…‘Only two states yet to negotiate’
THE Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, says only two states have not sat down with Labour Negotiating Committees on the 30, 000 minimum wage, stressing that they will do that and all the 36 states will pay accordingly.
According to the umbrella body for the 36 state governors in the country, the matter has become a non-issue as all its members have all agreed to pay the minimum wage.
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard, Head, Media and Public Affairs of NGF, Abdulrazaque Barkindo, explained that more than 20 have already agreed to pay, and others still meeting with their various Labour unions negotiating teams with a view to resolving the matter.
Barkindo, who noted that there was nothing to worry about alleged moves by 25 states to shut down the economy over the minimum wage impasse, said that with the level the governors had reached with Labour unions, there was nothing like shutting down the economy as that will not happen.
On the way forward, the NGF spokesperson urged the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and other Labour unions to negotiate with their respective states to address the issue.
Barkindo said, “The governors have been struggling with the issue of minimum wage and the states have agreed to pay, only two states have not sat down with their Negotiating Committees and they will do that and the states will pay accordingly.”
On whether the NGF is worried about the threat by Labour in 25 states to shut down the economy over the minimum wage, the NGF’s spokesperson said, “NGF is not worried. Why must we do that when we have put everything in place to ensure that the states implement it?
“All the states have agreed to pay the minimum wage. I do not know where the shutting down is coming from because the Chairman of NGF, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said at the end of the meeting of the Forum on December 19 that the governors will pay the agreed wage.”
It would be recalled that the 36 state governors, under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, had, at the end of their December 19, 2019 meeting in Abuja, said that there was no backtracking on the decision of the Federal Government with regard to the payment of the minimum wage of N30, 000 to workers.
The governors stressed that they had already subscribed to pay the wage but that the consequential impact on the upper cadre must be renegotiated.
Forum Chairman, Fayemi, who noted that all fingers are not equal, said that while some states can even afford to pay N50, 000, his members had engaged the respective branches of the NLC to meet the December 31 minimum wage implementation deadline.
He stated that the NLC was aware of the level of preparedness of states to pay, adding the governors were willing to make available to the union each state’s status of negotiation to clear any doubt.
Fayemi, who was responding to a question on whether the governors had backtracked on negotiations, had said: “Minimum wage was not on our agenda because it is a settled matter and governors have all indicated without any equivocation that we subscribed to the Act of parliament that has been passed on the national minimum wage of N30, 000. There is no debate, we have accepted that.
“The negotiation you are talking is about the consequential impact of the minimum wage on the higher level. Each state has started that process, if the Nigeria Labour Congress is not fully aware of the status of the negotiation in the various states, we will be happy to share the information available to us with them.
“But as far as we are concerned, there is no decision from the Governors Forum to back track, we are not backtracking on the minimum wage. However, fingers are not equal, states have to renegotiate in terms of the consequential implication for the others.
“Some states may be in the position to pay N50, 000. What we can tell you is that no state will pay less than N30, 000 when we finally get to that point.”
The Federal Government and the Organised Labour had, on October 18, 2019, announced an agreement on the implementation of the new wage.
Before then, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), at a meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had approved the agreement and set dates for the take-off of the new wage and payment of the arrears.
FEC had also directed that the payment of the new salary structure should take effect and the arrears cleared by December 31.
But the NGF had said that the agreement between the Federal Government and Organised Labour on consequential adjustments on the new minimum wage was not binding on state governments.
The agreement over consequential adjustments averted a strike that labour had threatened to call had the government further delayed the take-off of the new minimum wage.
Revenue sharing formula
The NGF Chairman also said that a review of the revenue sharing formula had remained the position of the governors to enable them implement the new minimum wage without hitches.
Fayemi, who spoke after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, in December 2019, said that the agitation for the review of the revenue sharing formula by the Governors’ Forum dated back to the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Fayemi said, “We feel that it’s time for the revenue sharing formula to change and we have made a representation to the President and Commander-in-Chief not just under the Buhari administration.
“This has been an ongoing agitation that started way back since the time of President Olusegun Obasanjo; it continued under President Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan.
“So, it’s not just something that has been brought out under President Buhari”.
The NGF Chairman, who revealed that the forum had presented its position on the proposed review of the revenue sharing formula to the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) for consideration, said: “You also know that there is a process to this. The process is that the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, which has the responsibility for this, would do its own due diligence, consult widely with critical stakeholders.
“We have also made available our own representation to RMAFC. Every state has a representative at RMAFC as you know and, only last week, RMAFC held a retreat on this and other matters and I believe they will communicate their position.
“Now that we have a full fledged RMAFC in place with a Chairman and other members appointed, it is our expectation that this would be taken up by RMAFC with Mr President in a manner that we have taken it up.
“Whether that would affect negotiation for the minimum wage, I can tell you no. Minimum wage is a law. But as I have always said to you, a National Minimum Wage Act is not a general minimum wage review. They are two separate things”.
Fayemi maintained that governors were committed to the Minimum Wage Act, promising that no state would pay anything less than the approved N30, 000, but said that the consequential adjustment may not necessarily end up being the same among the states.
He said, “Some of us have started paying N30, 000 as you may be aware, others want negotiations on the consequential adjustments to end before they start paying the minimum wage.
“And as you may be aware, what has happened so far is that the Federal Government has agreed a percentage of consequential adjustments with Labour.
“What is happening currently in states and majority of our states is that they have started that negotiation, which is to agree on what that consequential adjustments would be.
“I have also said to many people who have asked me, fingers are not equal at the level of the states.
“So, consequential adjustments may not necessarily end up being the same, it will be different from state to state. But I can assure Nigerians that no state is going to pay anything less than N30, 000.”