- Insist minimum wage adjustment must be based on capacity to pay
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The 36 states of the federation thursday distanced themselves from the request by the federal government to the National Assembly to borrow $29.96 billion.
The governors of the 36 states under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) said in Abuja that since it was the federal government, and not the federation that wanted to borrow the fund, the repayment would not affect their shares of revenue from the Federation Account.
Already, the total public debt of the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as of March 31, 2019, according to the Debt Management Office (DMO), was at $17.219 billion.
A breakdown of this showed that while total external debt for the states and FCT in the period under review stood at $4.275 billion, their total domestic debt was $12.944 billion.
The governors have also clarified that there would be no controversy over the payment of the N30,000 minimum wage, but the payment of the consequential adjustment would depend the capacity of each state to pay.
Briefing journalists at the end of their meeting on Wednesday night, the Chairman of NGF and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said the $29.96 billion borrowing plan the federal government submitted to the National Assembly had nothing to do with the states.
“You know the borrowing plan is a federal government borrowing plan. It is not the federation’s borrowing plan. The federal government’s borrowing plan to the National Assembly is really a matter between the federal government and the National Assembly.
“It is not something that we want to put ourselves in between. We don’t want to comment on that,” he stated.
He also refused to comment on the crisis in the Edo State House of Assembly, saying that the governors would not be involved because the issue was internal to the state.
“On the question around the meeting with the speakers, the meeting with our speakers was not about individual states. It was on general constitutional matters and we had very fruitful deliberations on that.
“So, we cannot comment on the issue you have raised about a specific state. I am sure that information will be available to you if you go to Edo State,” he added.
Speaking on the minimum wage, Fayemi said the governors were committed to the N30,000 minimum wage and were not going back on it.
“Minimum wage was not on our agenda because minimum wage is a settled matter. And governors have all indicated, without any equivocation, that we subscribe to the Act of Parliament that has been passed on the national minimum wage of N30,000.
“There is no debate, we have accepted that. The negotiation team that you are talking about (the negotiation team set up by each state with labour representatives) is not so much about the minimum wage.
“It is about the consequential impact of the minimum wage on the higher level and each state has started that process. If the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) is not fully aware of the status of the negotiation in the various states, we will be happy to share the information available to us with them.
“But, as far as we are concerned, there is no opportunity of decision in the Governors’ Forum to backtract. We are not backtracking from the minimum wage.
“However, fingers are not equal. States have to negotiate in terms of the consequential implication.
“There may be states that are in a position to pay N50,000. What we can tell you is that not state will pay less than N30,000 when we finally get to that point,” he said.
Fayemi also read the communiqué issued after the meeting.
The communiqué reads: “We, members of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), at our meeting held today(Wednesday) at the NGF Secretariat Abuja, deliberated on several issues and resolved as follows:
“The forum received an update from the Auditor General of the Federation (AuGF) and the World Bank team on the State Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Independent Verification Assessment (IVA) exercise conducted across states.
“The Independent Verification Assessment (IVA) team highlighted among others, activities of the FY2018 Annual Appraisal Assessment to be concluded in January 2020 while the transfer of 2018 grants to States will take place in March 2020.
“As a SFTAS implementing partner, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat will carry out regional sensitisation workshops in March 2020 and kick-start the provision of technical assistance to states through customised just-in-time advisory and training, exchange visits and peer learning events.
“The forum received an update on the health priorities of the forum, especially Universal Healthcare, Nutrition and on the Polio Eradication Initiative, including the Seattle Declaration.
“Governors reiterated their commitment to an effective implementation and tracking of the Seattle commitment
“The forum received a briefing on the UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020 from the UK Foreign Office led by Harriet Thompson, the UK Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria.
“The summit will be hosted by the UK Prime Minister and will bring together businesses, governments and international institutions to showcase investment opportunities in Africa.
“Members expressed optimism for deeper opportunities in various sectors of the economy including agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing, health, education and financial services; and committed to strengthening the forum’s partnership with the UK’s CDC Group and the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) to help bridge relations between Nigerian and UK companies.
“The forum received a delegation of the Conference of Speakers of the State House of Assembly and had fruitful discussions on some constitutional matters.
“The forum received a presentation from the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, on the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) programme in Nigeria – a programme designed to strengthen the application of geospatial data for evidence-based decision making in the country.
“The National Coordinator of GRID3, Inuwa Yau, also highlighted several applications of the programme in priority areas of government including food security, health coverage, financial inclusion, survey and demographics and education.
“Finally, state governors commended the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning for coordinating the GRID3 programme which will be central to development-planning going forward.
“Members pledged to work with the ministry by providing the institutional arrangements in all states to ensure that each state supports the generation and management of geospatial data.
“This will ensure that state governments have the right information in identifying where people live and how critical services can be most equitably and effectively allocated.”