TUC President, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama

Despite debts, states must implement minimum wage, Labour insists

NEWS DIGEST–Organised labour has said that state governments must be prepared to begin the payment of the new minimum wage of N30,000 immediately.

It also said that debtor states would not be given any relief.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Thursday signed into law the new minimum wage after several months of negotiations between the government and labour union leaders.

The Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Mr Bobboi Kaigama, made the position of labour known in an interview with one of PUNCH correspondents in Abuja on Saturday.

Asked if state governments that owed workers’ salaries would be allowed to clear the backlog of salaries before commencing payment of the new minimum wage, Kaigama said the inability of the state governments to pay salaries was because of mismanagement of resources at their disposal.

Kaigama said, “The minimum wage is effective from the day that President Muhammadu Buhari signed it into law. The law must be respected whether you are in the public or private sector. That a state governor owes salaries is not an excuse not to pay the new minimum wage. They have not paid salaries to their workers because they cannot manage the resources in their possession well.

“They play politics with the resources. Before elections, some of them approached banks and borrowed billions of naira. After elections, they borrowed again to settle part of the outstanding salaries to workers in their states.

“There will be no relief in any form for any state government; they must all pay the new minimum wage.

“We will pursue it one after the other. We commend states that have come out to say that they are going to pay the new wage. We expect other states to come out and say the same. If they don’t, we will go after them.”

In a statement signed by the General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, the union thanked President Buhari for signing the new minimum wage into law while also calling for its immediate implementation.

Also, some state governments on Sunday explained their revenue profile as workers insisted on the immediate payment of the new wage.

The Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Mr Yemi Olowolabi, said the state received an average of N5bn to N6bn as monthly allocation from the Federal Government every month.

He said, “The state government is waiting for the decision of the governors’ forum to decide how the minimum wage would be paid. As soon as the governors’ forum decides on the matter, our governor will act but for now I don’t think the governor has decided on the minimum wage issue.”

On its part, the Akwa Ibom State Government assured its 50,000 workforce that it would pay the new minimum wage.

The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Charles Udoh, stated this in Uyo, while speaking with one of our correspondents.

Udoh said Governor Udom Emmanuel had made a commitment to the labour leaders that he would pay the new minimum wage even before the bill was signed by the President.