The power to shoulder the proposed 30,000 Naira minimum wage appear not to be with governors of Nigerian States.
There are 36 of them, but most of them appear lost as to how to go beyond their earlier proposed 22,500 Naira.
It is barely few days after the Tripartite Committee on Review of National Minimum Wage and labour unions put pen to paper that the wage could be anything between 24,000 Naira and 30,000 Naira, but there are jitters from most Government Houses across Nigeria.
One person that is courageous enough to speak at this time is the Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, and he is not finding the proposal funny.
He is the Chairman of the South East Governors Forum and he must have had a tete-a-tete with some of the other governors in his region and have received a response that will surely leave workers waiting for their salaries to be paid should the 30,000 Naira request by labour scale through.
He says 95% of states in Nigeria, which translates to 34 states, cannot pay the proposed 30, 000 Naira minimum wage to workers.
Governor Umahi made the remark while inaugurating a 36-member fact-finding committee to ascertain the mode of workers’ promotion arrears payment in states across the six geo-political zones of the states.
According to Umahi, the payment of the 30, 000 Naira can only be realised if the Federation Account allocation formula is reviewed to offer more earnings to states.
‘Putting Water Into Basket’
His statement showed how laid back governors in Nigeria are about looking inwards to raise revenue from the state and reduce reliance on the federal allocation.
“The federal government collects 52% of the revenue from the Federation Account and when I tried to put the 30,000 Naira figure to Local Government Areas (LGA) it means they will borrow 1 billion Naira to add to their allocation, in paying salaries.
“I will definitely not be a governor to govern such a state and will never preside over a state that will allocate 100% of its earnings to pay salaries,” he said.
The governor recommended that the issue of petroleum subsidy in Nigeria should also be reviewed as had been noted by the state and federal governments.
“We must presently have the courage to say this because a lot of money can be saved from the subsidy if properly distributed.
“When 100,000 litres of petrol is allocated to me for instance and deducted from my allocation, it is then my business to ensure that there is no leakage.
“There is no governor or political office holder that signs cheques, but civil servants as the country’s leaders and labour are just putting water inside a basket and praying God to hold it with this minimum wage issue,” he said.
He urged the country’s leaders and labour to liaise and decide on the percentage of the Federation Account that should be voted for salaries and other sectors.
“We should determine how much should be allocated to education, health, infrastructure among others if 100 per cent of earnings are used to pay workers salaries.
“Many states are experiencing various problems and cannot pay salaries but the people condemn their governments over their inability to provide good roads and other amenities.
“People don’t understand the problems being experienced by these states and the governors have kept quiet for long and need to speak presently,” he added.