Ngige advises states not to delay minimum wage payment
by Tony Akowe, Abuja
Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige yesterday urged state governments and other employers of labour to start the implementation of the N30, 000 minimum wage.
He said the immediate implementation of new salary regime remained the only way avoid a huge backlog of arrears that will likely create labour unrest for them.
Ngige also advised the states to avoid the mistake they made in 2011 when they carried out percentage increase across board for workers, thereby placing them in a position of not being able to pay wages, adding that “any state that does percentage increase will put itself in a disadvantaged position as it will not be able to pay.”
The minister told reporters that no state governor can refuse to implement the minimum wage being a national law, adding that the earlier they start the implementation, the better it will be for them.
Ngige said with the signing of the new minimum wage bill into law by the President, the new wage now takes effect from the April 18, 2019, adding that “any employer of labour that has not commenced the payment is already owing workers arrears of the new wage.”
The former senator said: “The minimum wage was one of the products of the technical committee that worked on the palliatives as a result of the increase in pump price of PMS.
“We were the anchor ministry and I led the government delegation comprising about seven ministers, the National Salaries and Wages Commission and the state government.”
Reminded that state governors were complaining of inability to pay the new wage, Ngige said: “it is a national law and no governor can say he will not pay. Issue of national minimum wage is item 34 on the exclusive legislative list in the third schedule of the Nigerian constitution. Issue of labour is also there and not on the concurrent list. If it is on the concurrent list, then they can make their own state Assembly laws on that.
“Any state government that has not started implementation of the new minimum wage is now owing workers’ especially if they have not started paying N30, 000. They are owing workers effective from 18th of April, the new minimum wage.
“We are now in a committee working out a new template with which we will adjust the consequential adjustment upstairs for those already earning above N30, 000.”
[BREAKING] NNPC recruitment 2019: Aptitude test fixed for June 1
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has fixed Saturday, June 1, 2019 as the date for the aptitude test that shortlisted candidates must undergo, being part of the recruitment process.
In a series of tweets via its verified Twitter handle @NNPC group on Thursday, the Corporation said the recruitment exercise, which kicked off via nationwide adverts in the national dailies and online media on March 13, 2019, and followed by the shortlisting of qualified candidates which commenced from about 27 March, 2019, has entered a third phase.
Referencing a Press release signed by its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, NNPC stated that shortlisting of candidates for the exercise had been concluded, and that shortlisted candidates have been scheduled to sit for Computer Based Test on Saturday, 1st June, 2019 across the country.
“Notification of progression to the next stage has been sent to all shortlisted candidates via text and e-mail, while other details such as test centre and time will be sent on or before the 27th of May, 2019,” the release stated.
Ughamadu relayed that validation of credentials of candidates would be a continuous process throughout the exercise, stressing that candidates discovered not to meet the requirements or who had presented false documents at any stage would be withdrawn from the exercise.
It added that the CBT would be administered in about 50 centres across the country, saying those who emerge successful in the test would subsequently be invited for oral interviews for final selection
N30,000 minimum wage: States return to drawing board
by Bisi Oladele, Ibadan; Adekunle Jimoh, Ilorin; Nicholas Kalu, Calabar; Okodili Ndidi,Owerri; Justina Asishana, Minna; Sunny Nwankwo,Aba State governments across the country are taking a fresh look at their finances with a view to mapping out strategies for payment of the new N30,000 minimum wage.
They are also awaiting guidelines from the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission on how best to handle the situation.
Although some of the states, including Kano, Zamfara, Kwara, Rivers, Kogi and Edo, had expressed their readiness to pay the new minimum wage, there seems to be discordant tunes from some other states about their ability to pay.
One of such states is Oyo where the current monthly wage bill stands at N5.6 billion.
The state is allocated an average of N4.4 billion a month from the federal purse while its internally generated revenue is about N1.6 billion monthly.
Information, Culture and Tourism Commissioner, Toye Arulogun, could not tell what the wage bill would look like when details of the new minimum wage are released.
He said that could only be determined when the Federal Government gazettes the new minimum wage and guidelines are out.
The commissioner explained that the government would take the necessary step if it was confronted with inability to pay.
But he was quick to add: “We will wait to cross the bridge before deciding the appropriate line of action.”
The Kwara State Government is also awaiting the template for payment from the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.
It says the template is required by the 13-man minimum wage reviewing committee it set up to guide it on computing new salaries for workers.
