Civil servants in Nigeria have been told by state governors that the N18, 000 minimum wage was no longer feasible and they should take pay cuts or face retrenchment.
Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Abdulaziz Yari, disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, shortly before he left for South Africa.
Yari said that the present economic realities mean it has become “difficult” for states to continue to foot the wage bill.
Yari, who is the Governor of Zamfara State, blamed the fall in crude oil price which has resulted in low federal allocations to states as the major reason, stressing that workers need to adjust to the new realities.
He observed that crude oil price was over $100 when the minimum wage was agreed upon in 2011, but it now sells for around $40. Some states are currently receiving as low as N55 million as monthly allocation, compared to an average of N1 billion five years ago.
He said: “Let me make it very clear to Nigerians, Governors’ Forum is not an enemy of labour in any way. Rather, we have been working together. I know that not only Gov. Wike but also my friend in the comradeship, Adams Oshiomhole, kicked against the decision.
“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 the oil was about $118 per barrel and today 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 or downsize 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. There is infrastructure deficit, there is need for security, there are other things like social lives of our people and nation as a state.
“On the receipt from federation account, some states received N400 million, N500 million. Some others received N55 million: two digits. And there are other issues, not even the salary, pension is over a billion. So, how can we continue borrowing and servicing the debts aspect of our expenditure, or overhead? How can we do that?
“We are telling the public that we are planning to sit down with the president and his team and the state governors as a team and the experts to come out with the way forward and how we are going to handle the poor state of the economy in the country.
“But what we have on ground now will not be realistic if it continues the way it is without having other sources from the economy and still relying on oil that is being sold for $118 dollar per barrel and now down to $41 and think that we can continue behaving or misbehaving the way we are doing, if there is anything like that.
“Therefore, we are saying that we should tighten our belts. Something definitely, we should sit down and come out of it to find a way we are going to do it realistically or otherwise.”