* At least 15 states defiant
* 2 agree to pay
*1 already paying
By VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
Organised labour is not taking lightly its threat to frustrate next month general elections if the N18,000 new minimum wage is not paid especially by state governors, as indication emerged that labour has directed its state officials to forward to it the names of governors willing to pay the new minimum wage by the end of this month.
This directive, Sunday Vanguard gathered, is in anticipation of the harmonisation of the the Minimum Wage Bill that both the Senate and House of Representatives have passed for eventual presidential assent.
According to sources, organised labour wants to move against governors considered as anti-new minimum wage as the governors are believed to be keeping money that would assist in the implementation of the new wage for electioneering.
“The leadership of congress is not taking chances. It has directed state officials to immediately commence discussion with their state governors on the implementation of the N18,000 minimum wage. We know that the governors can pay. Some of them want us to push them before they pay. We are ready to push them and we will push them to their limits.
Many of them have kept money that would have assisted them to implement the wage for electioneering. Well, that is their own cup of tea. We know that they have to pay if they want to hold the elections. All that concerns us is that they find money to pay. We will move against all those governors ,” one of the leaders of the NLC told Sunday Vanguard at the just concluded 10th national delegates conference of the NLC in Abuja.
Already the 16 members of the newly elected leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, have reiterated the threat to frustrate attempts at going ahead with the April general elections without the implementation of the new minimum wage.
According to the team, “we will press for and sustain the struggle for the implementation of the new minimum wage at the federal, state and local government levels. Our team will strive to improve on the gains recorded on the minimum wage by making sure that employers in the private sector implement the new national wage. We shall ensure that workers earn pay commensurate to work done and standard of living in the country at every given moment.”
In fact, they warned state governors against refusing to implement the N18,000 wage to avoid war with the organised labour, saying, “for social justice, for peace and industrial harmony and to avoid what is happening in North Africa and other parts of the Arab world from happening in Nigeria, the governors must pay”.
Reacting to the position of the Governors’ Forum that many of the states would not be able to pay, Head of Industrial Relations, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Owei Lakemfa, said the minimum wage was binding on the state governors because they were party to the agreement.
According to him: “ Once the Minimum Wage Bill is passed into law and assented to by the president, it becomes a law. Labour is on the exclusive list. The state governments and the Federal Government draw the money from the Federation Account. So they should meet to get the money from the same source. Again, do not forget that the N18,000 minimum wage was a product of a tripartite negotiation involving representatives of the Federal Government, state governments, private employers and labour.
It is binding on all the state governors and others in the tripod. We advise the governors to meet with the Federal Government and work out how to implement the minimum wage. Do not forget that the N18,000 minimum wage is a far cry from the N52,200 that labour demanded.
Reiterating congress’ resolve to see to the full implementation of the new minimum wage if the April elections are to be held, re-elected president of NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, in his acceptance speech, said the new leadership of the union would not rest until the right and welfare of Nigerian workers were enhanced, stressing that the next four years would witness tremendous change in the labour movement with the crop of new leaders.
One of the three deputy presidents, Comrade Promise Adewusi, said the new executive would work together to ensure unity in the labour movement and to see that the rights of the workers and Nigerian citizens were not denied them.
Comrade Adewusi said the immediate challenge before the new leaders is to ensure that the implementation of the new minimum wage commenced immediately. Adewusi called on President Jonathan to “quickly and immediately” assent the bill and commence its implementation accordingly.
No minimum wage, no April polls
The leaders of the NLC had, on Wednesday, resolved that labour and its allies in the civil society groups would make the conduct of April elections impossible without the implementation of the new minimum wage by all tiers of governments.
Debating NLC’s secretariat report on the minimum wage as well as reacting to statement credited to the chairman of the Governors’ Forum, Dr. Bukola Saraki, that many state governments would not be able to pay the new wage, delegates to the 10th NLC national congress vowed to frustrate any attempt to hold the April polls without implementation of the new wage.
Contributors to the report presented by the General Secretary of the NLC, Comrade John Odah, were unanimous that congress should make the demand for the implementation of the new minimum wage as a pre-condition for industrial peace to hold the elections.
Anti-minimum wage governors
Sunday Vanguard investigations revealed that the Kwara State governor and chairman, Governors’ Forum, Dr. Bukola Saraki, is leading the pack of the anti-N18,000 minimum wage governors.
Others are Oyo, Ekiti, Ogun and Osun states. Also on the list, among others, are Niger, Kogi, Benue, Sokoto, Yobe, Abia, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Adamawa and Borno.
This group of governors, it was gathered, especially those of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were almost blackmailing President Jonathan to repudiate the implementation of the minimum wage for their support during the party’s presidential primary.
But the new effort at stalling the implementation is the call for a review of the revenue allocation.
Though Sunday Vanguard investigations revealed that there is urgent need to review the revenue allocation in favour of states and local governments as against what is currently in practice where the Federal Government has the lion share, the state governors are advised to be more creative in the area of internally generated revenue.
Pro-minimum wage governors
The good news is that while Saraki and co are preaching inability to pay, some state governors have indeed indicated preparedness to pay once it becomes operational. Among these governors are Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Dr. Segun Mimiko, Governor Babatunde Fashola who is already paying N750 above the N18,000 minimum wage.
Declaring that Edo State would pay, Oshiomhole, at the NLC conference, said his government would pay the new minimum wage once it became legal.
He, however, argued that while some states genuinely may not be able to pay, others saying they would not pay were not genuine and urged labour to join hands in the agitation for a review of the revenue allocation in favour of states to ensure the welfare of the citizens including workers.
Among other state governors that would pay with little or no push are Cross Rivers, Rivers, Delta, Kaduna, Zamfara, Kano, Bayelsa, Anambra, Bauchi and Akwa Ibom.