The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) said that the governors would have loved to pay workers N30,000 as national minimum wage but for the hard times.
Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, Head, Media and Public Affairs, NGF, said this on Monday in Abuja.
The head of the media of the Forum said that due to financial constraints and other limitations, many states could not afford it for now.
He said that the clarification was important, following insinuation by the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) through an interview granted by its Secretary General, Peter Eson.
Bello-Barkindo said that the insinuation by Eson in the interview that governors were refusing to pay the N30.000 national minimum wage as demanded was misleading.
Bello-Barkindo said that the governors had offered workers a token increment of N22,500 from the current N18000, after the submission of the report of the Tripartite Committee on Oct 6.
He also.said that the N22,500 was arrived at after extensive deliberations among all 36 governors.
He said the governors.also arrived at the decision after outlining their financial capacities and liquidity, considering the economic situation of the country and the states’ other obligations.
“Governors also emphasised that N22,500 is a “baseline threshold”, meaning that any governor who can pay more than N22.500 is therefore free to go ahead and do so.
He said that the governors had met the President Muhammadu Buhari twice on the matter and presented their books to buttress their point.
He said the governors, in their first batch meeting, presented the financial standing of six states, where each governor from the six geo-political regions in the country, was shown to the President on the President’s request.
“All the states forwarded their books, their revenues, both internally generated and their earnings from the Federation Account along with their other sources of revenue for examination.
“The president appeared satisfied with the governors’ position, thus the decision to set up a new committee.’’
Bello-Barkindo added that there had never been a time in the country, when states had embarked on a more aggressive revenue drive than they were doing today.
He also said that though the governors were not under any obligation, by law, to show their books to the NLC but they had at several times done so in their pursuit of the understanding of the union.
Bello-Barkindo said that was done with a view to letting NLC know that what it was asking for is neither realistic nor sustainable, adding that yet, NLC remained adamant.
Bello-Barkindo said that since the last meeting, mid December between the Governors and Mr President, economists of the NGF had been working closely with the relevant departments in all the states of the federation.
He said that this was also in addition to looking into other ways of collating financial standing of states that would help the President in ameliorating the situation.
“Already, revenue to states have dropped drastically while demands by competing needs keep rising astronomically.
“Last year alone, revenue to states dropped from N800 billion when the Tripartite Committee was appointed (November 2017) to between N500bbillion and N600 billion.by the time Ms. Amma Pepple submitted its report in October 2018.
“Moreover, state governors are making concerted efforts to improve on.education, health and infrastructure and for this, would not therefore dedicate their states’ entire resources to workers’ salaries alone.
According to him, workers constitute less than 5 per cent of the nation’s population.
“In that regard, governors emphatically announced, collectively, that no state would devote more than 50 per cent of its revenue to salaries.
“To therefore insist that states must oblige the NLC its demands, regardless of the economic gloom that stares the nation in the face is a deliberate attempt to hold the nation, especially the president, to ransom, this being an election year.’’
He said that most governors exhibited high sense of responsibility and concern for the plight of workers by ensuring that most of them were paid their December salaries ahead of time.
Bello-Barkindo said that some even received several months of salary arrears, adding that they were happy with their governors.’’
He advised NLC not to destroy existing cordial relationship between the workers and their governors, especially where in.some states governors were stepping efforts to improve on the welfare of their workers