Investigations revealed that the state government receives between N2.5 and N3.8 billion monthly, going by the figure usually released by the Joint Allocation Account Committee (JAAC).
The internally generated revenue of the state also stands at between N1.7 billion and N2.3 billion per month.
The Chairman of Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS), Prof Muritala
Awodun, recently said that the service generated a total sum of N6.279 billion as revenue in the first quarter of 2019.
Awodun, said that the agency generated N2.16 billion in January, N1.76 billion in February and N2.38 billion in March 2019.
The KWIRS boss, who said that the revenue agency was yet to achieve its target of N60 billion revenue per annum or N5 billion monthly, however, said that the service has been developed to a point that it would not make less than an average of N2.5 billion every month.
It was gathered that the state government currently spends over N2 billion on the payment of workers’ salaries.
A source gave the breakdown of salary payment as follows: core civil servants N600 million; primary and secondary school teachers N940 million; local government staff N500 million and pensioners N400 million.
Like Oyo and Kwara, Cross River State is also waiting for the guidelines from the federal authorities.
It currently has about 25,000 workers on its payroll and receives an average of N3 billion allocation from Abuja monthly and generates between N1.5 billion and N3.5 billion.
Apart from paying salaries and meeting financial obligations in respect of projects, the state also services the loan taken for the execution of the Tinapa complex.
This is put at almost N100 million per month.
There is also the controversial superhighway expected to gulp over N700 billion.
The governor recently transmitted a letter to the House of Assembly to approve modalities for funding the project by the state government.
The letter, which was leaked on the Internet, sought approval for an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) for N648.8 billion in favour of a construction company.
The letter with reference number SSG/S/300/VOL.XVII/1199, addressed to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, sought the state legislature to consider and pass a resolution granting an approval for the state government to issue an ISPO of N300 million monthly through a bank in favour of the construction company.
Imo ’ll pay, says Okorocha
…as gov-elect insists on checking records first
The Chief Press Secretary to outgoing Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, told The Nation that the state government would pay the new minimum wage.
He said: “Imo State was the first state to pay the N18,000 minimum wage and it will also pay the new minimum wage of N30,000.
“The governor has always considered the welfare of workers a top priority of his administration.”
But Mr. Chibuike Onyeukwu, the media aide to Governor-elect Emeka Ihedioha, said the records would have to be checked first to determine what could be done.
He said: “The issue of the minimum wage is a matter the governor-elect will not comment on until he is sworn in and assumes office on May 29.
“Thereafter, he will check the records on ground and make the position of the state known.”
Investigation showed that the current monthly wage bill of workers in the state is about N4 billion, pensions gulp N1.4 billion, while internally generated revenue (IGR) is N1.4 billion per annum.
The state also gets between N3.4 billion and N5 billion as allocation from Abuja monthly.
Speaking on the state’s chances of paying the new minimum wage, the Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Iyke Njoku, described it as a complicated issue.
He said: “With the signing of the new minimum wage bill into law, every state is expected to pay. For it to be obtainable, the Federal Government should have made it optional rather than foisting it on the states.
“States should have been allowed to negotiate with the workers and agree on what they can pay.
“For instance, in Imo State, we have free education going on, and this is taking a lot of money and we cannot stop that to meet up with the new salary because they will bring back hardship on the people.
“And if you fail to comply with the new salary structure, labour will revolt. So it is a very complicated issue for now.”
Niger to initiate discussion with labour
Governor Abubakar Sani Bello is seeking talks with labour leaders in the state on how to proceed with payment of the new minimum wage.
He wants to find out why government’s wage bill has remained unchanged despite the large number of those who have either retired from the service or died since 2015 when he assumed office.
Bello said that while he is committed to paying the new minimum wage, “we will initiate discussions with the organised labour on how to proceed with the necessary modalities for the full implementation of the 30,000 minimum wage bill as signed into law by the President.”
He said it was ”disheartening that despite conscious efforts to turn around the fortunes of the state, the state wage bill continues to remain static, regardless of the number of the people that have retired from the service and those who died between 2015 and now.
“The civil servants need to be sincere with themselves and support government in changing the ugly trend.”
The federal allocation to Niger State in January 2019 was N4.043 billion.
Figures recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put the state’s IGR last year at N6.5 billion per annum, an average of N543 million per month.
Abia ready to pay, says commissioner
The Abia State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Obinna Oriaku, told The Nation that the state government was ready to pay the new minimum wage, saying it “will also give us the opportunity to recalibrate our wage structure to be on the same page with other states.”
