Nasir El-Rufai opposes national minimum wage saying states should be allowed to pay as little as they want

GOVERNOR Nasir El-Rufai has called for a multiple-tiered national minimum wage under which different states will be allowed to pay what they can afford as to the currently regime under which a uniform nationwide amount is agreed.


Nigeria had been on the verge of a general strike but on Tuesday, labour unions called off their planned nationwide industrial action after signing an agreement with the government. Having settled for a figure of N30,000 ($62) a month, President Muhammadu Buhari said the federal government would soon transmit an executive bill to the National Assembly for its passage within the shortest possible time.


However, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) had originally proposed a national minimum wage of N22,500, saying that was all they could afford. President Buhari too is thought to be having second thoughts about paying N30,000 as his advisers appear to be telling him to go back on his word.


Heating up the matter further, yesterday, Kaduna State's  Governor El-Rufai said state governments should be allowed to implement the proposed new minimum wage based on their income. He made the remark while stating that the new minimum wage should not be under the federal government.


Speaking at the 2018 National Peer Learning Event organised by the NGF titled Mobilising Domestic Finance for Development, in Abuja, the governor said the minimum wage should be a local affair. He also stated that personal income tax should be collected by the states, emphasising the need for amendments in the constitution so that some items can be removed.


Governor El-Rufai said: “I agree completely that in a federation there should be taxes that are national while others are sub-national but if you look at our history, you will see that many of these personal income tax acts were introduced by the military. For instance, I do not agree that national minimum wage should be under the federation, it should be done by each state, according to the level of income.


“If you look at the 1963 constitution, minimum wage was not in the inclusive list, it was added during the military rule. There are number of laws that were enacted during the military rule and there is a need to do something about them.”


However, labour leader Emmanuel Ugboaja, has said that the governors would have no choice but to pay any amount signed into law as the new minimum wage. Mr Ugboaja, the head of the department of international and industrial relations of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), added that the issue of the national minimum wage would be an Act of Parliament and not a Father Christmas gift from governors.


Mr Ugboaja said: “Once it becomes a law, it becomes legally binding on employers in the formal sector and government to pay and the act provides for how and when it is to be reviewed."


However, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkinde, an NGF spokesman, reiterated that the governors were not certain to pay N30,000 minimum wage if approved by the presidency and signed into law by the National Assembly. He added that the governors are ready to shift ground from the initial N22,500 agreed to in their last meeting but not a figure around N30,000 submitted to President Buhari.


Mr Bello-Barkinde said that the NGF would meet before the end of the month to deliberate on the issue and insisted that payment of any minimum wage was dependent on the resources available to each state. He added that that labour was making the governors look scandalous as people who were not interested in the welfare of Nigerians and this was not going to help their cause.


“There is no how all the states will pay N30,000 because the tripartite committee says so. The governors have made it clear that they can deplore 50% of their resources to the payment of salaries, while the remaining 50% will be committed to other areas," Mr Bello-Barkinde added.