I think for most governors the challenge to pay what the NLC is demanding is not much of inability, but inexplicable unwillingness to pay!
Let me declare from the outset that most Nigerian state governors are callous, inconsiderate and insensitive with regard to the issue of minimum wage. I say most because few of them are exceptional at least on grounds of salary solvency. According to the Organized Labour consisting of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC), only six states — Anambra, Bayelsa, Enugu, Edo, Jigawa and Lagos — are current with workers’ pay as at September 2018. I know of Anambra full well, particularly from the tenure inception of Dr. Willie Obiano, the man with an unparalleled governorship victory margin in Nigeria’s political history. Willie, I understand, is working diligently.
If most states find it difficult to pay chicken feed of N18,000, what is the assurance that they can now handle their proposed N22,500? I think for most governors the challenge to pay what the NLC is demanding is not much of inability, but inexplicable unwillingness to pay! This is sheer cruelty on the part of our purported leaders who live extravagantly.
At their emergency meeting under the aegis of the feeble Nigeria Governors’ Forum last week, the governors agreed that they could pay workers only N22,500 monthly as against the paltry demand of N30,000 by the NLC.
Why would any sane fellow contemplate paying a starvation wage of N22,500 in these hard times that have thrown up unprecedented summit cost of living? And by extrapolation, quality of living does not matter anymore. Do these privileged Nigerians know what obtains in the market and other costs of goods and services? Do they know how much less-privileged families spend on healthcare, education, accommodation, clothing, food, transport and other necessities of life? For the downtrodden workers, there is no humanistic luxury as most of them end up not tasting any good aspect of life — it is unmitigated hardship throughout their existence!
The claim of incapacity to pay more than they have proposed is deceitful. Governors who affirm that they cannot go beyond what they have offered live a life of obscene opulence and offensive luxury. Most of these governors have all manner of aides in their dozens and a surfeit of junior and senior special assistants, all maintained with public funds.
When there is any threat of insecurity, insurgency or terrorism, these governors rush to the federal government for intervention, yet every month they collect not less than N300 million “security vote” that is unaccounted for. Our Constitution never envisaged that we would have this crop of indifferent and selfish Nigerians at the helm. This kind of regular “free fund” should have been dedicated to something that would impact on the lives of our people instead of indulging this tribe of official predators.
Most state governments virtually do nothing about shoring up their internally-generated revenue (IGR) threshold. All they do is to depend on monthly statutory allocations as if they were the political appendages called local government councils! Governors must evolve ways of improving their IGR and reduce dependence on the federal government. All the states cannot be buoyant like Lagos that has copious platforms for revenue collection by virtue of its historical and situational circumstances, but this is no excuse at all as other revenue-generating avenues need to be explored by the states which are not so blessed.
If the governors are insisting that personnel cost cannot be allowed to exceed 50 per cent of the entire revenue available to any state, it follows, too, that they need to re-examine the bloated personal staff they have and the size of their civil service. In this digital age you still hear of “ghost workers” running into hundreds of thousands of non-existent characters. What happens is that some government operatives make illicit money through the manipulation of this systemic rot. Governors must put a rein on this and other drain-pipes instead of making implausible excuses.
Governors should for once be realistic. The deplorable condition of the country’s economy is such that N22,500 makes a mockery of living for a majority of our people who are essentially disadvantaged and deprived by the convoluted system we operate in this part of the world. Civilized nations provide basic amenities for their citizens such that whatever they make on their own is peripheral and additional. Fundamental structures and social infrastructures are lacking here for self-actualization.
There is no presence of government and no governance is going on in most states. Impoverished citizens and families have to cater for themselves from street/communal security to power generation, water provision, medicare, scholarship, mobility, housing ad infinitum. The unassailable fact remains that these governors do not care a hoot about the wellbeing of the class of poor Nigerians and are unperturbed by their incalculable misery.
The federal government should enact a law making the payment of N30,000 and subsequent upward reviews in future mandatory for states as recommended by the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage. The balderdash about inability and incapacity of some states to pay the minimal should be dismissed on grounds of its illogicality. In the same outrageous breath, the specious argument by governors on the need to prioritize payments vis-à-vis the imperativeness of overall development of states is dubious and diversionary. Human capital investment is indispensably critical to any form of development at all levels and spheres of existential humanism.
There is no doubt that even the token Labour is asking for has already been eroded by inflation, considering the escalating costs of goods and services generally, in unprecedentedly obnoxious proportions. In other words, nobody can even declare that the adjustment will trigger inflation because even N50,000 is under-inflated at the moment, let alone N30,000.
I must commend the governments of Bayelsa, Edo and Jigawa states for accepting to pay the new minimum wage. It is apposite to take off my hat to Governors Seriake Dickson, Godwin Obaseki and Muhammed Badaru Abubakar, respectively, for this laudable commitment. It is at a time like this that we know real men who do not flow with the wind of employee asphyxiation!
It is embarrassing for the Labour Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, to be taking sides with governors by asserting that they cannot pay N30,000 minimum wage. Is that what they told him and he believed them? Ngige should not hold brief for them by virtue of his position. He is supposed to encourage them to pay and not the lethal reverse. From all indications, only corruption can exclusively incapacitate governors from paying the new minimum wage. This tango reminds me of Chief Richard Akinjide’s submission not too long ago that governors are the most corrupt of politicians in Nigeria. Nobody can controvert this because Chief Akinjide is not known for flippancy amid a robust pedigree of legal and national service.
Perhaps, governors who cannot pay the new minimum wage should throw in the towel or their states merged with those who can pay — or acquired by Abuja! We need a friendly labour government environment that will galvanize other resources in the enthronement and enhancement of ultimate productivity.
As an aside, do you know how much some governors spend on frivolities, including “extracurricular” engagements and other flamboyant indulgences like breeding of Alsatian dogs, inevitable maintenance of political godfathers who foisted them on the electorate and multifarious offshore investments? These sub-heads are more than enough to pay the new minimum wage!