Ayuba Wabba, President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), has decried the attitude of state governors towards the payment of the new National Minimum Wage.
Wabba, who spoke on Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily, on Monday, monitored by Newsbreak, lamented the sufferings of Nigerian workers.
The NLC president disclosed that more than one third of state governors are not paying the new minimum wage, disclosing that the congress will address the issue in two fronts.
He said governors are violating the Act backing the new minimum wage with impunity.
“It is gross injustice. Some of them (governors) work less than 40 hours per week yet we have workers that put in their best. Some have even paid the supreme price fighting COVID-19 to protect all of us. Yet in some states, they are the first set of people to have their salaries slashed”, he said.
“That is why our country may not know peace except there is social justice. We negotiated the N30,000, six governors were present to represent each geo-political zone. There was a public hearing in all the geo-political zones. And some of them (governors) said once the ‘Federal Government implements, we will implement’. But here we are.
“Today, more than one third of the states are not paying. Some actually implemented but only from levels 1 to 6. It is not about resources but whether they are committed to workers’ welfare. If not how can a state like Rivers be discussing minimum wage up till now.
“We are going to confront the issue in two fronts. In fact, the law provides very clearly. The minimum wage signed into law in 2019 provided for enforcement, including payment of arrears and also payment of interests”.
Wabba said workers in the states that have failed to implement the new minimum wage should withdraw their services, adding that even the N30,000 can no longer sustain a family considering the level of inflation in the country.
The NLC president noted that COVID-19 pandemic is not the reason why some states have refused to pay the minimum wage, but that the governors are focused on “awarding white elephant projects and getting returns”.
“The workers should withdraw their services. They are not slaves. They have families to take care of. A bag of rice today is N30,000. If you have a family size which is about eight; the husband, wife, four children and possibly your parents, its eight. That is the standard. In one month, you are sure that you cannot only be eating rice.
“You also need to pay rent. When you look at the cost of living index, it is clear that is not something that can sustain a worker”, he also said.
He berated the Kaduna State Government which recently sacked about 4,000 workers.
According to Wabba, Jigawa, which has more workforce, is still paying the national minimum wage.
He said the level of disengagement of workers by the Kaduna government is the reason for insecurity in the state.
“It’s the mindset of the governors about paying the minimum wage. Jigawa for instance has the best governor without mincing words. He pays pensioners all their benefits. You retire today, you earn your gratuity you earn your pension”, he stated.
“At a time he said if there is no federal account for six months, ‘I’ll be able to pay salary’. Look at the revenue table and the resources in terms of IGR. When you compare Kaduna and Jigawa, which one receives money more?
“The same governor laying off people said that he has generated N13 billion in 2015 to now more than N50 billion. Yet, he’s talking about laying off workers”.
When asked about the size of Jigawa and being one of the last states created in the country, Wabba stressed:
“Let me tell you the fact, if you look at the workforce in Kaduna and Jigawa, Jigawa has more workforce. It is the reality, look at it. Look at the number of people they (Kaduna) sacked. In 2016, about 29,000 workers, none have been paid.
“In another hand, you then increased school fees in all institutions with over 500 per cent. I’ve read the statement of ASUU and the Student Union Government. They said 70 per cent of students of Kaduna State University are Indigents, children of the poor, children of workers and they will be out of school.
“What are we trying to do? Push out the children of the poor out of school because their children are outside, they have the best medical facility, we have destroyed public schools.
“How do you expect there would be peace in Kaduna? That is why the security issue is escalating. When the children of the poor are out of school, the rich cannot also sleep with their eyes closed,” he said.