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Published On: Wed, Oct 30th, 2019

States have a case here

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The 36 state governments have said there is no extant law that compels them to pay the difference between the new national wage of N30, 000 and the old one of N18, 000. Earlier this month, the Federal Government and organised labour agreed a graduated “differential adjustment”, backdated to April 2019. Both accepted that payment of the new wage and the arrears would begin in December. However, state governments say they have accepted the new minimum wage of N30,000, but not the “consequential adjustment” agreed between the FG and labour. That, they will negotiate with unions in the states. They have a point here.

Governors of the 36 states held a meeting, under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Monday in Abuja to “review progress in the new national minimum wage (negotiations).” The communique of the meeting was read by the NGF chairman Dr. Kayode Fayemi, governor of Ekiti state. On the salary adjustment issue, he said the FG could not “determine what happens in the states” from Abuja. According to him, each state has its executive council, “the highest decision making body at the state level.” Fayemi said, “As far as we are concerned, the best the forum can do is to stick with what has been agreed with the states. States are part of the tripartite negotiations.

“States agreed to that N30, 000 minimum wage increase. States also know that there will be consequential adjustment, but that will be determined on what happens on a state-by-state basis because there are different numbers of workers and different issues at the state level. Every state has its own trade union joint negotiating committee and they will undertake this discussion with their state governments. The day after this agreement was reached with labour, it was on record that I was on national television and made the position of the governors clear, that for us, this was a national minimum wage increase, not a general minimum wage review. Yes, that may necessitate a consequential increment, we have no doubt about that but that is a matter for the states to discuss with their workers.”

We begin by saying that the state governments have made a very big concession, abandoning their earlier opposition to a nationwide salary increase. They realized the NNMW was a national piece of legislation, binding on the component states of the Nigerian federation. What the FG, itself a component of the federation, decided to do for its workers cannot be rammed down the throats of state governments.

The federal constitution may not have given the states control over natural resources, but it does guarantee them fiscal autonomy. What they do with their finances is all up to them. The FG understands. This is why when it handed out bailouts to them to pay backlogs of owed salaries, Abuja could not dictate but only advise that the monies be used for the purpose for which they were given. Abuja could not wield the big stick against those governors that diverted the funds to other interests. Of course, it can demand a refund because the money was a loan. This it has done. Other than that, the states are on their own.

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