As the oil-dependent Nigerian economy continues to witness a steady decline in revenue occasioned by a slump in oil price in the international market, Nigerian governors will eventually have to reduce the national minimum wage of N18, 000 or downsize, chairman of the body, Abdulaziz Yari, has said.
Yari, who is chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum and Zamfara state governor, on Thursday told State House correspondents shortly after he emerged from a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari that no matter the level of public condemnation of the plan, it would not be economically feasible to retain the same workforce and pay same amount of money with allocation to states steadily declining.
According to the governor, funds allocated from the Federation Account could no longer sustain the expenses of the states as the internally generated revenue was still nothing to write home about in some states.
The state governors had two weeks ago dropped the hint that they could no longer sustain payment of the N18, 000 minimum wage, claiming the amount was centrally fixed and imposed on them.
The announcement caused quite a stir with the umbrella body of Nigerian workers, the Nigeria Labour Congress, describing the plan to cut down the minimum wage as a “declaration of war”, which they vowed to resist.
Some state governors too had kicked against plans to cut down minimum wage in the country, saying the announcement by the NGF chairman was not a collective decision.
As at the last count, the governors of Rivers, Edo, Ogun and Ekiti States have publicly rejected the plan.
Reiterating the position of the NGF yesterday at the State House Abuja, Mr. Yari said the governors were considering the nation’s economic situation.
“Let me make it very clear to Nigerians, governor’s forum is not the enemy of labour in any way. Rather, we have been working together. But what we are saying, (because not only Gov. Wike but also my friend in the comradeship, Adams Oshiomhole, kicked against the decision)…
“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 where we are 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 downsizing, or see 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”, he said.
The governor said from the federation account, some states received N400 million, N500 million while others received N55 million.
“And there are other issues, not even the salary, their pension is over a billion. So, how can we continue borrowing and servicing the service 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”, he added.