THE WAR IN NORTH CENTRAL
As it were, most of the governments had granted nothing much to workers. In Niger State, for instance, where the governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu promised to pay the workers the new wage, he hinged it on envisaged review of the allocation due to states from the federation account. Niger State has 41,000 workforce which it pays a minimum of N6,500 per worker.
Since assuming office, the governor has added 20,000 job seeking graduates of NCE, OND, HND and degree holders to its payroll and promised to reduce unemployment in the state. Before 2009, the minimum wage in the state was N5,000.
However, the government is yet to come up with any figure even as it keeps mum on whether it would pay the new wage or not. Labour on its part seems carried away by the employment of the 20,000 job seekers and the promise to do more.
Niger State would need about N4.5b to pay the N18,000 minimum wage. It currently pays N2.5b and government sources say capital projects would suffer if the Federal Government fails to intervene.
It appears a common phenomenon in the zone that the concern of the states is not the minimum wage but the adjustments that now have to be made in the entire civil service structure. The financial consequence has forced the Benue State government to protest that a minimum wage review should not be interpreted as a total wage review.
Dr. Cletus Akwaya, former Special Adviser to the Governor on Media says: 'The minimum wage the workers are asking for is far more than what the state government can afford. He says the state government earns a little above N2billion, but that the monthly wage bill gulps about N1.4billion of the amount. However, he says a committee headed by the state's Head of Service, Hon. Mike Iorder has been set up to examine the issue.
But the NLC in the state is insisting that the payment of the N18,000 minimum wage is non-negotiable. Its Chairman, Comrade Simon Anchaver believes the government can pay the bill.
In Kogi State, the fear of inflation is easily the most cited factor, according to government sources. In the run-up to the N14,000 Reality wage recently implemented by the government, this has spurred the labour leaders in the state to remain cautious. The state labour leader, Comrade Monday Husseini, who spoke to Saturday Sun said workers are happy with the state government, being the first to commence salary relativity. 'We view the salary relativity as a big achievement of this administration. While other states are battling, Governor Idris has paid, even though not without hiccups.
'We believe the issue of wage increase should be approached with caution. That is why we are not in a haste over the N18,000, after all, the difference is just N3,900.' Nevertheless, the government of Kogi State says it is not finding it easy. A government source put the monthly allocation to the state at between N1.7b and N1.9b and of these amounts, it pays N1.6b as salary. The government says unless the Federal Government listens to the plea of the members of the Council of States, it would be difficult to pay the N18,000 new minimum wage.
In Plateau State, the government expressed worry about the pressure expected on recurrent expenditure should the new minimum wage come into effect. It is worried as negptiations are about to begin next week. The state NLC leader, Jibril Kamga says the state chapter has just received a note from the national secretariat that negotiation with the state government should resume. The minimum wage in Plateau State is N7,500. Even then, the state government is owing workers about two months salary. 'The workers, who were on strike from January to March, have only been paid January and February while only few ministries have been paid March salary,' the labour leader says.
The state has set up a committee headed by the Gwom Gbong Jos, Dah Jacob Buba to advise government on the implementation of the wage to workers.
The story is the same in Nasarawa and Kwara states where Governors Al-Makura and Abdulfatah Ahmed, both new helmsmen, are battling with labour leaders. Although Alhaji Aliyu Akwe Doma, the past governor promised to pay, Al-Makura says the state cannot afford to pay the bill for now. The minimum wage in Nasarawa State for now is N5,400. Asoloko Makin, state NLC chairman, says the body is waiting for directives from its national headquarters.