National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has said that Nigeria as a nation can afford what he described as a living wage for workers in the country, saying non payment of salaries by state Governors creates a viscious circle leading to low production and eventual loss of jobs.
Oshiomhole said as a governor, he has always told his colleagues that payment of salaries is not a burden, but a means of enhancing the development potential of the state, adding that the major problem in the country has always been the stealing or public resources in the name or salary payment.
The former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) who was responding to question on the new nattional minimum wage in an interview with a television outfit monitored in Abuja said it was unfortunate that the nation has enough to meet the greed of leaders but don’t have enough to meet basic needs of their people.
He said: “My views are clear that payment of wages is not an act of kindness for an employer to pay the employees’ wages at the end of the month. There are provisions in our labour act that says that you cannot delay the payment of salaries in excess of 30 days interval, which means salaries ought not to accumulate beyond 30 days. And Government decides the size of its employment but when it made the decision to employ it has the obligation to pay. Even the Holy Bible says that the laborer is entitled to its wages.
“I think again, this is where President Buhari stands out clearly. He has publicly asked public sector employers; how do you sleep when you have not paid your employers for one year. But he did not stop at lamenting it, he went on to provide the much talked about bailout fund and said please use this money to pay your workers and pay pension arrears.
“And even the deductions from states that was done under the PDP in the name of settling our foreign debts, they went into state treasury and they over deducted, that was done under the PDP. But under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, inspite of the huge financial challenges that he faces, decided that in order to assist the states to meet up with their social obligations, to begin to pay what is now referred as Paris Club refund.
“He has done that two, three instalments and each time the governors are told that you must use this money among other things to settle pension arrears and be up to date in the payment of salaries.
“But I am very proud that this President has rich conscience, he recognizes that the Nigerian worker deserve his wages and that is why he has publicly lament that there are governors who have not paid salaries as at when due, whether they are PDP or APC it is immaterial. And in seeking to deal with it he has also provided support across party divide and I think that is statesmanship at its best.
“As for my views on the minimum wage, I tried to deal with it as a governor. I told my colleagues then that wage is not a burden in the society. In economics, when people work and get paid purchasing powers is enhanced and because purchasing power is enhanced producers will respond to that by seeking to produce more goods and services. And in the process they will recruit more hands.
“But when you don’t pay wages you create a virtuous circle, no payment of wages leading to low purchasing power. None payment of rents, compounding the problem of those who have invested in real estate. Depressing the commercial life of the state and of the country. And I tried to settle this question by increasing minimum wage in Edo state to N25, 000 from N18,000.
“I remember some people calling me to ask how you will pay it. I am on record of having paid it and as we speak my successor in office is paying it. I do not agree with those who says Nigeria cannot afford a more realistic minimum wage. My being in government or now chairman of a party cannot change what I believe in. I that no nation has enough to meet the greed of leaders but nations have enough to meet basic needs of their people.
“The real problem in the public sector is money being stolen in the name of salaries; I found it embarrassing when we talk about ghost workers. And I ask the question who counts ghosts, it is only in Nigeria that ghosts are known. The labourer deserves its wage; the primary purpose of government is the welfare of its people. So we must pay wages as at when due.”