The Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has revisited the issue of N18,000 minimum wage, saying its payment to workers should not be a burden to any state governor that has the welfare of the people at heart.
The Nigeria Governors Forum Chairman and Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari had recently hinted that the 36 state governors may call for a downward review of the national minimum wage in view of current economic realities in the country.
Mr. Oshiomhole, who was one of the governors to reject the move to slash minimum wage immediately the hint was dropped by Mr. Yari, again insisted on Wednesday that welfare of the people is the main business of government.
“With due respect to my colleagues, it is offensive to talk about minimum wage. How can the food of the steward be the reason that the elders cannot eat? I mean by conventional wisdom, if there is crisis in the system, it’s the excess fat that will shed fats not the skeletons. The idea of using minimum wage is very offensive”, he said while speaking with State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja.
According to the Edo governor, the problem with Nigeria is that each time a serious economic problem emerges, leaders always look for an escape route option adding that “Those are not the heart of the challenges; we must go to the heart of challenges, we must revisit issues. I also believe it is simplistic to believe that one drug will cure all the ailments in the various states”.
Mr. Oshiomhole advised that every state has to take its own independent evaluation of the nature of its own problems and design appropriate policy instrument to deal with those problems as they relate to each state.
“The problem in one state is not the same with the one in Edo state. Everybody will have to deal with its own. Lastly I also think that if anybody wants to talk about federalism, let’s not talk about federalism where it affects the wages of the lowest paid.
“I have asked this question; why should Edo state governor receive the same salary as the governor of Lagos State when the population of Lagos State is doubled that of Edo state and their GDP is much higher? Why should I receive the same pay as the governor of Zamfara state or Akwa Ibom? These states are richer by accident of location.
“If we want to preach this principle, we are in a federal system, everybody should pay according to his cost of living. The cost of governing Edo state is not the same cost as governing Lagos State. So why should the revenue mobilization fix my pay and that of Lagos State. If we want to run a true federalism, start from the top that is leading by example”, he said.
Gov. Oshiomhole opined that those at the top cannot be protected while people at the bottom are attacked, adding that his stance has nothing to do with the fact that he was once National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress.
“Even if I was, the truth remains that wages is not a burden to the economy. People need to understand that if we are not careful, assuming we are suggesting we abolish wages, we have no money, people don’t earn and therefore they cannot spend, they are excluded from the economy, that fact of exclusion will have devastating impact on the consumption level of the economy.
“You need to put more money in the hands of low income people whose consumption pattern will stimulate the economy and make the manufacturers to respond”, he said
The governor also lamented that many leaders have lost their thinking caps, otherwise, they would have come up with the appropriate means to deal with the peculiar challenges they were facing.
“The responsibility of any government in governance and public is to critically evaluate the nature of the crisis you face and devise appropriate tool to deal with them on a sustainable basis. I don’t want the governors being portrayed as anti-people. What are we doing in government? [It is] because of the people.
“The primary purpose is the welfare of the people. We are not statisticians. If everybody is saying Nigeria is growing at 200% but people are dying on a daily basis that is not the kind of country we want. I don’t want us to be portrayed as what we are not”.
Mr. Oshiomhole, however, disclosed that he was aware most of his colleagues were deeply concerned about the welfare of the people and cited his own experience in Edo, where he had to come up with a system of tax targeting the rich in the state.
“I am fighting battles in Edo state. I am saying to the rich guys you have to pay tax and you have houses in other countries and you pay land use charge and you think when you come to Edo you can use bold face, we will squeeze you and when you don’t pay we take you to court, secure conviction and send you to prison. They are excreting and we will just squeeze money out of their pocket, we have to pay salaries”, he stated.