We Can’t Pay New Minimum Wage, Governors Insist

Abdulaziz Yari

Meet NLC on payment of salary arrears

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Governors of the 36 states of the federation said thursday that while they were not opposed to the ongoing plans to approve a new minimum wage for workers, they, however, lacked the capacity to pay.

But the governors under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) have commenced a move to ensure that all salary arrears owed by states are cleared.

At its meeting on Wednesday night in Abuja, the governors met with the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Ayuba Wabba, to seek ways of getting debtor states to offset arrears of workers’ salaries, using the monies from the outstanding Paris Club refund.

The Chairman of the NGF and Zamfara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, said the governors were in support of negotiating a new minimum wage but that the issue was the ability or resources to take care of that agreed minimum wage.

“We made it very clear that we are not against any upward review of salaries. We are in tandem with the NLC to get minimum wage review. But the problem of the states is the capacity to pay what is agreed. As we are talking today we are struggling with N18,000,” he said.

Yari said as at today some of the states were paying 35per cent, some others, 50per cent, and that some states had salary arrears.

According to him, “So if we are going to review it up, it is not about only reviewing it but how are we going to get the resources to cater for it?”

On the other hand, NLC has said that the organised labour remained resolute in its quest to actualize a new minimum wage.

Wabba who spoke to journalists regarding the position of the governors said that the approval of new minimum wage had been long overdue, adding the challenges of harsh economy have affected the purchasing power of the Nigerian worker.

Wabba said, “Our position has remained consistent that with the challenge in the economy, especially the virtual erosion of the purchasing power of Nigeria workers, which was occasioned by many factors, wages have to go up.
“The 18,000 minimum wage by law was also supposed to be reviewed as far back as 2016.”

The tripartite committee negotiating a new minimum wage regime has almost concluded its assignment but for the non-agreement by the stakeholders over a definite figure for the wage rise.

Amounts ranging from N20,000, N24,000 and N30,000 have been proposed by states, federal government and labour respectively.