There is No State that Cannot Pay New Minimum Wage – Eze Onyekpere

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Following the presentation of the tripartite committee report on the proposed new national minimum wage to President Muhammad Buhari in Abuja on Tuesday, Nigerians have insisted that there is no state government in the federation who cannot pay the new minimum wage.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)/Trade Union Congress (TUC) at the inception of the agitation sought for a N66,000 minimum wage which the government and the Nigeria Governor’s Forum insisted cannot be more than N22,000 citing various reasons, a decision that led to a few days of industrial action.

The joint labour congress (NLC/TUC) had threatened another nationwide industrial action on Tuesday before it was suspended following series of meetings with the minimum wage committee, which resolved to settle for a joint amount which was presented to the President.

In an exclusive chat with The News Chronicle, the Executive Secretary of Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, explained that when passed by the National Assembly, the new minimum wage was not going to affect the nation’s recurrent expenditure.

Rather, Onyekpere explained that for a smooth and easy transitioning into the new minimum wage regime, the government at all level will have to cut back on some of its numerous “frivolities” which have continued to reduce the economy of the nation.

The lawyer with specialization in development law including electricity reforms, fiscal governance and human rights told The News Chronicle that cutting back on the enormity of cabinet members including number of ministers, special advisers, official cars and other things that has nothing to do with the welfare of the common people would ease payment of salaries by governments.

He however, decried the reported fraud and corruption allegedly perpetrated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) under the watch of the President as the Minister of Petroleum resources, calling for an immediate accounting policy to mitigate the suffering of the ordinary Nigerians who does not get to taste this dividend of democracy.

“The government is feeling shy of having an account policy for revenue that define the money that come from the Liquefied Natural Gas, they now use it to subsidies under the guise of recovery by the NNPC without legislative approval as required by the constitution, there is a lot of fraud in the NNPC which they are trying to cover up.

“Issuing contracts without due license or the approval of the board; even if the contractor is bringing money from outside to finance it, he is not financing it for the fun of it, he is financing it to recoup his money from the Nigerian crude oil, resources or one way or the other,” he said.

Aside cutting down on frivolities, the economic expert in his analysis on how the government can sustain the economy during the new minimum wage regime, advised that government at all levels still has a lot to do in encouraging the use of locally manufactured products at the expense of their importation.

“The government should get more people into getting their tax paid, increase rates like VAT if need be and give people more jobs and stop the massive importation of things that are locally produced; because there is already an executive order that talks about patronizing locally made goods.

“Every ministry wants to drive a Prado jeep even when we have locally produced vehicles like Innoson in Nnewi which will also encourage local content, if they can take some cost out, there will be no problem,” he added.

He however called out any state governor who claim not to be able to pay the minimum wage as Onyekpere said that workers do not need to be laid off, according to him, they can lay off all those people that collect, 13 to 14million and pay them off, but there is no need to retrench for the new minimum wage.

“There is money in this country; the government is not collecting too many taxes and the once they collect, they do not remit.

“There is money, let them just stop deceiving Nigerians, there is no state in this federation that cannot afford to pay worker N30,000; they collect for IGR, account for whatever they collect and they should just stop being greedy; most governors are unrepentant thieves, the bail out funds they got, what did they do with it,” he added.

Similarly, former Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Dr Joe Abah on his twitter handle, posited that; “If the proposed Minimum Wage of N30,000 eventually makes it into law at some point in the future, I would be keen to know how we would be able to afford it and it’s knock-on effects on the recurrent budget. What will we cut? Also, how will states govts and the private sector pay?

“If the Federal Government says that what it can afford is N24,000 as Minimum Wage and Labour forces it to accept N30,000, what do you think will happen? Government will have some choices: 1. Cut staff & Labour will strike 2. Owe salaries and Labour will strike 3. Cut other things?”

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