States back NASS bill to decentralise wage negotiations

Oyo,  Delta, Gombe, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states  have supported  a bill seeking to decentralise the negotiation on the minimum wage in the country.

Officials of the states, in separate interviews on Thursday, said centralised minimum wage negotiation negated the principle of true federalism.

But state chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), who spoke to our correspondents, expressed anger over the  bill,  saying it was against interests of workers.

Recall that the  bill seeking to remove the negotiation on minimum wage from the exclusive list to the concurrent list passed  the second reading in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

According to the  sponsor,  Garba Datti Mohammed (APC Kano), the bill is to allow both the federal and state governments to freely negotiate minimum wage “with their workers in line with our federalism.”

During the debate at plenary, Mohammed said, “Many states have not been able to implement the national minimum wage because it was imposed on them from Abuja.”

The Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the state was in support of the bill.

He said, “To rent one room in Lagos is like renting  a duplex in Ebonyi State. Why will you pay  a man who goes through  Lagos traffic daily and pays high transport fares,  the same amount you will pay a man in another state who does not go through that?

“Allow states to pay what they can. That’s why we are talking about true federalism. You don’t sit in Abuja and fix a wage for us. Look at the issue of lecturers,  after the negotiation with Federal Government, they  expect  state governments to implement an agreement that they are not a party to.”

The   state NLC chairman,  Goodluck Ofobruku,  said workers would oppose the bill. He said, “We will do whatever it takes to stop this obnoxious bill. Believe me, it is dead on arrival.”

On its part, the Akwa Ibom State Government also supported the bill saying, it would move the country towards true federalism.

The state Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Ini Ememobong, stated, “We are in support of such a bill because it shows that we are gradually moving towards true federalism where the federating units will be allowed to manage their circumstances as they deem fit.

“Gradually, I think everything will move to that point where each state government will move at its own  pace.”

The  Gombe State Commissioner for Information, Alhassan Ibrahim, said a differential minimum wage was the ideal wage system.

He said, “We have passed that stage in Gombe State because we have implemented the minimum wage. We support the differential system because you have to pay according to what you have.  That is exactly what is happening in our local government areas now. That is the reason we couldn’t implement the minimum wage at the local government level because our funds come differently from the Federation Account.

“I think only two  of our LGAs can pay minimum wage.  People suggested that we should stagger the implementation and wait till  when revenue improves. It is not fair to expect Gombe to pay what Lagos pays. Lagos has many sources of revenue. Its allocation is higher than ours.”

The Cross River State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Asu Okang,  while supporting the bill, said   states were not equally  financially buoyant.

He stated, “Not all states’ finances are equal. For instance, you cannot force a state, like Cross River, whose last  month’s total allocation from the federation account was N500m, to pay the same amount as a state like Akwa Ibom which got N18b.

“Even in the private sector some banks pay more than others. It allows for effectiveness and control. For us as a government, it is a popular opinion. It may not improve the finances of the state, but it will allow the government  to negotiate with workers what to pay, and not what is foisted on the state. The major benefit is that the state can only pay according to its resources.”

The Oyo State Government also  described the bill as a welcome development.

Mr. Taiwo Adisa, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde, said the decision was part of the ways towards practising true federalism in the country.

Adisa, in a WhatsApp message to one of  our correspondents on Thursday, wrote, “Oyo State will welcome the removal of minimum wage from exclusive legislative list because it’s a way of enthroning federalism in our country.

“States should be able to determine their wages in accordance to the productivity index of their workforce and the internally generated revenue

“It will ensure that wages are directly tied to productivity and not any nebulous projections from the centre.”

The Chief Press Secretary to  the Ogun State Governor, Kunle Somorin, told one of our correspondents that  the state would await the outcome of the bill in the National Assembly.

Chapters of the NLC, which spoke to The PUNCH,   condemned the bill.

The Kano State NLC Chairman, Kabiru  Minjibir,  stated, “We condemn in strongest terms  the bill currently before the National Assembly.

“We are not in support of it and we will never support it because it is not in the best interest of the Nigerian workers,” he said.

He said the NLC would continue to oppose the bill in view of the fact that many states in the country could not pay the N30, 000 minimum wage which was negotiated at the national level.

“How do you expect states to now pay the minimum wage when they are left to negotiate with their workers when many of them cannot implement the N30, 000 minimum wage which was negotiated at the national level,” Minjibir said.

He called on the National Assembly to discard the bill as it would promote industrial disharmony in the states.

“I want to use this opportunity to call on the National Assembly to discard the bill in the interest of peace and industrial harmony in the states,” he said.

The NLC chairman also called on Nigerians to support the Nigerian workers in their struggle to ensure that the bill does not scale through.

Asked what will the labour do if the bill is passed, Minjibir said, “We can do anything but all we are saying let there be justice and fairness”.

Recall that the Deputy President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, had in an interview on Tuesday vowed labour  would resist the bill, alleging that  the federal lawmakers were  acting the script of governors. – Punch.

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