Abuja — The dispute over workers' quest for an upward review of minimum wage in the country became protracted yesterday as the nation's 36 governors emerged from their meeting in Abuja and said they had agreed to N22,500 as the lowest pay cheque for workers.
But labour responded swiftly last night that the governors' offer, N7,500 short of its demand for N30,000, was an exercise in futility, warning that the strike scheduled for Tuesday next week would proceed as planned.
"The N30,000 figure is not adjustable," Mr. Denja Yakubu, Assistant Secretary (Information), at the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Headquarters, Abuja told THISDAY last night, that none of the tripartite stakeholders, including government, organised labour and organised private sector, could vary the figure he said had been agreed upon.
"We agreed to the N30,000 figure as the minimum wage at our last meeting. Sixteen of the governors were at the meeting, where the agreement was reached. Whatever they are saying now is a joke and self-deceit," he said.
Labour had embarked on rallies in several states of the federation yesterday to demonstrate its resolve to down tools on Tuesday unless the government met its demand for N30,000.
But the governors at the end of their three-hour meeting under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) in Abuja last night said they would only be able to pay N22,500.
The NGF Chairman and Zamfara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, who announced the decision of the governors said it was based on ability and capacity to pay, as well as in reflection to all other developmental needs in each state.
He also said that the governors' decision was based on the principle that any acceptable minimum wage must be done in such a way that total personnel cost does not exceed 50 per cent of the revenue available to each state.
Yari said the governors were further guided by Section 3 of the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission Act, which requires that any wage increase must take cognizance of the state of the national economy.
"It is in this sense that we feel strongly that our acceptable minimum wage must be done in such a way that total personnel cost does not exceed 50 per cent of the revenue available to each state. Governors, therefore, agreed to pay a national minimum wage of N22,500," he said.
In the communiqué, the governors said they considered that welfare of all Nigerians is of ultimate concern to government and that resources of the state should not just be used for salaries, since the percentage of salaried workers is not more than five per cent of the total working population.
The governors communique stated, "Following a meeting of the Nigeria Governors' Forum where we deliberated on the National Minimum Wage after a briefing from our representatives at the Tripartite Committee, we submit as follows:
"The welfare of all Nigerians is our ultimate concern. In all our States, we are concerned about the deteriorating economic situation experienced by the vulnerable segment of our population.
"In agreeing to a National Minimum Wage however, the Forum is even more concerned about development, particularly in the health, education and infrastructure spheres.
"It is therefore our considered position that since the percentage of salaried workers is not more than five per cent of the total working population, our position must not just reflect a figure, but also a sustainable strategy based on ability and capacity to pay, as well as reflective of all our developmental needs in each State.
"After all, Section 3 of the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission Act provides that "the Commission shall recommend a proposition of income growth which should be initiated for wage increase and also examined the salary structure in public and private sector with reasonable features of relativity and maximum levels which are in consonance with the national economy."
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, and the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, attended the meeting.
Some of the governors at yesterday's emergency meeting were Kebbi, Ebonyi, Imo, Lagos, Plateau, Osun, Ekiti and Ogun.
Nasarawa governor was represented by his deputy.
No representative of the organised labour was at the meeting as was earlier indicated.
Labour Holds Rally
Addressing workers yesterday during a rally in Abuja, President of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, described the claim by some state governors that they will not be able to pay as erroneous.
He said, "We cannot be creating wealth while we live in abject poverty or create wealth while the resources are diverted.
"They used us to collect bailout and they didn't pay. The issue is not because there is no resources, but because they want more resources. In one state, the moment the governor received the money, he went and bought ten bullet proof cars."
Wabba accused government leaders of selfishness, adding that they have ensured that salaries of political office holders were increased by 900 per cent, while giving workers pittance.
Speaking on the resolve by labour to proceed with the strike as from Tuesday, Wabba said that no amount of threat or intimidation can stop the workers from fighting for their right.
According to him, "They are coming up with no work, no pay and we are saying no pay, no work, no minimum wage, no work. Every Nigerian worker must be ready because this is a battle with a difference.
"When they increased the price of fuel, they put the issue of minimum wage on the table. We will not allow a situation where they increase their own and ignore us. During the last increase, salaries of political office holders were increased by 900 per cent, while giving us pittance."
On his part, President of TUC, Mr. Bobboi Kaigama, said that the N30,000 minimum wage being demanded by the workers was not too much when compared to the inflation rate in country.
According to Kaigama, if the government says that N30,000 is too much, they should be prepared to pay an equivalent of N18,000 as at 2011 relative to the dollar when dollars was N150.
Kaigama said, "It is time to show the political elites that enough is enough. It is either they give us our demand or we rally throughout the country. We must show that Nigerian workers have the weapon which is our PVC and we will use it to declare war against our political leaders and defeat our enemies.
"We are starting our mobilisation today and in the next few months, we will be prepared to use our PVC. If they think that one worker who can mobilise 10 persons means nothing, we will show them that there is no going back. It is either you give us N30,000 or nothing because negotiations have ended.
"Our struggle starts today and will be on till February 2019. Let us not succumb to the threat of no work, no pay."
NACCIMA Denies Agreeing to N30,000
Also yesterday, the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) disassociated itself from the stand by the organised labour that there was an agreement over N30, 000 proposed new minimum wage.
In a statement issued yesterday by the President of NACCIMA, Mr. M. Dankaka, the body said there was no time NACCIMA agreed to such a figure.
It said, "We refer to the media reports on the above stated national minimum wage figure and the proposed industrial actions by organized labour over a misconceived agreement on the sum of N30.000.00 as the new minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
"We were perplexed to learn that the sum/agreement was an outcome of the workings of the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage (TCNMW), which we are a member.
"At no time did NACCIMA agree to such a figure. Rather the last figure offered by us as part of the Organised Private Sector (OPS), was the sum of N22,000 and negotiation was still on-going."