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Minimum Wage: FG, Govs divided over figure

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—-Govs meet today to brief EMT

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

ABUJA—THERE were indications today that the governors were not in agreement with the Federal Government over the figure for the new minimum wage.

The Federal Government Economic Management Team, EMT, chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo met with representatives of the government to take position on the new minimum wage which the organised labour is insisting on N30,000.

The governors at the meeting had requested to meet today on the platform of the Nigeria`s Governors Forum, NGF, so as to have time to critically analyse the memo from the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige to them for them to take a common stand.

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The Governors said that they could pay any amount demanded by the workers as new minimum wage but that their main challenge was the capacity to pay.

Addressing State House correspondents at the EMT meeting, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige said the meeting had a fruitful deliberation.

Ngige said, “We held a meeting for us to bring out modalities for us to respond to the emerging problems thrown up by the National Minimum wage Committee and we have very fruitful meeting which necessitated in governors having further meeting tomorrow (today).

“We will reconvene tomorrow (today) to brief the Economic Management Team and the Vice president and we take it up from there. The governors will meet to take a position and brief the Economic Management Team. This meeting is only for the Tripartite Committee of the government side.”

But Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari said the meeting was for the government side to look at the bottleneck on the minimum wage with the organised labour.

He said, “The position of the governors is not very clear to some of you. We are willing to pay any amount but the issue is the capacity to pay.”

He said that the meeting discussed the proposal made by the organised labour and the figure proposed by the Federal Government, adding that “the governors still haven’t come out with any figure.”

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“So by tomorrow (today), we are going to discuss with our governors on the bill by the Minister of Labour and Employment to the NGF Secretariat. We will digest it and  come up with our own positions as governors because we are critical stakeholders on this issue.”

It was however gathered that the governors were not comfortable with the N24,000 proposal by the Federal Government and would likely come up with their own figure after meeting today.

A source privy to the meeting said that the governors were furious with the N24,000 when some governors were unable to pay the current N18,000.

At the EMT meeting were Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, the Ministers of Labour and Employment, Finance and Budget and National Planning, Boss Mustapha, Senator Chris Ngige, Mrs Zainab Ahmed and Udoma Udo Udoma respectively.

Others were the Head of Service to the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, the Director General, National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Chief Richard Egbule and Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris.

The Governors at the meeting were the Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors Forum, and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, Osun State, Rauf Aragbesola and Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong.

Recall that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige had briefed State House correspondents on Friday last week after meeting behind closed-doors with President Muhammadu Buhari and announced that the Economic Management Team would be meeting today with the Governors to take position on the new minimum wage.

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Although the Federal Government has insisted on N24,000 as new minimum wage, the organised labour had on their own maintained that in the last Minimum Wage Negotiation Tripartite Committee, the sum of N30,000 was agreed upon but the government objected to it, claiming that there was no consensus on that.

Ngige maintained that in fixing the minimum wage, the paramount thing was the ability to pay and that government cannot force employers to pay what they cannot afford.

But the organised labour has accused the government of playing games with the minimum wage and threatened to embark on strike November 6.

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