The Governors’ Forum, has stressed the need for the Federal Government, the 36 governors, and the organized labour to agree on a realistic minimum wage for workers.
The Chairman of the forum, Gov. Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara, made this known while addressing State House correspondents on the governors’ stand on the minimum wage especially in view of the dwindling revenue from oil.
According to him, it will be difficult for many states to fulfill the wage obligation to their workers if the shortfall in oil revenue continues.
“Let me make it very clear to Nigerians. Governor’s Forum is not the enemy of labour in any way, rather, we have been working together.
“Although in the decision we never said that we are going to stop the payment of N18,000 minimum wage, but we are looking at the situation in the country and in the global economy.
“What we said is that when the National Assembly enacted the law of paying N18,000 minimum wage, then oil was about $118 per barrel and today where we are, oil is $41 per barrel.
“So, if it continues like that definitely we will find it difficult to continue.
“We have to sit down with the labour and see how we can review, either continue either downsizing or what we are going to do.
“We want to find a solution because we have to be realistic that we have so many things to touch (on).
“There is infrastructure deficit, there is need for security, there are other things like social security of our people and the nation as a state.’’
According to the chairman of the forum, some states received between N400 million and N500 million from the Federation Account in the last allocation that was made, while another state received as low as N55 million with its pension commitment at N1 billion.
“The receipt from the Federation Account, some people received N400 million, N500 million. Some others received N55 million, two digits.
“And there are other issues, not even the salary; their pension is over a billion naira.
“So, how can we continue borrowing and servicing our expenditure, or over head?’’
Yari further informed reporters that members of the forum are planning to sit down with, President Muhammadu Buhari, members of his team, and experts to come up “with the way forward and how we are going to handle the poor state of the economy in the country’’.
He said that what was on ground now was unrealistic if it continued without having other sources from the economy and still relying on oil “being sold for $118 dollar per barrel and now down to $41 per barrel’’.
“Therefore, we are saying that we should tighten our belts,’’ he said.
Yari acknowledged that the Rivers and Edo governors had criticized the decision of the Forum to lower wages but added that other states were not as rich as Rivers, Edo or Lagos even in terms of internally generated revenue (IGR).
He said Zamfara had more than three textile plants and about 37 ginneries which shut down because of energy shortage thus lowering the IGR sources in the state.
The governor further said that it was difficult to bother the citizens to pay for government services when they could hardly afford two square meals a day.
“Therefore, how can we get revenue? Can we go door-to-door and start knocking for people to pay their own due when they are looking for their own and hardly get at least two square meals daily?
“Can you knock on his door and ask him to pay government for development?
“So we know that it is trouble for us. We need to close ranks, both the federal and the state governments to see if we can sit down and settle this project of the economy.’’
On the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections he advised the electorate “to turn out en masse and vote to do their own constitutional or legitimate rights to choose their leadership.
“My advice to the general public is that we can now start calling ourselves advanced country when it comes to democracy in Africa.
“As large as Nigeria is we can demonstrate the voter rights to choose what you want and the public now are the ones that will install the leadership by themselves as I as well as the President (were installed).
He said the people should believe what President Muhammadu Buhari had promised to “leave the legacy of a good election because he is one of the beneficiaries of a good election.
“So, it is no longer going to be business as usual where the security personnel will be the people to do the election but rather to safeguard the interest of the public.
“Therefore, the people of Bayelsa and Kogi states should turn out en masse and choose their leadership.’’(NAN)