When President Muhammadu Buhari signed the N30,000 minimum wage bill into law in April, salivating Nigerian workers were anxious for the new salary that will shore up their purchasing power.
The more optimistic among them picked up their calculators to work out the possible new earnings and started looking forward to when they would start enjoying the jumbo pay. But close to eight months after, most workers have yet to know what increment to expect.
A recent survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria showed that while federal workers earning less than N30,000 had since started enjoying the new wage, others are yet to know when it will be their turn following the prolonged disagreement between government and labour unions over the consequential adjustments for workers already earning above the minimum rate.
Last month, labour and government agreed on the rates according to the grade levels, giving federal workers some hope that something positive will happen soon.
In the states, a few have started paying amidst complaints by workers unions that they were not consulted and thus unaware of the template used for the payments.
In many other states, NAN learnt that the governments were still waiting for “national template and circular” before commencing negotiations.
In one state, the workers have rejected the payments because government paid a paltry N7,000 across board for all workers from levels 7 to 17.
In Akwa Ibom State, for instance, the Head of Service, Effiong Essien, told NAN that the oil-rich state was “waiting to see the national template on the minimum wage before the state can commence implementation”.
Essien added: “Governor Udom Emmanuel has expressed the willingness to pay but he is waiting for the national template on how to go about it.
“The state government has announced the willingness to pay immediately the template is received and modalities worked out.”
Sunny James, Chairman of the state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress, spoke in the same vein.
James said: “Labour in the state is awaiting national and joint negotiating council to send the template to the state for action.
“That is the only issue the labour is waiting for before approaching government and demanding implementation.”
Like the oil-rich state, virtually all the States in the North Central geopolitical zone of country have yet to commence the implementation of the N30,000 National Minimum Wage.
A survey conducted by NAN in Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Niger and Taraba States revealed that negotiations between labour and the state governments for the payment of the new salary had yet to start.
In Plateau, the state Commissioner for Information, Dan Manjang, told NAN that the State Government was prepared to pay the new minimum wage, but could not give a definite date for the commencement of the payment.
According to Manjang, Governor Simon Lalong has already promised that the state government would implement the new minimum wage for civil servants in the state.
He said the Governor was a member of the Steering Committee that arrived at the N30,000 minimum wage, and that he had consistently said he would pay the new salary and the accruing arrears.
Similarly, the Benue State Government said it had yet to fix a date for the implementation of the new minimum wage.
According to Governor Samuel Ortom, the state government will pay as soon as the template arrives and funds are available.
Ortom, who spoke through Terver Akase, his Chief Press Secretary, said workers in the state deserved more than the new minimum wage, but that lack of funds might delay the implementation.
He said: “If Benue had the funds, our workers deserve even more than N30,000 as minimum wage.
“The challenge is inadequate funds.
“This is why we have been asking for an upward review of the revenue sharing formula to enable states have more money to cope with the new minimum wage.
“Our workers truly deserve it.”
Meanwhile, the Niger State chapter of the NLC has asked the state government to fulfill its promise to pay the N30,000 new minimum wage.
The Chairman of the union, Yakubu Garba, told NAN in Minna that Governor Abubakar Bello had reiterated the state government’s commitment to pay the new wage based on the Federal Government’s agreement with organised labour at the national level.
Garba said: “The Governor has re-assured us that the state government will pay the new minimum wage according to the Federal Government’s agreement with the organised labour.
“What we want from the state government now is the commitment to implement the new minimum wage as promised.”
He said organised labour in the state had not received any circular from the national body and the state government concerning the implementation of the new minimum wage.
He said: “Our officials just came back from a national meeting in Abuja and we will meet to analyse the development.”
Garba disclosed that the State Public Service Negotiating Council was inaugurated on November 11.
“We will soon start formal negotiation on the implementation of the new minimum wage with the state government,” the chairman said.
The situation is similar in Nasarawa as the state government and the organised labour told NAN that they would soon commence negotiation on modalities for the implementation of the new minimum wage.
The state Commissioner of Information, Culture and Tourism, Dogo Shammah, and the Chairman of the State Joint Public Service Negotiating Council, Yakubu Makama, both told NAN that the two parties are happy with the way things were going on between them, and expressed hope that consensus would be reached once the negotiations start.
“Once we start the negotiations, there will be no foot dragging,” Shammah said, adding that the state government was willing to pay the new minimum wage.
