It has almost been two weeks since the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) won its struggle for the upward review of minimum wage from N18,000 to N30,000.
Following the approval, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) commended President Muhammadu Buhari for signing into law the new national minimum wage bill of N30,000.
Concerns over some states’ ability to pay: However, several reactions have since trailed the approval of the new minimum wage, with many expressing concern that some states may not implement the approved minimum wage going by their antecedents; having had to be bailed out by the Federal Government to pay part of accumulated salary deficits being owed in the past. Some states are still owing.
The minimum wage was approved against Governors’ dillydally: In the wake of delay in minimum wage approval by the Presidency, several reports indicated that State Governors were responsible for the delay due to the Governors’ reluctance to come up with an agreed figure.
Similarly, prior to this, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, had earlier substantiated states’ Governors’ reluctance to accept the wage increase, which almost frustrated the wage review process in 2018. According to Ngige:
“WE COULDN’T AGREE ON A FIGURE BECAUSE OF TWO REASONS, PARTLY THE STATE GOVERNORS HAVE NOT COME UP WITH A FIGURE AND THE STATE GOVERNORS ARE A CRITICAL CONSTITUENT OF THIS DISCUSSION.
“WE HAVE SIX GOVERNORS IN THE COMMITTEE, ONE FROM EACH GEOPOLITICAL ZONE. SO, THE NGF HAS NOT COME UP WITH THEIR FIGURE; THEY SAID THEY WERE STILL WORKING ON IT; THAT WAS THE LAST SUBMISSION THEY MADE TO US AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TEAM.”
Earlier this year, the Governor of Zamfara State and Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Alhaji Abubakar Yari, warned the National Assembly against passing the new National Minimum Wage, citing that it would be difficult for states to pay. This came after the NLC rejected the approved N27,000 by the national council of states, demanding N30,000 as a new minimum wage. Yari reportedly disclosed
“IT IS EASY TO CALL FIGURES, BUT WHEN IT COMES TO IMPLEMENTING IN THE FIELD, IT BECOMES A PROBLEM. ONLY LAGOS CAN AFFORD THE N30,000 AS MINIMUM WAGE, NOT EVEN RIVERS CAN AFFORD TO PAY THAT MUCH.”
However, despite the delay of the States Governors, the minimum wage bill was eventually passed, marking the latest upward review of minimum wage since 2011.
The implementation stage – NLC won’t accept anything less: MANY Nigerian State Governors are famous for owing workers’ salaries. Before the last Federal Government’s N1.91tr bailouts to the states in 2018, some states were reportedly owing as much as one-year salary arrears or more.
Note that some of these State Governments defaulted in salary payment even when the minimum wage was N18,000.
NLC is already taking steps to avoid a repeat: As expected, major news headline in the early hours of today reported that there are strong indications that NLC states’ chapters have concluded plans to write Governors on the need to implement the N30,000 minimum wage beginning from May 1. According to the report, states like Ekiti, Osun, Cross River, Ogun, and Akwa Ibom have constituted committees to meet with the respective state Governors and discuss on immediate implementation of the new wage.
In the same vein, the National President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, has reportedly reiterated that workers would only accept N30,000 minimum wage from state governors, and nothing less.
“ONCE THE MINIMUM WAGE BILL HAD BEEN SIGNED BY PRESIDENT BUHARI, IT HAS BECOME A LAW AND WE WON’T ALLOW ANY GOVERNOR TO CIRCUMVENT THE LAW. WHAT WE ASKED FOR WAS A LIVING WAGE AND WE CAN’T ALLOW ANYBODY TO SHORTCHANGE OUR MEMBERS.”
Workers in states may face some challenges: A cursory look at Federal Government revenue shows that 30 out of 36 states in Nigeria earn less than N10 billion monthly allocation. This is despite the fact that some of them have large workforce. Recently, data indicated a relative decline in revenue allocation to these states with rising debts.
Also, it should be noted that a significant chunk of revenue from some of these states are used to settle loans and debts already taken. While some states struggle to pay salaries, others grossly owe with no end of clearing arrears in sight.
Hence, it remains to be seen if states governors can make the sacrifices and shed their jumbo pay to make workers fully enjoy the benefits of the new minimum wage increase. Whatever the states governments’ resolve, the NLC is not expecting a smooth sail from the with the states and the organised labour union is reportedly ready for a face-off.