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States and minimum wage

The news that some states of the federation are still refusing to pay the national minimum wage to their workers is disheartening.
It would be recalled that national minimum wage for workers was pegged at N18, 000 per month for both state and federal government employees. Even at that, the law gave discretionary room for those governments willing to pay more. By the provision of the 1999 Constitution (item 34 of the Second Schedule), national minimum wage is a matter on the Exclusive List. It is therefore surprising that some states that were part of the agreement are now reneging on it. We condemn this development in its entirety. In a situation where the financial fortunes of Nigerian workers are deteriorating with each passing day, it amounts to further condemning them to perpetual penury to refuse to pay the minimum wage which they are entitled to.
It is general knowledge that the country’s economy is in the doldrums while the level of unemployment, especially among the able-bodied, is very high. Given this pathetic situation, the burden on the few still in employment is very high, even as their incomes continue to dwindle in value. Incidentally, the issue of wage dispute between organised labour and the Federal Government dates back to 2009 when the former demanded N54, 000 as minimum wage given that the prevailing N7, 500 could no longer cater for workers’ needs in view of the economic situation. Apparently to forestall any labour unrest, the Federal Government commissioned a committee comprising eight members drawn from the organised labour, government and employers to negotiate a new minimum wage. The commission, headed by Justice Alfa Belgore, recommended N18, 000 for workers, which was accepted by all stakeholders, including state governments. We are therefore at a loss to understanding why four years after the agreement, many state governments are still unwilling to pay. Such refusal is against the background of the humongous salaries and other financial perks, that many state government officials pay to themselves. Many of them are known to be richer than their states.
We have situations where governors employ numerous aides and other hangers-on who are paid from government coffers. State legislatures are even worse culprits. There, legislators award themselves hefty pay packages that are not commensurate with the financial capabilities of their states. In the end, the resources that would have gone into economic and infrastructure development are diverted into private pockets. We therefore call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to devise all acceptable means to get the defaulting state governments to live up to their responsibilities. The political parties of such governments should also be made to see a link between the actions of their governors and the electoral chances of those actors and other candidates at different elections in which they will participate Ignoring workers is a sure recipe for polls disaster.

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