*Labour talks tough as ultimatum to govt expires
*Mobilisation for strike begins
By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor and Okey Ndiribe
The controversy over the removal of subsidy on petrol, the push for an enhanced revenue sharing formula in favour of the states and the issue of obeying the Minimum Wage Act signed into law this year may be threatening to tear apart the perceived unity in the Governors’ Forum.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the state governors are split down the line along four different lines of thought.
The governors different positions emerged ahead of Thursday expiration of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) ultimatum to all the tiers of government to implement the new minimum wage to workers or face a strike action.
NLC Vice President Issa Aremu told Sunday Vanguard on Friday that the congress was not about to withdraw the ultimatum. Indeed, the NLC began mobilisation of workers across the country at the weekend, preparatory to the industrial action. The strike Mobilisation Committee began mass circulation of leaflets to affiliate unions to sensitise them on the proposed strike.
Last week’s resolution of the five state governors on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, that they were ready to implement the letters of the Minimum Wage Act, which makes it mandatory that the minimum wage in Nigeria shall be N18,000, is one of the positions in the Governors’ Forum.
While the ACN governors have publicly declared to pay the minimum wage, they are still insisting that the way forward would be for a return to fiscal federalism, anchored on the amendment of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – even as amended.
The ACN governors’ position at the Governors’ Forum meetings has been consistent with the party’s manifesto which has fiscal federalism as its center-piece.
In an interview with Sunday Vanguard, Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said “the only thing that can rescue Nigeria from this vicious cycle is a return to true and fiscal federalism where the centre devolves power”.
Another line of argument by some state governors is that there should be an immediate review of the revenue sharing formula which allocates 52% of revenue to the Federal Government while leaving the state, local governments and some agencies of government to share the remaining 48%.
Whereas the ACN’s position is without prejudice to the need for an enhanced revenue, the party believes that an amended constitution that is obeyed would create a lasting solution to Nigeria’s federal question.
Yet, another group of state governors are rooting for the removal of the subsidy on petrol.
This position is said to be that of most Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, state governors.
But the chairman of the Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, when asked of the position of the state governors, told Sunday Vanguard that whatever the governors discuss in private is supposed to be private.
However, Amaechi was quick to add that state governors have their different positions which are in the overall interest of Nigerians and workers and, since this is a democracy, the state governors also ensure that whatever decisions are taken enjoy overwhelming support.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that most of the PDP state governors are a bit jittery by the resolution of the ACN governors to pay the N18,000 minimum wage.
Sunday Vanguard was made to understand by some leaders of the PDP that what the ACN has done is to attempt to set the stage for campaigns for the next elections by wooing the civil servants and presenting themselves as being committed to workers’ welfare.
‘Its N18,000 minimum wage or strike’
Making good its threat, the NLC, at the weekend, began mobilization towards embarking on the proposed strike anytime from Thursday when its two-week ultimatum to government on the minimum wage brouhaha lapses.
Already, the Strike Mobilisation Committee of the Congress has produced thousands of leaflets to sensitize workers and prepare them for the strike. The committee has also began mass circulation of the leaflets among affiliate unions of the NLC.
Comrade Denja Yak, a member of the Strike Mobilisation Committee, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, last night, said preparations towards declaring a full-blown strike to force the three tiers of governments in the country to implement the new minimum wage had reached an advanced stage.
He explained that he had circulated the leaflets to workers and members of the public within and beyond the Federal Capital Territory.
The leaflet read: “ In March 2011, the National Minimum Wage Law was enacted. This means that no employer of labour in the country will pay the least paid worker less than N18,000 a month.
“The figure of N18,000 was arrived at after two years of grueling and very strenuous negotiations between the tripartite social partners which included the Federal Government, state governments, employers associations as represented by Nigeria Employers Consultative Assembly (NECA), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Nigeria Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industries Mines and Agriculture ( NACCIMA) and the workers represented by the NLC and Trade union Congress (TUC).
“In the process of negotiating the minimum wage based on the proposed demand of N52,000 by the labour movement, the committee benefited from presentations from professionals and experts which took into cognizance all economic and revenue profile in the national economy and all tiers of government . This was measured against the general cost of living and income level in the country and the affordability to pay by all employers covered by law”.