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Oyebanji: Nigerian Governors Support Living Wage For Nigerian Workers, But NGF Wants Fiscal Federalism

Biodun Oyebanji has said the NGF supports living wage, but harps on fiscal federalism to ensure states’ ability to pay.

Ekiti State Governor, Mr Biodun Oyebanji, has said governors, under the aegis of the  Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) were not against approval of a living wage for Nigerian workers.

Oyebanji, who made this clarification at the 7th Quadrennial Delegates Conference of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) in Ado-Ekiti on Wednesday, said what the NGF was clamouring for is fiscal federalism that would culminate in the ability and capability of individual states to pay.

But the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has faulted interference by governors in the national minimum wage negotiation, saying it  was unconstitutional.

Addressing the issue, Oyebanji said since no state wanted to engage in retrenchment of its workforce, it was incumbent on individual states to determine what they could afford that would not end up in the eventual downsizing of the workforce.

“The NGF is not against the living wage, no governor is against the minimum wage, but what we are saying is that it must reflect fiscal federalism, ability and capacity to pay.

“No governor wants to retrench. If there is a minimum wage today without a concurrent increment in what we are earning, no state can pay, and that is the conversation we are having.

“That, look, we want to give you a living wage, but we must look at what comes to the states and whatever is in the best interest of the states and the workers, we will do.”

He, however, used the opportunity to call on workers in Ekiti State to embrace agriculture, adding that his administration had cleared over 2,000 hectares of land to be allocated free of charge to interested Ekiti residents.

“My appeal to civil servants is that those who would like to be part of our  Agriculture Revolution should form themselves into cooperative societies and approach the Ministry of Agriculture for support.

“It may be difficult to support individually but when you form yourselves into cooperatives, many opportunities are available now. We are clearing land free of charge, we are giving inputs and we are going to buy from you. As I speak today, we have cleared more than 2,000 hectares across Ekiti State,” he said.

But the Head of Information and Public Affairs at the NLC, Benson Upah, while speaking on Arise News Channel, said the organised labour’s refusal to allow governors influence the determination of the minimum wage was because it was unconstitutional

“The process for arriving at a national minimum wage comprises three parties, which is labour, employers, and government. The government is currently playing a dual role of being the employer as well.

“Governors have been part of this process, and for some of them to want to pull out from the national team (under the government) will be injurious to the whole process.

“It will be an act of treachery and betrayal because they know fully that they have been part of the government team. It is tripartite. They do not have the constitutional right to hijack it.”

Upah, noted that the major issue with the minimum wage negotiation was “prioritisation and political will.”

He said Nigeria had adhered to this process since 1961 and described the governor’s desire to take over the negotiation as “completely irrational.”

He warned that placing labour on the concurrent list could lead to a multiplication of laws, making it difficult for investors to navigate the legal landscape.

Chuks Okocha and Gbenga Sodeinde

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