Tony John, Port Harcourt
Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has stated that Nigerian workers would be better off when states are allowed to fix their separate minimum wages in line with their financial capacity.
Speaking yesterday, during a public hearing on the new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers for the South-South geo-political zone in Port Harcourt, Governor Wike said that states vary in financial capacity, making a uniform minimum wage unrealistic.
He said: “And for us, therefore, the single national minimum wage system is yet, another lie that betrays the distortions in our federation and the structured dislocation of the States in the power equation between the Federal Government and the federating States.
“It is our view that the country and its workers would be better of, if States are allowed to fix and pay their own minimum wages indexed to the prevailing cost of living and ability to pay. When this happens, it is possible that some States may go beyond the minimum threshold to pay a living wage, which is what our workers truly need”, Wike said.
Governor Wike said that the previous review exercise failed to give maximum weight to the existing disparity in economic potential and capabilities among the 36 States of the federation, adding that it has been difficult for most of the States to implement the existing N18, 000.00 minimum wage.
He noted that majority of the States were within the fringes of financial viability and could not meet their salary obligations to civil servants without bailouts from the Federal Government. The governor further said that enhanced wages can only be possible when the Federal Government improves the economy of the federation.
He said: “Here in Rivers State, we value our workers; we invest in their welfare in different ways, and we want them to earn living wages that can keep them and their families as comfortable as possible. The Rivers State Government therefore, supports the ongoing consultations by the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage for arriving at a new national minimum wage floor for the country”.
In his opening remarks, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, said the exercise has been held across the six geo-political zones to ascertain the needs of Nigerian workers and employers to reach an acceptable and implementable wage. He said: “It is hoped that at the end of the exercise, we will be able to have women and men who will be engaged in productive work in equable conditions of freedom to associate and bargain collectively with equality and human dignity”
Ngige, who is also the chairman of Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage , said the aim is to ensure that the nation adopts a national minimum wage that would assure the attainment of social protection floor for Nigerian citizens.
Presenting the position of Nigerian Labour Congress in the South-South, Beatrice Otubo called for a living wage for workers.
Also speaking, representative of Trade Union Congress in the South-South, Austin Jonathan, pleaded that pensioners should be considered in the new wage regime. The public hearing attracted the representatives of the governors of Bayelsa, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Edo and Delta States. Also present at the meeting were labour leaders from the six states of the geo-political zone.