Even as the Federal Government is trying to smoothen the rough edges and resolve the controversy surrounding the demand by the Nigeria Labour Congresses (NLC) for an increase in the minimum wage for civil servants, the state governors said they lack the capacity to implement it.
The governors who met in Abuja on Wednesday under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), noted that there are still problems implementing the existing N18, 000 minimum wage.
But the NLC said an increase in the minimum wage for workers is due and everybody must be committed to it.
NLC president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba was at the NGF meeting and spoke with journalists after making his presentation before the governors.
Labour is demanding N30,000 as new minimum wage while both state and Federal Government governments are insisting on N20,700 and N24,000 respectively.
NGF chairman, Governor Abdualaziz Yari who spoke to journalists at the end of the Wednesday meeting disclosed the issue of the minimum wage was not discussed “because we leave it in the hand of Federal Government because it is (in the) exclusive list.
“It is not about only reviewing it but how we are going to get the resources to cater for it.
“We made it very clear that we are not against any upward review of salaries (or) we are not in intended with the NLC to get minimum wage review bill passed. But the problem of state is the capacity to pay what is agreed.
“As we speak, we are struggling with N18,000 (minimum wage). Some of the states are being paid 35 per cent up, some 50 and some state have salary arrears.”
Yari explained that the invitation of the NLC president to the meeting was to furnish the governors with the detail on how some states performed in payment of salary following the release of the last tranch of the London/Paris refund to the governors.
“That was what we signed with the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Federal Government that larger portion of the fund will be Channeled to payment of salaries.
“Some states are not up to date. They have signed MoU with the NLC at their representative states on when they are going to overcome the arrears and that has been done.
“It has been taken to the CBN Governor to ensure that those states were also paid,” Yari further explained.
The NLC president advised any state governor that have issues with implementing the new minimum wage to negotiate with workers in the state the amount iy would be able to pay.
According to Wabba, about 21 state governors have responded to the labour request, quoting the amount they would be able to pay.
He noted that all through history of minimum wage in Nigeria it has never been given on a plater of gold.
“Even the first minimum wage in 1981, it was not given on the plater of gold, we struggled for it. We went on strike.
“We thought the situation has changed and things has improved and through collective bargain process and dialogue we will be able to reach a compromise,” he regretted.
He said labour was still open for dialogue, noting that salary is not a bonus but a service rendered by workers.
The NLC president warned governors to stop referring workers “as tiny minority,” stating that it was “this tiny minority that service the entire population.
“If the quest of government is to provide quality education, then you must use the teacher. The teacher is central.
“To provide quality health care, the health workers and doctors are central, and whatever you pay them is for the service that they rendered.
“Therefore, for them to continue to render this services they must be able to take care of their families. This is the whole concept of minimum wage.”
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