Umahi, Ishaku and Matawalle

Amid rising inflation, six states shun minimum wage

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These may not be the best of times for civil servants in Zamfara, Taraba and some other states as they have yet to pay the minimum wage over three years after it was signed into law.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on April 18, 2019 signed the new minimum wage of N30,000 into law, and states and federal governments were expected to comply with the new constitutional provision. The minimum wage was N18,000 before the new law. While some states complied, some others have yet to implement it, subjecting their workers to hardship.

The inflation rate in the country has mostly been on a steady rise in the last couple of years and it spiked to 20.52 per cent in August, being the highest rate in the last 17 years. This and the consequential rise in the cost of food items and all products in the market and the poor state of the economy had inflicted enormous hardship on many Nigerians and plunged some into poverty.

Meanwhile, in Taraba State, civil servants on Thursday decried the non-implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage by the state government. Some civil servants who spoke to one of our correspondents in Jalingo, the state capital, on condition of anonymity said their salaries could no longer take care of their bills due to the state of the economy.

A worker in the office of the Secretary to State Government lamented that paying the school fees of their children and feeding their family had become a challenge.

Another civil servant in the Ministry of Youth and Sports also noted that many workers had become indebted in their bid to meet basic needs.

The staff member said, “We want to appeal to Governor Darius Ishaku to consider the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage, else most civil servants will not survive the economic hardship. Another challenge is the non-payment of pension to retired civil servants and enrolment of new retirees.’’

The Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress in the state, Peter Jeddiel, said he was on admission in the hospital, but the secretary of the union, Joel Wayas, said he resigned his position in February. He however accused the union of being incapable of fighting for members’ welfare.

“The union is compromised and they fight for their rights, which was why I resigned my position,” he added.

The state Head of Service, Ms Suzy Nathan, did not answer the calls made to her line.

In Zamfara State, the NLC has given the state government a 21-day ultimatum to implement the national minimum wage of N30,000 or face strike action.

The state chairman of the union, Sani Halliru, who briefed journalists shortly after the State Executive Council meeting on Thursday, said strike action was the only option left for the union. He noted that all the promises, agreements and pledges made by the government had failed.

He added, “The leadership of the NLC in Zamfara State council met with various stakeholders, including the politicians, government officials among others to proffer solutions to the lingering N30,000 minimum wage but proved abortive.

“We have resolved to give the state government a 21-day ultimatum to see if they can fulfill their earlier promise to pay the minimum wage. If after the expiration of the ultimatum the state government refuses to implement the minimum wage, we will be left with no option but to embark on a strike action because that is the only language the government understands.”

Meanwhile, it was learnt that primary school teachers and local government staff were currently receiving N7,500 as minimum wage.

The chairman of the National Union of Local Government Employees in the state, Sanusi Gusau, confirmed that local government workers still earn a minimum wage of N7,500 as against the N30,000 minimum wage.

Gusau, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH on Friday, said the salaries of local government workers in the state were last increased during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

He said talks were ongoing with the state government to implement the N30,000 minimum wage, while expressing hope that it would be implemented within the three-week ultimatum given by the NLC.

In Ebonyi State, the NLC chairman, Ikechukwu Nwafor, stressed that the state government was not paying the minimum wage to workers.

In an interview with Saturday PUNCH on Thursday, Nwafor said.

“There is no way anybody can say Ebonyi State is paying minimum wage. I stand to be challenged anywhere. If they say they are paying it, let them bring the chart or table they use in paying it.”

But the Commissioner for Information, Uchenna Orji, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the state was the first to pay the national minimum wage.

Meanwhile, the Anambra State, Saturday PUNCH learnt that the state had been unable to implement the new minimum wage due to paucity of funds.

A top source in the state ministry of finance said the state had embarked on massive revenue generation through various policies to be able to address some of the challenges.

They added, “Paucity of funds is largely responsible for the state’s non-implementation of the minimum wage. Revenues accruing to the state have dwindled in the face of dwindling allocation from oil. This is the reason the state government has embarked upon massive revenue generation through taxes and levies.”

In Imo State, findings showed that the state had yet to implement the minimum wage.

Previously, former governor Rochas Okorocha during the 2018 May Day celebration promised to commence the implementation and even pay ‘sleeping allowance’ to the civil servants but he did not till he left office in 2019.

Years after, the incumbent administration under Governor Hope Uzodimma had yet to commence the payment of the new minimum wage.

“We are not receiving the new minimum wage,” a civil servant in the state who spoke on condition of anonymity.

When contacted, the NLC chairman in the state, John Nwanshi, declined comments. He hung up the call as soon as one of our correspondents introduced himself on the phone. He also did not answer subsequent calls made to his line.

In Kano State, the state government and the state chapter of the NLC are at loggerheads over the government’s failure to fulfill its promise to pay the N30,000 minimum wage. The state government had suspended its implementation and commenced the payment of the previous N18,000 minimum wage, attributing its inability to pay to insufficient funds.

As of the time of filing this report, Kano State NLC was still on the negotiating table with the state government.

In Cross River State, the chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Monday Ogbodum, when asked if the state was paying minimum wage, he said it might be correct to an extent to say the state was not paying it. He declined speaking further on the issue and what labour was doing about it.

The state Chairman of the NLC, Benedict Ukpepi, did not answer his calls after several attempts. But the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Governor Ben Ayade, Christian Ita, insisted the state was paying the minimum wage. He challenged anyone with a contrary opinion to prove it.

“Cross River State is paying minimum wage,” he noted.

The non-implementation of the minimum wage fully was one of the reasons organised labour went on strike in the state in October 2021.

Meanwhile, in Benue State, the government is implementing the minimum wage to junior staff, while negotiation for the consequential adjustment promised by the state was ongoing.

The state chairmen of Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, Godwin Anya, and Gideon Akaa respectively spoke with one of our correspondents.

Findings show that the state government earlier suggested N500 as the consequential adjustment on the salary of workers. Both the labour leaders could not comment on the amount the state government offered the workers on Grade Level 07 and above.

In Sokoto State, a senior civil servant also said the state government had been paying the minimum wage but that it only favoured the junior workers. He appealed to the state government to review the consequential adjustment so the senior civil servants could also benefit.


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