that is paying about N7billion as salaries, if you say it should pay N30,000 now, it will be 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.”

As for the way forward, Yari said the governors would continue to talk with labour, to let them see reasons why the states have difficulties.

He said the states have submitted their audited accounts to the tripartite committee to guide them in their negotiations with labour.

“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 State cannot afford to pay. 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 ask them to suggest how much should go for capital and personnel cost.

“Some say 70 per cent for 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 today, from last year to date, it is 20 dollar less from $75 to $55. So where is the money to pay?”

If You Can’t Pay Minimum Wage Resign, Labour Tells Governors

Organised labour reacted swiftly last night, saying any governor that could not pay should resign.

While reacting to governors’ insistence that states cannot pay more than the N22,500 they offered, the General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress ((NLC), Mr. Peter Essom, said the workers will not accept a renegotiation of the amount agreed at tripartite talks.

Essom, who spoke to THISDAY last night on telephone shortly after the governors made their positions known, said the only firm engagement labour will like to have with the state governors will be after the proclamation of the new minimum wage.

According to Essom, what workers are after is to have a minimum wage that takes care of basic needs.

He said that as soon as government proclaims the N30,000 minimum wage, the organised labour will move in to engage various state governments on the implementation.

The NLC scribe said, “What we are dealing with now is the issue of minimum wage and we stand by the N30,000, which is at the lowest fringe of what the workers need to meet the cost of providing service and still maintain some semblance of living. The tripartite negotiations are three legged structure, government, labour and private sector and state governors are part of the government team.

“The question of renegotiation does not arise. We will, of course after the promulgation of the minimum wage law, engage each state governor as to implementation. Those governors that feel that they are incapable of paying the wage, there are options; one of the governors has said that he would rather resign. We call on those governors not willing to implement the new minimum wage to so do, and resign.”

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