Indications emerged in Abuja on Wednesday that President Muhammadu Buhari might clash with governors if he presented a bill to the National Assembly, proposing N30,000 as the national minimum wage without considering the states’ ability to pay, The PUNCH has learnt.
Buhari had while inaugurating a Technical Advisory Committee on National Minimum Wage in Abuja on Wednesday said there would be negotiations with workers already earning above N30,000 to help the Federal Government and the states to implement a new wage increase smoothly.
A new proposal of N30,000 is now before the President, which will be forwarded to the National Assembly on January 23 as a bill.
But the governors said they had already told the President the financial crisis the proposed N30,000 minimum wage would bring to their states if approved.
A governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, as a body, had sent to the President financial analysis of how the increment would affect 30 states.
It was gathered that the governors had earlier submitted a report carried out on six states to measure the impact of the increase in minimum wage from N18,000 to either N22,500, N24,000 or N30,000 on states’ finances.
The governor listed states that were covered in the first report to include “Kebbi, Ondo, Edo, Ebonyi, Bauchi and Plateau.”
It was gathered that some states had agreed to pay more than N30,000 but the governors were said to have collectively said the minimum wage should be pegged at N22,500 in order to help some states that were not financially viable.
Such states, it was gathered, included Kogi, Osun and Benue.
It was gathered that Jigawa State even offered to pay as much as N44,000 if the minimum wage was left at N22,500.
The governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added, “So, what we did was to help states that can’t pay N18,000 now to struggle and pay the N22,500 while those paying now should be able to manage the increment without much problems.
“Now, if the President goes ahead to send a bill that will contain N30,000 to the National Assembly without considering what we have told him, there will be crisis in the country. We will wait to see what will happen. I’m sure that the National Assembly will not pass the bill this year.
“I’m also sure that the President may still scale down the minimum wage to what we have agreed to pay or the N24,000 that the Federal Government suggested.
“We will expect the President to appeal to the sensibilities of workers on this matter. If you listened to the President in his interview two days ago, he said that it was better to get the N18,000 than not to get at all.
“In the interview, the President also said he was aware that there were states that owe salaries up to six months.”
We’ll negotiate with workers earning above N30,000 – Buhari
However, Buhari stated that for easy implementation, the government would have to negotiate the wage earned by those already taking salaries above the minimum wage home monthly.
Renowned financial and economic expert, Mr Bismarck Rewane, heads the technical committee, which among others, has the primary role of advising the government on how to implement a new minimum wage, particularly the consequential increases for other categories of workers.
However, for the minimum wage paid the least worker, the President disclosed that there was adequate provision for it in the 2019 budget.
Buhari added, “Therefore, we will be able to meet the additional costs that will be incurred in moving up all personnel who are currently earning below the new minimum wage.
“However, we anticipate that after the new minimum wage has been passed into law, we will be going into negotiations for salary review for all the workers who are already earning above the new minimum wage. It is therefore important that we are properly prepared to meet these demands.
“We must, therefore, look at ways of implementing these consequential wage adjustments in a manner that does not have adverse effects on our national development plans, as laid out in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.”