Negotiation for a new national minimum wage is unfortunately reduced to media outbursts, with so much allegations piled on Governors. The single line narrative being propagated is that Governors don’t want to pay the N30,000, which is being presented as the consensus of the tripartite committee. Part of the reason being adduced is that in spite of the huge resources available to states, Governors are not prioritizing payment of wages. Many have cited issues of so-called huge security votes for Governors and so much other imagined wasteful expenditures. The truth is that these are unsubstantiated charges against public officials, in particular governors, which represent very simplistic attempts to dismiss critical governance realities facing us as a nation.
This narrative is again taking center-stage of most media reports following the decisions of the National Council of State of Tuesday, January 22, 20 1 9, wherein Council recommended a National Minimum Wage of N30,000 for Federal Government and N27,000 for states and private sector. This position is a remarkable shift from Governors’ earlier position of N22,500. There is the need to emphasize that the National Council of State is an advisory, not a decision-making body. Hence, it is a distortion to ascribe the decision on national minimum wage to that distinguished body. All that the President did was to bring a decision already reached at the National Economic Council to the notice of the National Council of States. And the Council noted the decision. Perhaps, it also needs to be acknowledged that this will not be the first time the Federal Government will adopt a minimum wage higher than what states agree to pay. In 2000, with the full agreement of organized labor, the Federal Government adopted a minimum wage of N7,500, which was higher than the N5,500 for states.
Given the responses of labor leaders to the January 22, 2019 recommendations of the National Council of State for minimum wage of N30,000 for Federal Government and N27,000 for states, it would appear that we are back again to another disputed situation. Sadly, it is a dispute that is more loudly expressed in the public without making any effort to revert back to formal structures of negotiations, whether at the tripartite or any bipartite level. This completely contravenes all provisions guiding processes of minimum wage negotiations as provided both in our national statutes or in all relevant conventions of the International Labor Organization. As things stand, it would appear that labor is set to continue with campaigns of public blackmails and slander against Governors, surreptitiously to enjoy public sympathy and anger against Governors.
As Governors with unflinching loyalty to President Muhammadu Buhari, APC Governors are in full agreement with his (Mr. President’s) revered assertion during the inauguration of the Rewane Technical Committee to the effect that there is no negotiation about a new national minimum wage. The big challenge confronting government and all employers in the country is the details of implantation and how to mobilize funding to ensure sustainability. In addition, APC Governors wish to join President Muhammadu Buhari to reaffirm our commitment to turn things around in the country for the good of all Nigerians. The decision of President Buhari to invite the National Council of State to take note of the decision of the National Economic Council with respect to a new national minimum wage is informed by this abiding commitment.
May we also add, this is consistent and in full recognition of the historic role and traditions of workers’ struggle for a greater Nigeria. It is the tradition of Imoudu, Goodluck, Bassey, Summonu, Ciroma, etc. It is the tradition that places the country above personal interest, respect for governments, employers and their representatives on the same scales as respect for workers, their leaders and representatives. Such realities require sacrifices from all. Without doubt, we all need to face these realities with humility and deep sense of commitment to move this country beyond where we found ourselves today as a nation. No one should claim uprightness just as no one should resort to acts of blackmails and underhand approaches to muscle parties in bipartite and tripartite negotiations.
As Governors with strong conviction and belief in development of Nigeria, we want to unequivocally state that the issues regarding a new national minimum wage is far more than agreeing to a figure. It is more about negotiating a new partnership for national development based on respect for everyone and commitment to a new regime that guarantee justice in every facet of our national life, including the workplace. An important component would be the institution of enduring framework for fair and decent wages for which a national minimum wage is a critical factor.
Against the background of low productivity, low returns on investment and rising rates of unemployment, it will be delusional to reduce the current challenges around a new national minimum wage to media outbursts and allegations. All things considered, consistent with our respect for organized labor, we want to appeal for decorum and the need to utilize all existing structures for tripartite and bipartite negotiations to contest offers and proposals.
On behalf of APC Governors, I therefore wish to emphatically affirm the commitment of all APC Governors to a new national minimum wage. As loyal and abiding supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari, we respect the decisions of the National Council of State and the recommendations therefrom and call on all Nigerians to rally support for the initiative of Mr. President to resolve this lingering matter of a new national minimum wage. We, in particular, appeal for the understanding of organized labor to appreciate that the recommendation of the National Council of State should open up opportunity for the new partnership for national development in the country. A commitment to such partnership must first and foremost be about institutional development of platforms both for bipartite and tripartite negotiations. Public and media outbursts with wildcat claims against parties in negotiations can only undermined any potential for such institutional development.
Salihu Moh. LUKMAN