Differential wage bill: Oyo, Delta, Gombe, others back National Assembly as Labour fumes

Our Reporters

Oyo, Delta, Gombe, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states have supported a bill seeking to decentralise the negotiation on the minimum wage in the country.

Officials of the states, in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Thursday, said centralised minimum wage negotiation negated the principle of true federalism.

But state chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress, who spoke to our correspondents, expressed anger over the bill, saying it was against interests of workers.

Recall that the bill seeking to remove the negotiation on minimum wage from the exclusive list to the concurrent list passed the second reading in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

According to the sponsor, Garba Datti Mohammed (APC Kano), the bill is to allow both the federal and state governments to freely negotiate minimum wage “with their workers in line with our federalism.”

During the debate at plenary, Mohammed said, “Many states have not been able to implement the national minimum wage because it was imposed on them from Abuja.”

The Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the state was in support of the bill.

He said, “To rent one room in Lagos is like renting a duplex in Ebonyi State. Why will you pay a man who goes through Lagos traffic daily and pays high transport fares, the same amount you will pay a man in another state who does not go through that?

“Allow states to pay what they can. That’s why we are talking about true federalism. You don’t sit in Abuja and fix a wage for us. Look at the issue of lecturers, after the negotiation with Federal Government, they expect state governments to implement an agreement that they are not a party to.”

It’s dead on arrival – Delta NLC

The state NLC chairman, Goodluck Ofobruku, said workers would oppose the bill. He said, “We will do whatever it takes to stop this obnoxious bill. Believe me, it is dead on arrival.”

On its part, the Akwa Ibom State Government also supported the bill saying, it would move the country towards true federalism.

The state Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Ini Ememobong, stated, “We are in support of such a bill because it shows that we are gradually moving towards true federalism where the federating units will be allowed to manage their circumstances as they deem fit.

“Gradually, I think everything will move to that point where each state government will move at its own pace.”

The Gombe State Commissioner for Information, Alhassan Ibrahim, said a differential minimum wage was the ideal wage system.

He said, “We have passed that stage in Gombe State because we have implemented the minimum wage. We support the differential system because you have to pay according to what you have. That is exactly what is happening in our local government areas now. That is the reason we couldn’t implement the minimum wage at the local government level because our funds come differently from the Federation Account.

“I think only two of our LGAs can pay minimum wage. People suggested that we should stagger the implementation and wait till when revenue improves. It is not fair to expect Gombe to pay what Lagos pays. Lagos has many sources of revenue. Its allocation is higher than ours.”

The Cross River State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Asu Okang, while supporting the bill, said states were not equally financially buoyant.

He stated, “Not all states’ finances are equal. For instance, you cannot force a state, like Cross River, whose last month’s total allocation from the federation account was N500m, to pay the same amount as a state like Akwa Ibom which got N18b.

“Even in the private sector some banks pay more than others. It allows for effectiveness and control. For us as a government, it is a popular opinion. It may not improve the finances of the state, but it will allow the government to negotiate with workers what to pay, and not what is foisted on the state. The major benefit is that the state can only pay according to its resources.”

The Oyo State Government also described the bill as a welcome development.

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