The Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, has faulted the demand by the Nigeria Labour Congress for an increase in the minimum wage from the current N18,000 to N56,000 monthly. Umahi faulted the NLC demand in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja on the sidelines of a meeting with the Managing Director of the Bank of Industry, Mr. Kayode Pitan.The governor explained that with the current economic realities in the country, which had made it difficult for many states to the N18,000 minimum wage, increasing the amount to N56,000 would put the states under immense financial burden.Umahi, who admitted that government workers were poorly paid, however, lamented that the level of productivity of civil servants was lower than what they currently earned.
He argued that if the level of productivity of civil servants was at the optimum level, most state governments would not have allocated about 80 per cent of their annual budgets to the payment of salaries.The governor stated, “Let me use this opportunity to say that the civil servants in our nation, their salaries are very poor but their output is also terribly very poor.
“When 80 per cent of the budget of a state and sometimes 100 per cent is used to pay workers’ salaries, then the questions we should ask is what are the workers doing? Because you must have some money for capital projects; that is the essence of the workers in the first place.“The point is that no state can pay that N56,000 minimum wage amount. Probably, only Lagos can pay and so what is the need of talking about a new minimum wage when states, as it is today, cannot pay salaries.
So that’s my position.”He said rather than increasing workers’ salaries to a level where it would be difficult for the states to meet up with the payment, the government should implement an empowerment scheme for workers with emphasis on small-scale businesses.According to him, the scheme, which should be funded by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bank of Industry at a single digit interest rate, will help to promote industrialisation and job creation.
“What I will advocate is to look into the affairs of workers by allowing them to key into entrepreneurship programmes of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bank of Industry, and then be trained in small-scale industries and businesses, and this will make them earn more and be happier,” he added.The Federal Government had last month constituted a 29-member tripartite committee on a new minimum wage of N56,000 being clamoured for by the workers.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, had said the approval came after an extensive deliberation of the report of a technical committee on the issue, which he chaired.Meanwhile, the NLC has asked the Ebonyi State governor to put his house in order if there was no productivity from his workers. The General Secretary, NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said that while the governor was entitled to his opinion, the body was in support of the decision by the Federal Government to review the national minimum wage.
He said, “The governor is entitled to his opinion, but we are not deterred by that statement. We agree that the tripartite committee should go on and bring out its recommendations. We agree with the steps the Federal Government has taken.“The governor should first put his house in order. A disgruntled workforce cannot be productive. So, if there is a problem with productivity in his state, he should look within.”