The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has taken a stand in the battle between Nigerian governors and labour unions over the N30,000 minimum wage.
Oshiomhole said the governors have no excuse to deny the workers the agreed minimum wage, adding that a labourer deserves to be paid as at when due.
Oshiomhole, who was the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, told the media that delaying or refusing to pay workers hinders the economic development of any state.
The Nigerian Governors Forum, comprising the 36 states governors and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, had after their meeting in Abuja last week, said they cannot pay the agreed N30000 minimum wage.
Oshiomhole said, “My views are clear that payment of wages is not an act of kindness for an employer to pay the employees’ wages at the end of the month.
“There are provisions in our Labour Act that says that you cannot delay the payment of salaries in excess of 30 days interval, which means salaries ought not to accumulate beyond 30 days.
“Government decides the size of its employment, but when it makes the decision to employ, it has the obligation to pay. Even the Holy Bible says that the labourer is entitled to his wages.
“I think again, this is where President Buhari stands out clearly. He has publicly asked public sector employers; how do you sleep when you have not paid your employees for one year.
“But he did not stop at lamenting, he went on to provide the much talked about bailout fund and said ‘please use this money to pay your workers and pay pension arrears.’
“And even the deductions from states that were done under the PDP in the name of settling our foreign debts, under President Buhari, despite the huge financial challenges that he faces, he decided to assist the states to meet up with their social obligations by paying what is now referred to as Paris Club refund.
“So, I am very proud that the President has conscience, he recognizes that the Nigerian worker deserves his wages and that is why he has publicly lamented that there are governors who have not paid salaries as and when due, whether they are PDP or APC is immaterial.
“And in seeking to deal with this, he has also provided support across party divide and I think that is statesmanship at its best.
“As for my views on the minimum wage, I tried to deal with it as a governor. I told my colleagues then that wage is not a burden.
“In Economics, when people work and get paid, purchasing power is enhanced and because purchasing power is enhanced, producers will respond to that by seeking to produce more goods and services. In the process, they will recruit more hands.
“But when you don’t pay wages, you create a vicious circle, nonpayment of wages leads to low purchasing power, nonpayment of rents, which compounds the problem of those who have invested in real estate thereby depressing the commercial life of the country.
“I tried to settle this question by increasing minimum wage in Edo State to N25,000 from N18,000. I remember some people calling me to ask how I will pay it. I am on record of having paid it and as we speak, my successor in office is paying it. I do not agree with those who say Nigeria cannot afford a more realistic minimum wage.
“My being in government or now chairman of a party cannot change what I believe in. I believe that no nation has enough to meet the greed of leaders, but nations have enough to meet the basic needs of their people.
“The real problem in the public sector is money being stolen in the name of salaries. I found it embarrassing when we talk about ghost workers. And I ask the question who counts ghosts? It is only in Nigeria that ghosts are known.
“The labourer deserves his wage, and the primary purpose of government is the welfare of its people. So, we must pay wages as and when due. “