The Senate on Wednesday faulted the call by the organised labour for the introduction of differential wage for political office holders in the country.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, who stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, urged labour unions to stop comparing the minimum wage issue with political office holders’ pay.
The organised labour, during a meeting with House of Representatives leaders in Abuja on Tuesday, had asked the National Assembly to decentralise wage system of political office holders based on the incomes of their states.
The call was made as part of workers’ opposition to a bill, which seeks to transfer minimum wage negotiations from the exclusive legislative list to the current list.
When it becomes law, the bill, which passed the second reading at the House on February 23, will enable states to negotiate minimum wage and determine what they can pay.
But at the meeting with the House leaders on Tuesday, the National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, advised the National Assembly to start restructuring of the wage system with political office holders, whom he said earned humongous salaries.
The Senate spokesman, Basiru, on Wednesday said there could be a national template for a minimum wage but that insisting that all states must pay the same salaries to their workers was unrealistic based on the current economic reality.
On the issue of differential wage for political office holders, Basiru said, “The Nigeria Labour Congress should come up with what is in the best interest of their members and not to make comparison that is not even applicable at all.
“For me, as a federalist, I believe that every state should be able to have its own autonomy to fix the wages of its workers but it does not mean that there should not be a national standard which is represented by the national minimum wage.
“The problem with the national minimum wage is that it is now based on relatively. It is now being used as a benchmark for having a salary table that is almost uniform throughout the country. That is where the problems arose.
“I don’t have a problem with a standard minimum wage so that the vulnerable workers and those at the lower level of the ladder will have something that can take them home and partake meaningfully in society.
“To that extent, I support that there must be a national standard for minimum wage, but to the extent that the salaries of all categories of workers in all states would be uniform because it is being calculated on the table of relativity to form the national uniform wage is not sustainable for now. This is because the states are relying on allocation from the centre.
“Every state is expected to have carrying capacity of its personnel expenses and overhead.
“My advice is that labour should see it from the perspective of having a minimum wage that would ensure that the vulnerable workers are taken care of.
“They must be conscious of the carrying capacity of states to be able to pay, otherwise, it will lead to a situation where many states are not even paying the current level.
“Many states are paying in percentages while many states cannot even remit the contributing pension funds of their workers to the administrators.
“If the Nigerian economy is adversely affected by the drop in the price of crude oil, it will lead to downsizing of workers in some states if the NLC should insist on the payment of a national minimum for federal and state workers.”
Restructuring: El-Rufai commends Kaduna legislators on bills
Also on Wednesday, the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, supported the differential wage bill, saying it was part of the restructuring agenda of the All Progressives Congress.
Recall that organised labour had on Tuesday accused some governors, including El-Rufai, of being the brains behind the bill.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Mr Muyiwa Adekeye, the governor commended the sponsor of the bill, Datti Muhammad, and Senator Uba Sani for spearheading efforts to enact into law, the recommendations of the APC True Federalism Committee which canvassed devolution of powers. Both lawmakers are from the state.
According to the statement, the governor challenged other legislators across the country to sponsor bills that will actualise the restructuring of Nigeria.
The governor lauded the two lawmakers from Kaduna State “for demonstrating that the National Assembly is the critical institution for the vital task of restructuring Nigeria by passing laws devolving powers to its federating units.”
“El-Rufai hopes that many more federal legislators will take up and sponsor the bills necessary to actualise restructuring as a nation-building opportunity.’
“The governor described the four bills sponsored by Senator Uba Sani to ensure the decentralisation of policing in Nigeria as a significant moment in removing the anomaly of a unitary police force in a federal republic.”
“The bill proposed by Garba Datti Muhammad seeking to move labour matters into the concurrent list is another concrete step towards devolution of powers in the country.”
“Decentralisation of the judiciary, police and labour matters is among the items recommended by the APC True Federalism Committee. This entails moving the constitutional provisions on these matters wholly or partly from the exclusive list to the concurrent list, so that powers and responsibilities over them can be devolved.”
The statement quoted the governor as recalling that the APC True Federalism Committee noted in its January 2018 report that “a major issue with the Nigerian federation is the enormous exclusive legislative powers of the Federal Government with resultant over-centralisation of powers and authority.’’
According to Adekeye, El-Rufai further recalled that the committee noted that “a further decentralisation of some of these powers by devolving more powers, autonomy, and resources to the federating units will foster efficiency and sub-national responsiveness and local accountability.”
The committee also reported that “there were calls that each state should freely legislate on its minimum wage according to the resources available to it but should avoid huge disparity between salaries and emoluments.
“In fact, the committee is of the view that all labour related issues should be federalised and each state is free to determine its own labour laws.
“Such devolved powers on labour matters will include trade unions, industrial relations, conditions, safety and welfare of labour, industrial disputes, prescribing minimum wage and industrial arbitration,” he added.
The statement reminded that Kaduna State Government was the first government to pay the new national minimum wage, a step that was followed by raising minimum monthly pension to N30,000 for retirees on the old defined benefits system.
“The state has been operating the contributory pension system since 1 January 2017,” it added.
Salary review for political office holders unnecessary in Osun, says Commissioner
On his part, the Osun State Commissioner for Political Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations, Mr. Taiwo Akeju, told one of our correspondents that the review of pay package of political office holders in the state was unnecessary because they were not earning fat salaries.
Akeju said civil servants in the state were the ones preparing salaries of the political office holders and insisted that all political office holders in the state including the governor were not earning fat salaries.
“The governor and other political office holders in Osun are not earning fat salaries, so the review is not necessary. Labour should take up the matter at the national level. Here in Osun, it is service. The civil servants are the ones preparing our salaries and they know we are not earning fat salaries,” Akeju concluded.
The Delta State government says that it does not have any problem with Labour over the payment of new minimum wage in the state.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, in a telephone interview with The PUNCH on Wednesday, restated the state government position on the payment of the minimum wage.
He said, “Delta is one of the states that have complied with Federal Government directive over the payment of new minimum wage.”
But the Anambra State Government said before the labour demanded review of political appointees’ salaries, the state government had already done that.
The Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C-Don Adinuba said why labour in the state did not acknowledge that was because the downward salary review was not made public.
He said, “Senior political appointees in the state have had their salaries reviewed downward. I don’t think the labour movement is aware of it because we didn’t make it public. But it’s already done. I don’t know the percentage decrease but it’s substantial.
Also, Christian Ita, the Special Adviser Media and Publicity to the Governor of Cross River State, Prof Ben Ayade, said that pay cut was not new to political office holders in the state.
Ita said, “You know that in Cross River we receive one of the lowest wages. At the outset of COVID-19 pandemic, key political appointees, including commissioners took 20 per cent pay cut. Because it was not announced it was no news.
“Cross River is not oblivious of the hardship in the land. Because Cross River does not have money, we took pay cut. So it is not new to us.”
Politicians’ salary review could be upward, downward – RMAFC
The spokesman for the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Christian Nwachukwu, told The PUNCH that the commission was working on the new salary structure for politicians.
When asked if the review of the salaries of politicians would result in an increase or decrease in their wages, Nwachukwu said it could go either way.
He said, “The fact is that the process for the review of their salaries is currently ongoing and their wages could be reviewed upward or downward.
“We cannot state now the exact way the review would go because the process is still ongoing. However, the fact is that their salaries are currently being reviewed by RMAFC.”