Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara State says the 16 local government councils in the state may not be able to pay the N30,000 minimum wage.
The governor made this known on Friday in Ilorin at a meeting he held with labour leaders on the minimum wage.
A statement by the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Rafiu Ajakaye, quoted Abdulrazaq as saying he was hesitant to sign the minimum wage deal with labour leaders based on the table that the negotiation panel had proposed.
Abdulrazaq told the labour leaders that he was ready to sign the package if he would not be held responsible for the inability of local governments to pay the minimum wage.
The governor observed that the councils were at present struggling to pay the N18,000 minimum wage and even had to draw from their savings and IGR before paying February salary.
He said he did not want a situation where local governments would be paying 40 per cent of workers’ salary as a result of paucity of fund.
He said: “Now moving forward with the new minimum wage, we do not want a repeat of that situation; we want everybody to get their salaries as and when due.
“We found out that the local governments cannot pay the scale which we are looking at and ready to sign.
“The understanding is that the state and local government must pay on the same template/scale.
“If it is about going ahead and signing what is popular, I can sign today. But it is a choice between signing or doing what is popular and what is right or practicable.
“I can sign a popular deal today with the unions, but by January next year, the local governments would be owing their staff close to N8 billion.
“Then that is when the major strike will come in. This is something I really do not want.
“We therefore need to mitigate the situation and find a lasting solution to what we are doing.
“For example, the local governments struggled to pay the salary for January and February.”
Abdulrazaq, however, said since he became governor, money meant for the 16 local governments had been released to them in full.
He said: “Since we came on board, this administration has not touched a kobo of the local government allocation.
“This is something all of you can testify to. I stand by this. We have allowed LGs to have control of their money.
“And since we came in that is what has been happening. Nobody has touched local governments’ monies.
“We didn’t give it to them and went back to take the money away from them.
“So they have their money to spend and they have been making savings and the savings simply came from the fact that the DPMs have a spending limit.
“So it is with these savings and their IGR that they were able to augment the shortfall in their salaries in January and February.
“The salary we are talking about is the N18,000 minimum wage. So if they are struggling to pay N18,000 minimum wage, how do they pay N30,000 minimum wage?
“That is a big challenge to us. The other big challenge is that we can see the way the global economy is. Our budget had been predicated on $57 per barrel but oil is now below $35 per barrel.”
Kolawole Olumo, the Chairman of the Trade Union Congress in the state, appealed to the governor to sign the deal, assuring him that nobody would hold him responsible if local councils could not pay the N30,000.
According to him, the governor should leave the local government authorities to draw up the modalities to pay the minimum wage.
Olumo said: “Whatever is payable at the local government will be it in as much as the autonomy is there and it is our money, we will accept it.
“It has been done before. Nobody is going to blame you for anything. Nobody is going to put the arrears on your head. Nobody is going to tell you that you are indebted to us for this.
“Right in this hall, Your Excellency, workers of local governments are telling you to let us sign this deal.”
According to Oluomo, local councils would be able to pay if proper staff auditing was done and the unions were involved in the exercise.
The Chairman of the Joint Negotiation Council and National Union of Local Government Employees President, Yusuf Salihu, expressed support for the TUC chairman’s submission.
Salihu urged the governor to sign the deal, saying thorough screening would be done to remove ghost workers from the payroll.