By Bukar Bolori
The Federal Government last year, struck a deal with the Nigeria Labour Congress for the implementation of a minimum wage of N30, 000 upward from the present N18, 000. The Federal Government and Labour earlier had a running battle with the Nigeria Governors Forum in arriving at the agreement for states and Local Government Areas to equally implement the minimum wage. Indeed, as reported in the media, both the Federal and some state Governments have implemented the said wage for their staff.
However, the implementation of the new minimum wage came along with it some expected hiccups. The Federal Government itself, found a very challenging impending fiscal deficit in the offing regarding the financing of the new wage as worked out by the Federal Ministry of Finance. This forced the Federal Government to foot-drag in its implementation of the agreement and later, worked out a formula of paying the minimum wage based of graduating percentage where grades levels one to seventeen were categorised with varying percentages of benefits.
Hence, the new agreement equally became particularly worrying to many states and local government areas due to the stark reality of their revenue and income base vis-a-vis the volume of liquidity required to finance the new regime of wages. Very well-to-do states such as Lagos had no problem accommodating the new wages regime due to their robust internally generated revenue base. The same applies to states enjoying special revenue allocation such as the 13% derivation formula in crude oil sales. Some less privileged states who hurriedly implemented the new wage are now introducing many other avenues of using their left hands to retrieve what they actually gave out with their right hands. Significantly, all the Local Government Councils in such states are quietly groaning under the new arrangement. It has become obvious that if some states have to implement the new minimum wage, they may have to resort to the bitter option staff rationalisation; and, indeed, the Labour will hear none of it. Of course, however, it is not the fault of Labour, nor the paying employer’s either. It’s the system that’s just faulty, ab initio.
Consequently, all state Governments, especially in the Northern part of the country, foot-dragged in upholding the new regime due to very glaring and, indeed, genuine realities facing the successful implementation of the agreement. Among these states, We discover, Zamfara state is one state severely hit by the dilemma of its zeal to satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of its workers in this regard. Indeed, there is the stark reality of non-existence of revenue base to accommodate this noble resolve in that state.
One of the peculiarities in Zamfara state is the fact that its share of the monthly Federation Account allocation is so meagre that it cannot finance the the new wage regime, much less as to have any significant remnant for other services which are mandatory to the running of every government such as provision of treated water to the public, oiling an effective judicial system and provision of security of lives and property. In this confused dilemma, the citizens look upon the Government for developmental projects such as provision and maintenance of good roads, healtcare facilities, provision of fertiliser and seedlings to farners as well as finance public sector education.
Note that a bundle of billions of naira worth of liability has been left behind by the previous administration which the Matawalle administration has to service from the meager resources accruing from the Federation account; and much of it deducted at source.
But, then, someone will ask about locally generated revenue in the state which ordinarily should augment the coffers of the Government in addressing these challenges. The Internally generated revenue of the state Government remain extremely low and insignificant to boost the state income significantly due to a culture developed since the inception of the state 24 years ago. At a time when Lagos State generates N73 billion a month, Zamfara state is generating less than one billion naira in the same period.
Oh, what do one expect of a state whose major source of internally generated revenue is the PAYE, which is a mandatory tax deducted on wages? Citizens in the state have been erroneously placed on wrong notion of “government doest it all” and are not used to taxation, nor will they take it kindly if proper tax regimes are now introduced to them. For instance, owners of landed property do not pay ground rent to the Government. Commercial shops do not pay taxes and there is absence of functional factories or industries where taxes can accrue to the state Government. To compound the situation, social services consumers do not pay for the services provided to them. For instance, records show that the sum N19 million is spent by the state Government every month in the provision of treated water to the public with virtually no revenue generated from the supply.
The state Local Recenue Board is, itself, handicapped in the sense that it cannot diversify its sources of revenue generation even in the generally accepted category of taxation across other poverty stricken Northern states of Nigeria. This is borne out of the fact that previous administrations have placed the people on the wrong premise of “We can do without it, you need that respite”. Today, any attempt to diversify revenue generation in the state will be viewed and resisted as anti-people and totally reactionary.
To compound the situation, the little generated by the revenue board in the state is discovered to be systematically drained through syndicated leakages where the state Government is now working hard to dismantle with utmost difficulty. A case in point is the recent discovery of a secret house where staff of the Revenue Board were caught manufacturing fake vehicle number plates and receipts obviously being produced in place of the original authentic products, even as the revenue accruing from such will now end up in private pockets!
With these scenario, the state Government is faced with the option of paying the minimum wage to civil servants at the total detriment of social services and human empowerment. As much as civil servants must be paid their legal dues, the farmer in the village also needs fertiliser. The poor peoples children need medical care at the grassroots. The ordinary person in the street needs security. The grassroots children need to go to public schools. The motorists needs good roads. The urban people also need portable water supply. To strike a balance between these multiple of demands and responsibilities on one hand and the need for improved pay on the part of civil servants, there hast to be an understanding between labour and government on the workability of this agreement considering the stark reality at hand.
The antecedents of the Matawalle administration has shown that it is worker friendly. It has demonstrated more than any administration in the state its love and care for the workers. We have seen how in its first six months, the administration re-instated 1,040 abandoned workers and 556 abandoned teachers. It paid leave grants to workers which was never paid in ten years and promoted over 6,000 workers all at once. To lift the vast unemployed chunk of its Youth, it engaged over 8,000 of them and pays them a monthly stipend of N10, 000 each. Indeed, the Matawalle administration will be glad to implement the minimum wage for its civil servants provided the stake holders will understand and co-operate with the government on the workability of this agreement vis-a-vis the stark reality as evidently manifested in Zamfara state today.