According to him, Governor Abdullahi Sule has always stated his desire to pay the minimum wage once negotiations commenced and agreements are reached.
He said: “The governor is a man of integrity who matches words with actions; he means and respect every word he utters.”
The commissioner, however, said the government had yet to receive the template for the new salary, adding that once it gets the document, it would put in place a machinery to commence negotiations.
“Once the government receives the template, we shall meet as a family, with the organised labour, because they are also part of government,” he said.
On his part, Makama said the union received the template for the implementation of the new wage from its national headquarters on November 6.
He said: “Organised labour will meet on November 13, after which the template will be presented to the government.
“By implication, and by the grace of God, the negotiation for the implementation in the state will commence next week.”
In Taraba, the state chapter of the NLC told NAN that the state government had yet to respond to its request to start negotiations on the implementation of the new minimum wage.
The Chairman of the union, Peter Gambo, said the council had written to the state government on the implementation of the new minimum wage, but it was still awaiting the response in order to commence the process.
Gambo, however, expressed optimism that the government would implement the new wage and as well commence discussions on the consequential adjustments.
The situation is, however, a bit different in the North West zone of the country where some states have begun the implementation though without the inputs of labour unions.
A check by NAN showed that workers in Kaduna and Kebbi States began receiving the new salary in October and September respectively.
However, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara States are yet to begin negotiations on the consequential increment in the salaries ahead of the payment.
In Kebbi, where the state government commenced payment of the N30,000 minimum wage to civil servants in September, the labour unions have rejected the amount being paid and are poised for a showdown.
The Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Babale Yauri, informed NAN in Birnin Kebbi that the implementation was sequel to consultations with the state House of Assembly, leaders of labour unions and relevant government agencies.
“In spite of the resource constraint, the state government has decided to implement the new minimum wage,” Babale said.
According to him, no employee of the state government has received less than N30,000.
“When Governor Atiku Bagudu swore-in the 21 local government bosses, he encouraged them to review their revenue profiles and take steps to implement the new minimum wage legislation immediately,” he said.
But the claims by the SSG that the payment followed negotiations with stakeholders have been faulted by the Chairman of the NLC, Alhaji Umar Halidu, who told NAN that the union had rejected the minimum wage.
Halidu said: “The rejection is based on the outcome of the labour unions meeting with its members on October 25, 2019.
“After extensive deliberations on the said N30,000 minimum wage as received by the civil servants from September 2019, the joint NLC and Trade Union Congress in session kicked against the unilateral decision of the state government on the implementation of the wage.
“The state government unilaterally approved the minimum wage without any agreement with our members.
“We don’t know the percentage approved to the workers above grade level 07 as they have only seen N7,000 increment across board.
“The N30,000 minimum wage for workers from grade level 01 and 06 is already a law.”
Halidu said organised labour was not a party to the decision, describing it as violation of the principle of collective bargaining.
He said: “We hereby totally disassociate ourselves from the said minimum wage.
“We call on government to set up a machinery to deliberate on possible implementation of the minimum wage that could be acceptable to both parties to ensure industrial harmony.”
The chairman also called on workers to remain calm and law abiding.
“The union is doing everything humanly possible to ensure that their rights and privileges are protected,” Halidu said.
In Kaduna State where the salary implementation commenced in October, the state NLC said it was not consulted before the payment.
The NLC Chairman, Comrade Ayuba Sulaiman, said the union had set up a technical committee to review the template used by the government.
“We have set up a five-man technical committee that is still working on it; very soon, we will come up with our stand,” Suleiman said.
According to him, the unilateral action of the state government was a negation of the principle of collective bargaining.
He said: “It is traditional to negotiate, but in Kaduna State we were out of it.
“We have taken it in good faith and we are going to use social dialoguing platform to engage the government in areas where we have issues.”
Meanwhile, the Kano State Government says it will spend N10 billion monthly on the payment of the new national minimum wage.
The Head of Service, Dr. Kabiru Shehu, told NAN that when the state government commences the payment of the new wage, the salary bill would “rise tremendously”.
Shehu, who declined to state when the payment will commence, however, said a technical committee had been set up to negotiate the salary adjustments with labour unions.
He said: “The negotiations with the labour unions is over the exact percentage to be spread across the board from grade level 7 to 17.”
According to him, the government will pay the arrears of the salary effective from April, based on its financial capability.