Asked whether the state has the financial muscle to pay, he said: “Our IGR is not static; it fluctuates. In my time, it has gone beyond N1 billion, and at times, it has fallen below N700 million.
“It keeps fluctuating, but we have arrived at a point where I think today, we can target N2 billion as IGR in Abia and achieve it.
“Ultimately, people believe that Abia can make N5 billion as IGR, and I share that optimism. But that hasn’t happened yet.
“Minimum wage is something that we have all agreed that the amount currently being earned by workers is low, and as a state, we are going to abide with the decision, in line with other states. Whatever other states are doing, be rest assured that we are going to do it.
“But I am not also worried, because if you check the whole of Southeast today, Abia pays the highest. N30,000 minimum wage will also give us the opportunity to recalibrate our wage structure to be at the same page with other states.”
On the possibility of the wage bill being a burden on the state, the commissioner said: “There is no doubt that it is going to be a big burden on the state.
“But why I am not a bit bothered like other states is because Abia has been paying well above the N18, 000 minimum wage since 2011 till date.
“So, we are not as jittery as other states. But like I told you, this has also provided a very good platform for us to look at our wage structure, knowing that we pay the highest.
“We have the capacity to continue paying highest. We are going to use this opportunity and adjust and then make it easier for us to pay and for the workers to earn this money as and when due.
“It is going to be a win-win situation for everybody. The workers will be happy and the state will also be happy.
“I know that when we came in and did the biometrics and the new payroll administration strategy where we have centralized payroll system, that assisted us in realigning our wage structure and we made huge savings from that exercise.
“This exercise was basically for the MDAs, but the minimum wage now is going to give us the opportunity to look at what is being earned even in other parastatals like Abia Poly where the wage structure is dysfunctional because a PhD holder in Abia Poly earns higher than a professor in ABSU (Abia State University, Uturu).
“It is absurd and totally unacceptable. So, be rest assured that with the restructuring that we are trying to do, it will realign these things and make it look like what it should be, so that the state will be alive to its responsibility, these institutions will also be alive and running.
“We are going to restructure our salary wage bill to be in line with what is obtainable elsewhere.
“Concerning our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), we are currently undergoing restructuring. During the period of restructuring, you don’t get that kind of quantum leap that you expect, but any moment from now, we will start reaping the dividends of those things”.
We are dying of hunger, say retired Lagos teachers
Some retired workers from the Lagos State Ministry of Education have lamented the delay in the payment of their pensions.
The former teachers said more than two years after retirement, they had yet to receive any communication from the government over their entitlements.
They said while some of their colleagues had died without getting any payment, others were sick and lacked adequate medical care.
The retirees spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were afraid of intimidation.
A former primary school head teacher said all required documents for the processing and payment had been submitted.
She said, “I was a headteacher in a primary school before I retired in 2017. Till now, I have not received anything. All the documents they asked us to submit preparatory to our retirement were submitted. We were told that they had paid up till 2015. When will it get to us? Is it when we die and cannot eat the fruit of our labour? ”
Another retiree lamented that some pensioners lacked funds for basic necessities and had turned beggars.
“I also left service in 2017. Things are tough for many of us. For me, I have children who meet some of my needs. But what do we do about those who don’t have anything to rely on? Some have died of hunger, while many cannot even raise money to buy drugs.
“I served for 35 years. You can imagine someone who was getting paid for those years and for over two years has not received anything. How will such a person cope?” she said.
Another retiree, who also left service in 2017, said she hoped she would receive her entitlements while alive.
She lamented that life had been difficult for her family.
A former principal, who retired in 2015, however, told our correspondent that she received her pension entitlements in 2018.
She said retirees in her group embarked on “marathon prayers and fasting” before they got their payment “early.”
The sexagenarian said, “Those of us who retired in 2015 had to ask for divine intervention. It was sometime in 2018 that I got paid.
“The explanation our Pension Fund Administrators gave us was that our money was with the Lagos State Government. Our contributory pensions were remitted to our PFAs after April 2007. But the PFAs will not start paying when you retire until the government credits their accounts with their own part of the payment.
“Whenever we asked the government what was happening, they told us to wait for our bond. It was the day that Lagos State called us to come for our bond that we knew we were close to collecting our money.
“When they give you the bond certificate, you will submit it to your PFA, which will then add the value of the bond to the contributory pension. The result will be forwarded to the National Pensions Commission for processing.
