May 2021
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The Governors and Labour

The Governors and
Labour

The way
elected officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, especially State
Governors, conduct the affairs of state with arrogance and nonchalance, after
receiving the people’s vote at elections, is socially and politically very dangerous.
By their conduct, they create the dangerous impression that Nigerians can be
anybody’s fool and, therefore, can be taken for a ride. The ding-dong affair
between organized labour and elected State Governors with respect to the
payment of the N18, 000.00 Minimum Wage, is making the Governors who are still
insisting that they can’t pay unless they receive more funds from the
Federation Account to look like a bunch of crooks and electoral fraudsters

The
agreement on the minimum wage was reached after due consultation and much
distress between government and organized labour. Not only that. A bill was
proposed on the matter to the National Assembly, which was duly passed into law
and assented to by the President. What is in issue now is getting government to
obey the law which it has enacted for the industrial peace and good governance
of the country. It is shocking, to say the least, that government is
prevaricating and cooking up all forms of flimsy excuses to dodge the
implementation of the law which it enacted.

Yet, the same government expects organized
labour and civil society to be law-abiding. This is tragic. The chief law
officers of the state should not be prevaricating to obey the law. The only
moral ground on which they stand to apply the law is obedience to the law. If
citizens are obligated to obey the law, so too are the State Governors under a
warrant to obey the law. They should, therefore, not be asking for a new
revenue law that has not been enacted, which favours them, to come into force
before they can obey the existing labour law. It is ludicrous and indeed an act
of bad faith for the Governors to be insisting on non-compliance with an
existing law, until a non-existent condition is satisfied.

Already, labour has sounded a note of warning that governors
who cannot implement the new labour law, the Minimum Wage Act, should throw in
the trowel, and leave the country in peace. It stands to reason that if some of
the governors cannot obey the law which they have sworn to uphold, they should
bow out honourably, rather than throw the country in a lurch by precipitating a
crisis. Luckily, not all the governors are saying that they cannot obey the
law. The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) is gradually metamorphosing into an
anti-labour and anti-people body, and the performing governors should not allow
themselves to be cajoled into an unholy alliance to truncate the wishes of the
people. The Governors of Lagos, Delta, Edo, and a host of other states that
have expressed their ability and willingness to comply with the Minimum Wage
Law should go ahead without any further delay and pay the minimum wage.
Everyone shall be judged according to his performance, not as a member of the
governors’ forum. The Nigerian voters did not elect them on that basis.

As to the little rumour being peddled about that organized
labour is selfish because it fights only for its members, whereas a sizeable
population of Nigerians are not wage-earners, it needs be pointed out that the
labour law of the land sets a limit to what labour can legitimately do. The
second point is that it is not correct to say that non-wage earners do not
benefit from the struggle of organized labour. Increase in workers’ pay or an
improvement in the condition of workers normally sets off a chain of
macro-economic activities which impacts, one way or the other, on everybody.

A significant
improvement in working conditions buoys the general economic conditions of
society. Increased earning makes workers to spend more on goods and services
since they now have the financial capacity to pay. This leads to increased
production of goods and services, meaning that industries are able to function
at full capacity. This in turn leads to more hands or more jobs for the people,
both skilled and unskilled. One can go on and on to reel out the tape of how
increased pay for the worker spins off a chain of economic activities. The
possibilities are infinite.

The point to make, in the final analysis, is that the Federal
Government and the State Governors should pay the minimum wage as directed by
law without any further delay.

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