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No minimum wage yet: What will NLC do now?

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He who speaks without modesty will find it hard to make his words good —Chinese Proverb.

By Dele Sobowale

MAY salaries and wages have been paid by the Federal and State governments without the minimum wage directive being put into effect. President Buhari and leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, as well as the erstwhile minister of labour, Ngige, who obviously did not know the limits of his authority, can now go and hide their faces in shame. I told them categorically that only a gross violation of the constitutional guarantee of separation of powers between the Federal and State government can induce governors to accept instructions from Buhari to start implementation with immediate effect.

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Even Buhari’s Federal Government did not pay in May and there is absolutely nothing the President can do about it. The Federal Government failed to pay because we have a President whose mentality is still stuck in the military era and who during the interval between August 1985 and May 2019 when some political desperadoes in the South West, resuscitated his moribund political career, had not bothered to read a book about Presidential democracy – that is if he ever read anything at all. He lacks any understanding of the principles of separation of powers between the Federal Government and the states and even provisions of the constitution, statutes and regulations which limit the powers of the President within the Executive branch which he heads.

So, he signed a bill and orders immediate implementation nationwide. In his total ignorance of the law, he forgot that he is not the employer of state and local government public service workers. Furthermore, he ignores the fact that such laws when passed at the Federal level must be domesticated within each of the thirty-six states and the Federal Capital Territory as well as the 774 local government councils, LGCs, which must also sign on before the bill can take legal effect nationwide.

Buhari must be lacking in sound advice from a competent attorney general of the federation, AGF, or he failed to take the sensible step of consulting with the nation’s topmost lawyer or he dismissed the good counsel given to have announced the immediate implementation of the signed bill. Now, he is faced with the reality of making an order which has been ignored nationally – even in Abuja. Any self-respecting head of state must strive to avoid making any important proclamation in vain. Buhari is rapidly becoming known for this sort of stunt.

He once instructed the former Inspector General of Police, IGP, to relocate to Makurdi. The man went there for two days and returned to Abuja. He was seen daily reporting to work at Louis Edet House, Police Headquarters Abuja, until another crisis brought about by rustlers in Zamfara forced Buhari to again ask Idris to relocate to Gusau, Zamfara State capital. This time the man did not even leave Abuja. It was a third crisis in Borno State which exposed to Buhari how his orders to the former IGP had been routinely disobeyed. Still, the man was not sacked until his tenure expired. NLC and ASUU leaders should have learnt from that experience that Buhari says what he thinks will please his audience without first thinking of how to make those things happen.

Right now, public servants who had expected to receive the promised enhanced emoluments, especially those who might have borrowed in anticipation of more take home pay packets would be advised to also ignore Buhari, the NLC and ASUU. They still would not receive the promised wages in June because the process for instituting a new mandatory wage bill is a long one and nothing which can be rushed just to please a President who swore to execute a constitution whose provisions is incomprehensible to him given his level of education.

Like it or not, Nigeria is stuck until 2023 with a President who only attended secondary school and whose result is still in dispute and who has not done anything to develop himself intellectually. He is surrounded by a cabal of selfish flatterers who tell him what he wants to hear and not what he should know – that is assuming that he would understand what he is told. Ex-minister Rotimi Amaechi was right when he bared his mind months ago that “the man does not read”.

If he can read and understand the basic facts of a Minimum Wage law, he would have realised that other nations where it had been passed into law have never called for “immediate implementation” – whatever that announcement implies. The calculations involved in the very complex process of implementation invariably require months – even with the fastest computers in the world to work with. With only old model computers to work with, Nigeria’s FG, States and LGCs are at a distinct disadvantage. It might take until the end of 2019 before some states can determine how much this silly will cost them.

Governor Makinde of Oyo State got it right :Oyo State cannot pay Minimum Wage – Gov. Makinde.

Courage is the rarest of all human attributes – especially among politicians. Few Nigerian politicians have had it. Most of our political leaders are mercenaries. They trade our present and future for their own selfish gains and gather a lot of praise-singers to convince us that they have performed wonders – until they leave office.  Newly-elected Governor Makinde of Oyo State might turn out to be one of the few exceptions to the national rule.

When on the day of his inauguration for the first term Makinde boldly proclaimed that Oyo State cannot pay the minimum wage, he made an announcement which former Governor Ajimobi, with a little more patriotism and sense of responsibility should have made when he was in office. Given the percentage of the state’s gross revenue which was going into salaries, wages and other entitlements, the 67 per cent increase in the payroll bill would mean that Oyo State will be spending 100 per cent of its monthly income on paying public servants alone. Even that amount will not cover all the bills. The state will have to borrow every month just to pay staff.

Ajimobi, to his everlasting shame knew this. He should have been the first to speak out. But, he had a selfish agenda. He wanted to impose his successor and he wanted to go to the Senate. He even escalated the state’s wage bill by crowning several traditional rulers who are now on the public payroll. The measures were deliberate and they were designed to serve his own interests not those of the state. Thank God, he failed on the two counts. His candidate lost and he also was defeated. Oyo is better for it.

Advice to other governors

Every governor in Nigeria should line up behind Makinde. Even rich states – Lagos, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Bayelsa, Kano – should not turn this issue into an APC versus PDP affair. Every governor has a state to manage. They cannot, and should not, allow the NLC members who constitute only about two per cent of the workers in their states to intimidate them. They have a sacred duty to act in the interest of the majority of residents in their states who are not represented by organised labour.

Unless we adopt national derivation policy under which states are responsible for their revenue, the Federal Government must give up more revenue to the states to pay for the Minimum Wage Bill passed by the Federal. The only other option left is to have a President who understands economics. But, that is too late now. We are stuck with Buhari until 2023.

God help us!!!

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