“Based on a template, they will tell you the amount you can collect as a lump sum. That amount would be paid with the accumulated pensions from the date of your retirement. After that, you will start collecting the monthly pension.”
PUNCH Metro gathered that the hardship being suffered by retirees in Lagos made the group form the Lagos State Association of Retirees and PFA Pensioners.
During a meeting with the House of Assembly Committee on Establishment, Training, Pension and Public Service on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, the Chairman of the group, Michael Omisande, lamented that retirees were going through tough times.
“…those who retired from 2016 till date have yet to receive a penny for the past three years. It is very pathetic for retirees not to collect anything and there is no medical treatment for them for those three or four years. This act has resulted in making retirees beggars, sick, homeless, debtors and useless in their communities. Many of us have died as a result of the delay in payment.
“We met with the government delegation led by the Head of Service on February 11, 2019, where we tabled our grievances. At that meeting, we suggested to the government to find funds at all cost to pay, with or without bailout as we know that Lagos State is richer than 33 states put together in the federation. We are also the richest in terms of IGR. Treatment of retirees in Lagos State should be used as a parameter for others in the federation. We should be seen living a healthy life.
“At the February meeting, we advised the government to pay within two months; the two months have expired while they have yet to pay 2016 retirees. As senior citizens who laboured to build the state to this level, we do not want to be pushed to the wall, as a hungry man is an angry man. As a matter of urgency, we need our money; we are dying,” he said.
According to Omisande, the group had observed that for the government to pay 2016 retirees only, it needed N15bn.
He added that at the rate of N1bn per month which the state currently pays retirees in the state, it would take 15 months to complete the payment for 2016 retirees alone.
“It is a very wrong approach. In the area of health, the government has neglected retirees totally. We appreciate the free medical policy made for retirees, but it is on paper alone. It is not working at all as there are no drugs and medical personnel are not being monitored,” he added.
Omisande urged the Assembly to increase the budgetary allocation to the Lagos State Pension Commission to enable the directorate to pay backlog of entitlements.
The President of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Bunmi Ogunkolade, appealed to the state government to pay the entitlements as a matter of urgency.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Kehinde Bamigbetan, asked the retirees to be patient.
“The payment of 2016 retirees is ongoing now. Payment of 2017 retirees will commence once it is concluded. Those who joined the government after 2007 when the Contributory Pension Scheme began, are paid a month after retirement. This is because the state fully funds its contribution to the scheme. Other pre-2007 pension schemes are being paid in arrears. Let me assure you that the 2017 batch will be treated very soon,” he said in a text message.
Labour yesterday hailed the signing of the Minimum Wage Bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, describing it as the first stage of victory for workers.
It said strict implementation of the new salary regime should begin immediately.
The workers leaders – Bobboi Kaigama of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joe Ajaero of the United Labour Congress (ULC) – said the signing was the first stage of the battle to ensure a living wage for their members.
They called for strict implementation of the wage to ensure that all the states and the private sector comply.
The Labour leaders plan to sanction any employer that refused to comply with the new minimum wage.
Speaking with The Nation, Ajaero said one leg of the battle has been won, adding “Labour is ready for the second battle”.
He said the level of enforcement by the states, government agencies and the private sector would be look into.
He said: “Experience has showed that some states, government agencies, private sector may not want to comply. So, we have to enforce strictly on this.
“Also, the insinuation that N27,000 is what will be approved has been laid to rest. I want use this opportunity to congratulates the Nigerian workers.”
Kaigama said: “It’s a victory for the Nigerian workers.
The TUC President said further: “What is needed now is strict follow up, saying that the minimum wage is long over due.
“We are happy that it has been finally signed. However, strict monitoring is necessary so that every employers will comply. I congratulates the Nigerian workers.”
BREAKING: Minimum wage now N30,000 as Buhari assents to bill
President Muhammadu Buhari has signed into law the Minimum Wage Repeal and Re-Enactment Act, 2019. By this act, the new minimum wage is now N30,000. The President assented to the Act on Thursday in Abuja, mandating all employers of labour across the country to pay workers a minimum of N30,000 monthly wage. The National Assembly had submitted the minimum wage bill to the President since March 27. The bill approving N30,000 as the new national minimum wage was passed by both chambers of National Asaembly before they went on break for the 2019 general elections. Earlier in the week, workers in the Federal Capital Territory had begged the President to sign the minimum wage bill. Some of the workers had expressed concerns over the delay in signing the bill into law, adding that it was causing them unnecessary anxiety.