When everyone thought that organised labour and government were making a headway towards resolving the new minimum wage imbroglio as early as possible, a new dimension was suddenly introduced to it recently with the state governors threatening to downsize to enable them pay N30,000.
The threat of downsizing, under any circumstance, is uncalled for as the number of Nigerians already in the labour market is becoming unbearable even as the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced recently that it had no money to reel out the country’s unemployment figure for now. Based on developments in the last few weeks, the possibility of implementing a new minimum wage this year is not in sight.
Despite the threat by labour to ensure the deed is done by the end of December, the fact before every discerning observer is that the implementation of the new minimum wage is not feasible.
The governors’ position coming when everyone had assumed the trouble was at the tail end of being resolved is a pointer to the fact that either a clean and all-inclusive job was not done by the Tripartite Committee on New Minimum Wage before submitting the report to President Muhammadu Buhari, or the governors are, as usual, trying to play politics with the issue.
As the governors maintain their stance coupled with labour’s unwavering grandstanding, it is clear that ominous signs of more social disorder are hovering. As it is, there is no more time to waste.
The governors, through their umbrella, Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), have made their position clear, and in effect, their contribution and resolution to pay N22,500 as against the labour-proposed N30,000.
Embittered Chairman of NGF, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, has never minced words from the beginning of the negotiation that the states, except just Lagos, cannot afford to pay N30,000 as minimum wage.
Again, the position of the governors that the proposed wage can only be paid if labour would agree to downsizing of the workforce across the country or Federal Government itself accedes to the review of the national revenue allocation formula is something to be taken seriously.
The governors’ excuse in this regard is, however, lame as they have not done enough in terms of making sacrifice to enable them increase wages in their states more than five years after the last review.
Considerably, so many states have enough resources to meet the new wage if only the governors are creative enough to boost their internally generated revenue as well as cut down on executive overheads and other financial recklessness.
Another big question on the lips of so many is: what some of these governors do with the monthly security votes running into several millions of naira?
These funds are usually diverted just the way some of them diverted bailouts extended to them by the Federal Government specifically to offset arrears of salaries.
Why it will be difficult to make case for the governors in this regard, it, however, appears that the situation is getting more complicated especially as labour is not also prepared to shift ground over its December deadline.
This much can be substantiated by the recent position of the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, that the expectation of labour was that the full implementation of the N30,000 wage should not exceed December.
Also to be taken seriously is the warning that the consequences of reducing or delaying its implementation would be very devastating.
The fact that the threats are coming from both ends amid the reality on ground where not less than 25 states are struggling to pay the current N18,000 minimum wage with backlog of salary arrears weighing them down calls for an urgent resolution of the matter.
W hile the battle appears to have shifted to the governors, even till date, the Federal Government is yet to take a definite position on the report as there have been series of denials on its part that it had agreed to pay the proposed wage.
The Federal Government was emphatic enough when it said accepting the document did not automatically translate to an agreement to pay the amount.
While the Federal Government is yet to sort itself out in this regard, a committee put in place by the governors to dialogue with the president reportedly achieved next to nothing during the parley as it ended in a stalemate.
For now, nobody knows the position of things as everyone waits for the next implosion. From the look of things, neither the Federal Government nor states are prepared in any way to fully implement the new wage anytime soon.
Going into an election year with such a sensitive issue – minimum wage – unresolved is very likely to threaten the political process and also lead to other social disorders.
While it has become very necessary for states to review what they have been paying workers, we believe it is also expedient for labour to tow the path of wisdom by not imposing what is not immediately implementable.
We also believe that it is time the governors looked inward and do away with financial commitments into projects and institutions that are not rewarding.
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