By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State Tuesday said that the new N30,000 minimum wage in the actual sense cannot take workers home due to the prevailing economic situation in the country.
The Governor also said that what Nigeria needed presently was not strong men rather strong institutions to ensure growth and stability.
This is as the organized labour has said that it would amount to wickedness for any state governor not to pay the new minimum wage of N30,000 and threatened to put the governors on their toes to ensure that they pay the new wage.
The organized labour has also berated policies of the federal government, saying that its only working policy was the gathering in Abuja every month to share monthly allocations.
Both Governor Obaseki and the leaders of the organized labour spoke at the 7th Quadrennial Delegates Conference of the Non-Academic Staff Unions of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, in Abuja.
Speaking at the conference, with the theme, “Funding Education, Health, Research Institutions and Other Social Services in a Depressed Economy: Challenges and Prospects”, Governor Obaseki said that presently, Edo State was paying N25,000 introduced by his predecessor when the national minimum wage was N18,00, adding that paying N30,000 would not pose any problem to the state.
He said, “I want to assure you, due to the work my predecessor in office did, we have currently the minimum wage of N25,000 in Edo state, so moving to N30,000 is not going to be a big thing for us at all.
“For me personally, I don’t think the emphasis should be on N30,000 minimum wage, the emphasis should be on improving the environment in which workers work such that they can be more productive and justify what we pay. N30,000 you can agree with me cannot take workers home.
“So what we should be angling for is to demonstrate that workers are producing much more they are being paid and on the basis of that, demand a fairer share of what they are producing. We must continue to insist that education is key, not only for the development of human capital, but also for attractive citizenry poised to the development of our community and country at large. “
The Governor also said that for the country to develop, what it required was strong institutions and not strongmen.
According to him, “For our country to survive, we must begin to think on how to strengthen our institutions, be it educational, health, research or social services. What is key for us for our development is to make sure that we have strong institutions.
“Nigeria does not need strong men, what it needs are strong institutions. Strong institutions are the cornerstone of any stable government and for institution to function optimally; it must be guaranteed stable and assured funding.
“Funding of education, healthcare and research institution and other social services are critical functions of the state and that function must be prioritized because it is conditional to the organization and development of the state.
“In the quest of the need to build strong institution, we are constantly faced with the concern over the insufficiency of funding which is required to guarantee optimal effectiveness and service delivery. Our reality is that government particularly the federal government no longer has the requirements to meet its responsibilities.
“So for us to work with the insufficiency resources that are available to deliver results to our people, we need to think more creatively and more innovatively and reach out to other sources of capital for government to function. Any government that believes that it can do it itself, it can carry out the total function on its own today is only deceiving itself.”
President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba in his remarks said that the congress had come up with strategies for the enforcement of the new N30,000 minimum wage by state governments.
Comrade Wabba who was represented by the Deputy National President of NLC, Comrade Amaechi Asuguni said, “Let me use this opportunity to call on the state governors and the employers of labour to make haste to implement the new minimum wage. On behalf of Nigeria Labour Congress, we are here to ensure that state governors comply with payment of the new minimum wage.
“Strategies are already on by NLC ant TUC, they are giving close monitoring in ensuring that no state will fail to comply with payment of the new minimum wage and we are willing to do everything legitimately in order in ensuring that we put them on their toes in putting welfare of the workers as priority. There is no state in Nigeria that will say N30,000 is too much for workforce. We are more than that and we believe, he who has put in his best deserves his wage.”
He said that the leadership of the Congress will continue to stand strong with members of its affiliate unions including NASU as he commended the tenacity of members of the union who have continued to give their best despite the challenges surrounding the economy.
The National President of NASU, Chris Ani in his welcome address took a swipe at the governments at all levels in the country, describing them as bunch of lazy people.
He said, “The statement that Nigeria’s economy remains in a state of comatose as a result of over-reliance on revenue from oil cannot be overemphasized. Governments at all levels in this country have become extremely lazy in terms of fashioning out and implementing policies that will grow the economy and bring about real development of the nation.
“The only viable economic policy known to the federal and state governments is the monthly convergence in Abuja by Ministers of Finance, State Commissioners of Finance and other government functionaries to share revenue from the federation account generated through the sale of crude oil and taxation.
“This state of affairs continue to foist on the nation, economic crisis, which governments at all levels hide under, to downplay the role of the State, in favour of the role of markets in economic development; attacks on collective bargaining and agreements; cut on public expenditure on staff welfare; wage freezes/wage stagnation; less protection for workers who are left at the mercies of powerful employers including governments.
“Permit me to emphasise what has consistently been said that Nigeria’s economy needs to be diversified and that economic policy of governments must aim at grown and development. The policies must have as its focus, the wellbeing of citizens.”
On taxation in the country, he said, “Workers have been consigned by the Federal and State Governments, under the weight of the burdened of over taxation. As if such burdens are not enough, new tax burdens are introduced daily by the present Federal Government. The increase in Value Added Tax and the increases in the charges of withdrawals and deposits by the Central Bank of Nigeria to say the least is very provocative to a workforce that is already overburdened with excessive PAYE tax.
“The tax system in Nigeria is not broad base as it is very clear that only workers pay taxes in this country. It is unacceptable that the country is ever ready to give tax concessions and tax holidays to business while increasing taxes that affect workers adversely. The Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) has indicated government’s intention to cap it up with what he calls communication tax because according to him, Nigerians talk a lot.
“This mindless taxation is carried out to prove to Bretton Wood Institutions and other foreign lenders, that the country can internally generate sufficient revenue to settle the every increasing foreign debt. We must rise as a movement to challenge this insensitivity of Governments to the tax burden that is crushing Nigerian workers.”
The NASU President while speaking on corruption in the country said that it had remained a hydra-headed monster destroying the economic, political and social fabrics of the nation.
He said, “It has become a way of life in the country, thereby making a culture. Citizens are beginning to leave with the impression that successive governments are only paying lip services to the fight against corruption as it is beginning to look as if successive governments are competing among themselves, to see which one will be more corrupt that the other.
“It is a matter of great concern to us as a Union, that institutions established to fight corruption and other crimes have failed to adequately carry out the assignments for which they were established.
“We call on the Federal Government to stop paying lip service to the fight against corruption and develop the political will and courage to tackle the issue of corruption. To us, giving political appointments to persons who have pending cases of corruption in court or have ever been indicted by any tribunal amounts to administrative pardon.”
On insecurity, Ani said, “It is a core responsibility of every government to secure the lives and property of its citizens. Insecurity of lives and properties in Nigeria is symbolised by resurgence of kidnappings for ransom and armed robberies, communal clashes and persistent Boko Haram attacks among others.
“We are saddened that security agencies are beginning to show symptoms of that they are losing the fight of securing lives and properties in Nigeria. We call on the Federal Government to ensure that money released to security agencies for the war against insecurity is used for the purpose adequately and accounted for.”
In his goodwill message, the national President of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Prof, Biodun Ogunyemi decried poor funding of education in the country.
He said, “Successive governments since we returned to civilian rule in 1999 have played mere lip service to addressing the rots and decay which permeate educational, health and research institutes. For instance, the federal government budgetary allocation to the education sector in the last five years has hovered between five percent and seven percent at a time, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Egypt were locating 20 percent or more.
“Apparently, Nigeria has performed far below the 2006 recommendation of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, within the education for all frameworks that 15 to 20 percent of the annual budget of every developing country should be allocated to education. Worse still, nearly half of what was allocated to Nigeria ever got released. “