The Nigeria Governors’ Forum said governors would have loved to pay workers N30,000 as national minimum wage, but for the hard times.
Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, Head, Media and Public Affairs, NGF, said this on Monday in Abuja.
The head of the media of the Forum said due to financial constraints and other limitations, many states could not afford it for now.
He said the clarification was important following insinuation by the Nigeria Labor Congress through an interview granted by its Secretary General, Peter Eson, that the statement were simply unwilling to pay the minimum wage as recommenced by the tripartite committee set up by the Federal Government.
Bello-Barkindo said the insinuation by Eson in the interview that governors were refusing to pay the N30.000 national minimum wage as demanded was misleading.
Bello-Barkindo said the governors had offered workers an increment to N22,500 from the current N18,000, after the submission of the report of the Tripartite Committee on October 6.
He also said the N22,500 was arrived at after extensive deliberations among all 36 governors.
He said the governors also arrived at the decision after outlining their financial capacities and liquidity, considering the economic situation of the country and the states’ other obligations.
He said: “Governors also emphasised that N22,500 is a ‘baseline threshold’, meaning that any governor who can pay more than N22.500 is therefore free to go ahead and do so.”
Bello-Barkindo said the governors had met the President Muhammadu Buhari twice on the matter and presented their books to buttress their point.
He said the governors, in their first meeting, presented the financial standing of six states, where each governor from the six geopolitical regions in the country, was shown to the President on his request.
He said: “All the states forwarded their books, their revenues, both internally generated and their earnings from the Federation Account along with their other sources of revenue for examination.
“The president appeared satisfied with the governors’ position, thus the decision to set up a new committee.”
Bello-Barkindoadded that there had never been a time in the country when states had embarked on a more aggressive revenue drive than they were doing today.
He also said though the governors were not under any obligation, by law, to show their books to the NLC, but they had at several times done so in their pursuit of the understanding of the union.
Bello-Barkindo said that was done with a view to letting NLC know that what it was asking for is neither realistic nor sustainable, adding that yet the union remained adamant.
Bello-Barkindo said that since the last meeting, mid-December, between the Governors and the President, economists of the NGF had been working closely with the relevant departments in all the states of the federation.
He said this was also in addition to looking into other ways of collating financial standing of states that would help the President in ameliorating the situation.
He added: “Already, revenue to states have dropped drastically while demands by competing needs keep rising astronomically.
“Last year alone, revenue to states dropped from N800 billion when the Tripartite Committee was appointed (November 2017) to between N500 bbillion and N600 billion by the time Ms. Amma Pepple submitted its report in October 2018.
“Moreover, state governors are making concerted efforts to improve on.education, health and infrastructure and for this, would not therefore dedicate their states’ entire resources to workers’ salaries alone.”
According to him, workers constitute less than 5 per cent of the nation’s population.
Bello-Barkindo added: “In that regard, governors emphatically announced, collectively, that no state would devote more than 50 per cent of its revenue to salaries.
“To therefore insist that states must oblige the NLC its demands, regardless of the economic gloom that stares the nation in the face is a deliberate attempt to hold the nation, especially the president, to ransom, this being an election year.”
He said most governors exhibited high sense of responsibility and concern for the plight of workers by ensuring that most of them were paid their December salaries ahead of time.
Bello-Barkindo said some even received several months of salary arrears, adding that they were happy with their governors.
He advised the NLC not to destroy existing cordial relationship between the workers and their governors, especially where in some states governors were stepping up efforts to improve on the welfare of their workers.