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State governments can afford new N30,000 minimum wage, Labour insists

STATE governors in Nigeria can afford the new N30,000 minimum wage as signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday if they would prioritise the welfare of their citizens and shun corruption.

This was the view of Bobboi Kaigama, National President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) who spoke during a television interview on Friday.

During the negotiations that resulted in the new minimum wage, both the federal and state governments opposed the N30,000 that was demanded by the organised Labour. While the FG said it could only pay N24,000, the states wanted something much lower.

“As we are talking today we are struggling with N18,000. Some of the states are paying 35 per cent, some 50 per cent and still some states have salary arrears. So… how we are going to get the resources to cater for it,” said Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State who is also the Chairman of the Nigerians Governors’ Forum.

However, Kaigama said every state in Nigeria has the resources to pay its workers even above the N30,000 minimum wage if only state governors would live up to their responsibilities.

“In the just-concluded governorship elections, so many of these states had reserved money to go out, buy voters, compromise electoral officers, compromise security (personnel) and that is why in most of the states now, they cannot pay salaries,” Kaigama said.

He added that the organised labour will assess every state based on merit, especially those who said they would not be able to pay the new minimum wage, to ascertain if indeed they could not afford it.

“When the template is out, the next phase is to discuss the concomitant or correspondent or consequential increases. States will be assessed on an individual basis, so we would be able to get which state that has promised to pay and that is paying, and which states that are not prepared to pay, then we will get to them,” he said.

On whether the new minimum wage could lead to an increase in the prices of food items and other goods and services, Kaigama said there is already inflation in the country and commodity prices are already high.

“We already have inflation; we already have a devaluation of our naira. So it’s already taking a toll on the worker’s take home,” Kaigama said.

“Unless we allow it to go to the extent of the worker not even taking a single square meal, otherwise where we have inflation, devalued naira, the worker has the right to demand a corresponding increase in his salaries to ensure that he meets other domestic demands of his family.

“We (workers) don’t control inflation. It is the government that devalues the naira, it is the government that creates problems, where we don’t have power, we don’t have the infrastructure, our health system is not working.

“If they have all these things in place, the worker would have saved up enough funds that can cater for his needs.”

The TUC National Chairman further said that though the National Minimum Wage Act provides that the minimum wage should be reviewed every four or five years, it does not necessarily mean that the review will always be upwards. “You could review and stay stagnant (or) you could review and go downwards” according to the economic realities of the time, he explained.

Meanwhile,  All Progressives Congress (APC) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the new National Minimum Wage Act into law, thereby approving a new minimum wage of N30,000 for all Nigerian workers.

In a statement issued on Friday by Lanre Issa-Onilu, APC’s National Publicity Secretary, the party described the development as another campaign promise that has been fulfilled by the president.

“Truly, our workers deserve a new, improved and implementable minimum wage in view of current economic realities,” the statement read.

“The welfare of workers has remained a top priority of the President Buhari-led APC administration as exhibited in the federal government bailouts to state governments to pay workers salary, housing schemes for civil servants among other welfare packages.

“This is another solid demonstration of a President who matches his words with action. Nigerians will recall the President had severally assured of a new and improved national minimum wage for workers. The assent of the N30,000 minimum wage by the president is indeed another election promise delivered.”

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