The 36 state governors have said that they can no longer pay the N18,000 minimum wage that was signed into law in March 2011 by former President Goodluck Jonathan, owing to the poor state of the economy. Organised labour in its immediate reaction, however, kicked against the governors’ stance, saying workers are ready to shut down the country, if the governors push them into it.
Rising from a crucial meeting that ended at the early hours of yesterday, at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja under the umbrella of Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, the governors said that dwindling prices of oil had drastically affected their states’ income.
Specifically, they said that the burden of the wage was lighter when oil sold at $126 as against the current $41 per barrel.
They, therefore, sought audience with President Muhammadu Buhari on the economy, resolving that the only way out of the quagmire was to diversify the economy towards agriculture and mining.
Reading the communique issued at the end of the meeting, Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari hinted that the Forum also backed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over the N1.4 trillion sanction on MTN.
According to him, the governors agreed that the fine must be paid in full.
He explained that they received briefing from the Acting Executive Vice-Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NCC, Professor Umar Dambata who explained the matter to them.
He said: “We resolved that we must look at ways to enhance revenue generation and at the same time look at ways to cut our overhead costs, especially the political office holders’ salaries and other overhead expenses.
“The situation is no longer the same when we were asked to pay N18,000 minimum wage, when oil price was $126 (per barrel) and we continued paying N18,000 minimum wage when the oil price is $41, while the source of government expenditure is from oil, and we have not seen prospects in the oil industry in the near future.
“We will diversify our economy in the area of agriculture and mining. But at the same time, we should understand our situation where some of us (states) today are taking N100 million as monthly allocation and then have salaries of over N2 billion to pay.
“We, therefore, agreed here to take this suggestion to NEC in our meeting today (yesterday) so that we can find ways to tackle this problem.
“We are also looking at coming together to have discussions with Mr. President and his team, technocrats and experts in the economy to see how we can tackle this problem. We are working harder to deal with it.
“On the sanction by the NCC, the MTN has accepted that they committed the offence and has apologised, and they are appealing for leniency; we the governors forum decided to support the NCC to abide by the laws of the land and the laws of our land do not not give leniency to deliberate offence to our nation.”