Let governors honour the minimum wage

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) recently faulted plans by the state governors in the country to slash the N18,000 national minimum wage. The NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, also warned that any attempt to tamper with the minimum wage would be viewed by workers as a “declaration of war”.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, had explained that the move to cut the minimum wage is informed by the inability of state governments to meet their wage obligations to workers.
The governors’ move to slash the national minimum wage stems from the warning by the Chairman of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, Chief Victor Murako, that the states might go bankrupt owing to dwindling revenue.
The governors also based their decision on the fact that at the time the minimum wage was promulgated, the price of a barrel of crude oil in the world market was $126, whereas today, the price hovers around $41.
We recall that the national minimum wage became law in 2011 after negotiations between the government and organised labour.  It was not imposed by industrial action.  It was a unanimous decision and that is why an initial move to make it optional for employers was resisted.
We think that labour is right to oppose the wage slash. Every Nigerian worker deserves to be paid his wage. No Nigerian should be paid anything less under the prevailing circumstances.
It is interesting that the governors are divided on the issue.  The Governor of Edo State and former labour leader, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, supports workers’ position.  Indeed, his calculation is that since the recent devaluation of the naira, N18,000 is roughly about $80 a month, which when split across 30 days, amounts to a little more than two dollars a day, barely above the world’s poverty level benchmark.
Also, the Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose, has dissociated himself from the move while his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Tambuwal, pointed out that the NGF has not taken any collective decision on the issue.  The Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Willie Obiano, actually took the opposite view and granted the state’s workers a raise of 15 per cent.
We commend the state governors, who have dissociated themselves from the NGF’s step.  It is a bad idea, which amounts to gross insensitivity to the plight of Nigerian workers. There is no way the N18,000 monthly pay can  sustain a family in Nigeria today.
Our governors and other political office holders should make sacrifices and drastically cut down their expenses. It is obvious that the high cost of governance contributed to the present economic predicament.  It is ironic that the governors are the ones proposing a cut in the minimum wage. They should slash their security votes and other economic wastages and not the minimum wage.
This is the time to demonstrate courage, innovation and leadership. It is not the time to retrench workers.  We urge the governors to sit up and face current challenges creatively. They should stretch available resources to survive lean times.
The states’ civil service should be re-organised and every employee made to work and justify his pay.  State governments should use direct labour to execute their construction and agricultural projects.  They must retrain the workforce for greater efficiency.

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