In Sokoto State, the Chairman of NLC, Aminu Umar, said negotiations with the state government on the minimum wage had not started.
“We have not started any negotiation,” Umar told NAN, but assured the workers that the union would protect their interest.
On the minimum wage implementation committee set up by Governor Aminu Tambuwal, the NLC chairman said the committee was not only for the new wage.
“The committee is also charged with streamlining the civil service,” he said, adding that the committee inaugurated by Tambuwal on June 7 is headed by Alhaji Namadina Abdurrahman.
Similarly, the NLC in Katsina State said the state government was yet to start implementing the new minimum wage.
According to the state NLC Chairman, Hussaini Hamisu, organised labour and government have yet to meet on the issue.
Hamisu said: “For now, I can only assure workers that the two parties will soon meet to discuss on the implementation of the new minimum wage.
“I only want to assure them their interest will not be compromised.”
In the North East, NAN found that no state had commenced the implementation of the new minimum wage, with many of them blaming that situation on the lack of a template or circular from the Federal Government.
NAN Correspondents in Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe States, who spoke with government and Labour officials, however, report that there appears to be appreciable level of understanding over the issue by stakeholders.
In Gombe, for instance, a labour official told NAN that NLC and the state governor had already signed an agreement on the issue right from the electioneering period, as such no hiccups were anticipated.
Shuaibu Ciroma, Secretary of NLC in the state, said labour was not expecting any hitch in the implementation of the new minimum wage in the state.
Ciroma told NAN in Gombe that their optimism was hinged on the fact that Labour and Governor Inuwa Yahaya had signed a memorandum of understanding on the issue during the latter’s campaign.
According to him, since the Federal Government has resolved with the national body of the NLC, they are hopeful that the state will follow suit.
He called on civil servants to remain calm and resolute, and also pray for successful negotiation and implementation.
In Adamawa, the state Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, had raised the minimum wage from the N30,000 prescribed by law to N32,000 and directed that implementation should commence this month (November).
Solomon Kumangar, the Director, Media and Communications to the governor, said the directive for the payment covered both state and local government workers.
Kumangar said: “Governor Ahmadu Fintiri has directed that payment of the new national minimum wage should commence from November, 2019.
“This directive covers state civil servants, as well as local government employees.”
Commenting on the development, the state NLC chairman in the state,Emmanuel Fashe, lauded the governor for the gesture, describing it as a welcome development.
Fashe said union leaders would commence meeting with government representatives, led by the state Head of Service, on the issue.
Amos Edgar, the state Head of Service, had earlier announced that the state would pay N32,000 as minimum wage above the N30,000 approved by Federal Government.
Edgar said the decision to pay N32,000 minimum wage was in line with the promise made by the governor during his campaign.
Edgar explained that what was left was the ongoing discussion on consequential adjustment for other workers earning above the N30,000.
The Bauchi State Government has, however, said it was awaiting the Federal Government’s circular on the new minimum wage before it would commence implementation of same.
Umar Saidu, spokesperson of the State Head of Service, stated this in Bauchi.
Saidu said: “Last week, I took some journalists to Mr. Abdun Dala-Gin, Special Adviser to the Governor on Civil Service Matters, and he told them same.
“He said that the governors had met sometimes ago and took a general stand that they will not jump the gun, but rather await Federal Government’s circular on the issue.”
When contacted, the State Chairman, NLC, Comrade Danjuma Saleh, declined comment on the issue.
Meanwhile, the Borno State chapter of the NLC has said it was yet to begin negotiation for the adjustment and implementation of the N30,000 new minimum wage in the state.
The NLC Chairman in the state, Bulama Abiso, told NAN that the union was waiting to hear from the national body before commencing negotiation at the state level.
Abiso said: “Although the N18,000 minimum wage witnessed poor implementation, with some local government staff yet to benefit, I am confident that the state will pay the N30,000 minimum wage following increase in the financial standing of the state.”
He said organised labour was in support of the return of the Labour Advisory Council, which would help in mediating between the government and workers.
In Yobe State, Alhaji Muhammed Nura, Acting Head of Civil Service in the state, told NAN that the state government had commenced preparations for the payment of the new minimum wage.
Nura said: “The state finance unit has been working on the new minimum wage and we are also waiting for the circular from the Federal Government.
“Once we get that template and circular, we shall commence payment.”