The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has expressed shock and disappointment over the statement made by the Chairman of the Governors Forum, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, that the N18, 000 National Minimum Wage was no longer sustainable because of the fall in the price of crude oil, adding that the attempts by the governors to renege on the said amount, was an open declaration of war against the Nigerian workers.
A statement by the NLC read, “We wish to make it abundantly clear that this attempt to reverse the National Minimum Wage is a declaration of war against the working people of this country, and we would have no alternative than to mobilise to respond to this act of aggression by the political class on our welfare.
“As an organised Labour, we submitted a request for N52, 000 and provided justification for it as the minimum wage, which a worker and his recognised legal dependents needed to live a healthy life of 30-31 days in a month. Out of our patriotic disposition and consideration, we reluctantly agreed to the N18, 000 wage, even as it was grossly inadequate as a living wage. Many of the state governments who submitted memoranda to the tripartite negotiating committee recommended figures that were far above the N18, 000 that was eventually agreed. The Governors cannot, therefore, want Nigerians to take them seriously by their present claim that the current national minimum wage was ‘imposed’ on them!
“At the Nigeria Labour Congress, we know as a fact, that ability to pay minimum wage is not the problem of the economy. What is the problem for states and other tiers of government is the amount of money that political office holders and their unproductive aides take away as wages. For the private sector, the creed to accumulate more and more profit is also always a motivating factor to keep wages down.
“Similarly, we have been in the forefront of campaigning that the cost of governance at all levels need to be drastically cut down, to free enough resources for development. The hundreds of billions of naira our public office holders continue to filter away in the name of governance is what is not sustainable.
“The annual cost to the public purse of governors ‘security votes’ which is an unaccountable drain on the public resources, is worth several thousands of minimum wages per state. Secondly, Nigerians who have the means to travel by air would recall that in the last 6-10 years, a majority, if not all our governors, no longer use commercial airline regular flights as a means of transportation from one place to another. They now have ‘official’ aircraft and helicopters, which they maintain at huge costs to the state treasury. Their less “fortunate” counterparts charter aircraft and helicopters at a huge cost to tax-payers to attend any manner of functions from marriages to child naming ceremonies.
“States are in the poor financial state they are largely on the developmental choices they have made; largely on the basis of priorities they have chosen, which has nothing to do with the public good. Workers’ salaries cannot be sacrificed on the altar of challenges of the economy which is not the making of workers. It has never happened in the history of our country, and it will not be said that it is during our leadership of the Nigerian Labour movement that this calamity was allowed to happen to Nigerian workers.
“Governors and other political office holders were not elected and/or appointed to only go and share proceeds from crude oil and petroleum products sales monthly in Abuja. Any one presenting himself or herself to serve does so on the assumption that he or she has the intellect above the average which would be leveraged to provide good and responsive governance to the rest of the populace.
“In the 60s when Nigeria did not have oil as the main source of our revenue, our predecessors raised funds via efficient taxes, agricultural produce and other forms of internally generated revenue to provide development and pay living wages to the workers. Our current crop of leaders who present themselves for election to high government positions must deliver by paying the working masses their due salary,” the NLC insisted.