As a parting shot for year 2018, Nigerian governors on Monday reiterated their rejection of the demand by the Nigerian Labour Congress for the payment of N30,000 as minimum wage to workers, insisting that they had other competing needs to contain with and would therefore not use more than 50 percent of their income for settling workers.
In a strongly worded statement made available to Vanguard on Monday, the Nigerian Governor’s Forum, made it clear that they would have paid the N30,000 but regretted their inability to do so due to what they described as ‘times are hard’ and because of financial constraints and other limitations that have tied the hands of many states.
The statement, which was signed by the spokesman for the NGF, Abdulrazque Bello-Barkindo, was in response to a claim by the NLC that governors were simply refusing to pay the new wage and that those who diverted billions shelled out by the federal government as bailout funds should be probed.
The governors castigated the NLC for demanding that their financial books should be made known to the union, saying that having shown their financial status to the President during two meetings on the minimum wage, there were under no obligation to show same to the NLC.
The governors also stated pointedly that having made a marginal increment of N22.500 from the current N18,000, they had nothing more to add to the minimum wage and it was left for the NLC to consider and accept that as what was available and possible for now.
The statement said: “Let it be known that governors have met the President twice on this matter and presented their books to buttress their point. First, a batch of state governors, led by the NGF Chairman, Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar of Zamfara State, in company of governors Ambode of Lagos, Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Bagudu of Kebbi attended a closed door meeting with the President where the financial standing of six states, one each from all the geo-political regions in the country, were shown to the President.
“Shortly after that, the President requested all the states to forward their books, their revenues, both internally generated and their earnings from the Federation Account along with their other sources of revenue, for examination. The president appears satisfied with the governors’ position, thus the decision to set up a new committee.
“It is important to add that, there has never been a time in this country, when states have embarked on a more aggressive revenue drive than they are doing today. And this is without exception or prejudice to any state.
“To put the records straight, governors are not under any obligation, by law, to show their books to the NLC. But they have, in their pursuit of the understanding of the union, done so, not once, but several times over, with a view to letting NLC know that what they are asking for is neither realistic nor sustainable. Yet, NLC remains adamant that its will must be done, or the heavens will fall.
“The president at his last meeting with governors (December 15, 2018) had admonished them (governors) to expect harsher economic tides from New Year’s, thus validating governors’ fears that even those states that had hitherto looked comfortable financially, may in the course of the new year, falter.
“Moreover, since that last meeting, of the middle of December, between the Governors and Mr. President, the economists of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat have been working closely with the relevant departments in all the states of the federation, and looking into other ways of collating financial standing of states that will help the President in ameliorating the situation.
“Already, revenue to states has dropped drastically while demands by competing needs keep rising astronomically. Last year alone, revenue to states dropped from N800bn when the Tripartite Committee was appointed (November 2017) to between N500bn and N600bn by the time Ms. Amma Pepple submitted its report in October 2018.
“Moreover, state governors are making concerted efforts to improve education, health and infrastructure and for this, would not therefore dedicate their states’ entire resources to workers’ salaries alone, knowing that workers constitute less than 5% of the nation’s population. In that regard, governors emphatically announced, collectively, that no state would devote more than 50% of its revenue to salaries.
“To therefore insist that states must oblige the NLC its demands, regardless of the economic gloom that stares the nation in the face is most unpatriotic and a deliberate attempt to hold the nation, especially the president, to ransom, this being an election year.
“At this point it is important to remind the NLC that most governors exhibited a high sense of responsibility and concern for the plight of workers by ensuring that most of them were paid their December salaries ahead of time. Some even received several months’ salary arrears that was owed them, and they are happy with their governors.
“This is not the time for the NLC to destroy the existing conviviality that is already building-up between workers and their governors, especially in those states of the federation where governors are stepping up to the plate with the right decisions,” the governors said.