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Beyond minimum wages, salaries and governors — By Charles Dickson

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The Zamfara State Governor and chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara has said it was extremely necessary for the state governors, the presidency and the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC to negotiate over the N18K minimum wage.

The governor said that the dwindling oil prices has drastically affected the revenue generation of most States which can no longer pay salaries of workers.

He stated that therefore no need living under pretense when in reality, the revenues were not coming.

Yari who fielded questions from State House Correspondents after a private meeting with president Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday at the presidential villa also denied making categorical statements on pruning down the wage.

He said: “Let me make it very clear to Nigerians, the Governor’s Forum is not the enemy of labour in any way. Rather, we have been working together.

“Although in the decision, we never said that we are going to stop the payment of N18K minimum wage but we are looking at the situation in the country and in the global economy.

“What we said is that when the National Assembly enacted the law of paying N18K 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 downsize or 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 an infrastructure deficit, there is a need for security, and there are other things like the social lives of our people and nation as a state.

“The receipt from the federation account, some people received N400 million, N500 million. Some others received N55 million, two digits. 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?

“Therefore we are saying that we should tighten our belts. Something definitely, we should sit down and come out of it to find a way we are going to do it realistically or otherwise.”

The dude further went on to argue why it was easy for both Governors Adams Oshiomole and Nyesom Wike of Edo and Rivers States respectively, could possibly pay the 18K; Yari said that the States were rich with industries that in turn raise their Internally Generated Revenue, IGR.

He regretted that some States such as his were not that lucky as most of their revenue generating institutions had been shut down due to power shortages.

“For instance, in my state, the tiny state that is my own which has more than 3 textile plants because of energy all have been closed, NNPC shut down. We have about 37 gunneries because of shortage of power they all closed down. And these are places where we can earn our revenue. You cannot in any way rub shoulders with Rivers who has giant companies in oil exploration and having so many thousands of staff that are paying their dues when due.

One only needs one read to know that Nigerians are in trouble if Governor Yari’s view is a true representation of 90% of the men that oversee the affairs of state. Apart from the salient issues of fiscal federalism he unconsciously raised, one can see that many of these men called governors lack the initiative to power the ships that they captain.

So, the men that are asking us to tighten our belts are the same men that on a personal note, entitled to four wives if Muslim, and a wife if a Christian, but scores of them keep a convent/harem of concubines, girlfriends and mistresses,’ In other words, as a governor in Nigeria you cannot/should not be faithful at home, by extension you owe those you govern very little and owe much to your harem/party and godfathers. How can they pay 18K?

Our governors who cannot pay 18K are entitled to senior special assistants/special assistants/advisers (both senior and junior)/countless aides and yes consultants on various subject matters. Which allows for governors to spend an average of 11 full days only in a month at the office and in the state. The rest is spent gallivanting, wedding, naming ceremony, birthday, and death-day, church and mosque occasions, attending meetings in Abuja, and flexing in caucus meetings.

Of course all these happen when they are not in Brazil, Kosovo, Kabul or Kazakhstan seeking investors. In recent times, one governor has gone as far as Chelsea football club to watch football; (sorry) look for investors.

There is no governor in Nigeria that spends an average of 4 hours everyday, 15 days a month and 9 months a year in the office, taking his leave as at when due and handing over to the right person temporarily. But trust me, these ‘guys’ are working so HARD, indeed very HARD to pay 18K.

Our governors tell us how difficult the art of state governance is, and you sure would agree, contending with the opposition, with political enemies from different camps, and sure spending billions unaccounted for must be one hell of a job.

Recently I asked how much do our governors earn for all the hard work? And very few could say. No wonder every one of them tells us how they were all millionaires before they became governors. Yet they cannot pay 18K!

Is there any Nigerian governor with just two cars, with kids in public schools, and less than N100M, then I will show you a lazy governor. Today in assets and cash there is no governor who is not a billionaire.

Beyond 18K minimum wage, we need to start asking questions; we need to demand answers to issues of governance. An old axiom speaks of not touching a blind man’s hand while eating with him…for how long our leaders will continue to touch our hands while they eat–only time will tell.

The article was originally written in 2015 under the title Why Governors Cannot Pay 18k, almost ten years ago, and not much has changed! For me, I am not a fan of the minimum wage, I am a fan of infrastructural development, a system that works, with health facilities, good road networks and affordable transportation that does not drain the Nigerian worker.

I equally believe that every state should have its own salary cap, and we should start exploring the feasibility of the hourly shift and pay so that we can really calculate productivity. We are simply pushing the horse before the cart or even working the cart with no horse. We refuse to allow our local government system work, and we think a minimum wage would solve a problem that has no minimum at its root—May Nigeria win

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