Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson

The General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Peter Ozo-Eson, said governors who claimed to lack the financial capacity to pay the N30,000 minimum wage should not be taken seriously because some of them diverted the bailouts paid to them by the Federal Governments instead of paying backlog of workers’ salaries.

Ozo-Eson also said in an interview with our correspondent that while the union expected the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission to deal with the affected governors, nothing was done even though the commission’s report indicted some of the governors.

The Nigeria Governors Forum, through its chairman, Abdulaziz Yari, had said after a meeting that its members would not be able to pay the new minimum wage of N30,000.

Already, the NLC had said it would stage a nationwide protest on January 8, 2019 over the minimum wage crisis.

When contacted, the ICPC spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa, said she was on her annual leave and had no information on action being taken against the state governors.

She promised to avail our correspondent of the information as soon as she got it.

Ozo-Eson said the governor’s response to workers’ demand was a confirmation that some of them were not creative in generating resources for their states and transparent in the way they spend their states’ fund.

He said, “When the bailouts and Paris Club loan refund tranches started, we asked each state NLC chapter to monitor what was going on. We also partner the ICPC formally to help monitor what was going on. The ICPC later came up with a report that some states diverted the funds. NLC does not have the power of prosecution or enforcement. We expect certain steps to be taken to caution those governors but nothing has been done.

“Because we have information on such (funds diversion), that is why we don’t take some of these governors seriously. There is a governor who put the state’s Paris Club loan refund in a fixed bank account. These are documented. We took step to monitor and have outcome of such monitoring. When the governors keep saying that they cannot pay, they are only misusing English Language. What they should say is that they are not willing to pay. That is a different matter which implies inability (to pay), given all circumstances. There is no state in this country that cannot pay N30,000 as minimum wage if they manage their affairs well and set their priorities right.”

While challenging the governors to be transparent in the management of their states’ resources, the NLC spokesman said some of the governors lived extravagant life.

“If you visit the old terminal of the Abuja Airport where private and chartered jets take off frequently, you will see a number of governors coming in and leaving Abuja in private jets. Those who can do that and tell you that they cannot pay the minimum wage are saying what Nigerians must ask questions about. I am sure that the cost of cleaning and polishing their shoes in a month will probably exceed N30.000. They need to be realistic and realise that that amount in real term is less than N18,000 minimum wage of 2011,” he added.

Ozo-Eson said the union had challenged the governors on wage figures, noting that some of the governors’ claims on wage bill were false.

“Does it sound reasonable that there is a state whose wage bill is bigger than its income from the federation account and IGR? How does such governor maintain the state house feeding, entertainment, wining and dining at the state expense? Ask how these states are able to pay the legislators in their state houses of assembly. Do the governors owe their personal salaries? If the answers are no, then you already know that those figures are not correct.

“A state should be an entity that should be able to plan how to raise revenue. What prevents states from making investments in resources that are within their domain in order to raise IGR? Managing state affairs properly involves ability to be creative to generate enough resources and to choose the right priority in expending that revenue,” the NLC General Secretary said.

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