…As Labour seeks living Minimum wage for workers***
After two days of disagreement between the 36 states’ commissioners for finance and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation over alleged revenue underpayment, the Federation Account Allocation Committee finally distributed the sum of N626.82bn to the three tiers of government on Thursday.
The allocation, which was supposed to have been done on Tuesday, was delayed following claims that the NNPC underpaid about N12bn into the coffers of the government.
But at the reconvened meeting on Thursday held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance, the committee agreed to share N626.82bn for the month of March.
This, according to the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, is to allow the three tiers of government to pay workers’ salaries before the end of this month, while reconciliation with the corporation is ongoing.
Addressing journalists shortly after the meeting, the AGF put the gross statutory revenue for the month of March at N480.59bn.
This, he added, was N77.34bn lower than the N557.94bn generated in February.
Idris explained that crude oil export sales decreased by 13 per cent in March when compared with the 5.42 million barrels from the previous month.
He said the 13 per cent decrease in crude oil exports volume led to a reduction in revenue from federation crude oil exports by $33.58m.
While the average crude oil price increased from $63.08 to $65.72 per barrel, he noted that the production shutdown at various terminals for repairs and maintenance affected oil revenue.
However, Idris stated that there was a considerable rise in oil royalty for the month, while Companies’ Income Tax and import duty recorded marginal increases.
On the breakdown of the N626.82bn allocated by the committee, he said after deducting the cost of collection to the revenue generating agencies, the Federal Government received N263.1bn.
The sum of N167.61bn was distributed among the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory, while the 774 local government were allocated N126.29bn.
In addition, the sum of N54.5bn was shared to the oil producing states based on the 13 per cent derivation principle.
Idris put the current balance in the Excess Crude Account at $1.83bn as against the $2.3bn last month.
President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the withdrawal of $496m from the ECA for the payment for Tucano aircraft to be supplied by the United States to boost the fight against insecurity.
When asked when the NNPC would remit the underpaid revenue to the Federation Account, the AGF stated, “The reconciliation is ongoing. There is no public finance system that will be devoid of reconciliation at any time.
“So, reconciliation is part of the order and in that particular instance, reconciliation that started last month continued this month and there is nothing new.
“We couldn’t meet yesterday (Wednesday) because we felt certain milestones had to be reached and on getting to those milestones, we sat today and considered the figures for distribution.”
When asked how much the NNPC was to remit, Idris said that would be determined when the reconciliation was concluded.
He added, “On the amount that we are expecting to come in from the NNPC, we don’t talk on mere speculation or hearsay.
“We have to wait for the amount to come and we will know what will be distributed. We don’t base our projections on speculations; there has to be factual data.”
Meanwhile, IT was the same tune at the public hearings on National Minimum Wage for Nigerian Workers staged in eight city centres across the country yesterday. The workers demanded for a living wage of N66, 500 minimum wage.
The hearings, organised by the Tripartite Committee of the National Minimum Wage, were staged in Abuja, Lagos and the six geo-political zones.
The government and employers of labour did not make their offers known yesterday’s public hearings, but the workers’ umbrella unions – the Nigerian Lagbour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), explained why they united on the demand for N66, 500 as monthly salary for the minimum paid worker. The minimum wage is N18, 000.
Some state governors, however, urged stakeholders to apply caution in fixing a minimum wage.
Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola, who doubles as the Chairman, Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage, Northcentral Sub-committee, urged all parties to settle for a fair, just and implementable minimum wage.
His Lagos counterpart, Akinwunmi Ambode, said the revenue profile of each state must be taken into consideration as a major determinant of what can reasonably be afforded in terms of wages.
Ambode said that workers’ salaries should not be allowed to jeopardize the government ability to fund social services that are critical to the well-being of the entire citizens.
President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to implement the recommendation of the 30-member tripartite committee, which he inaugurated on November 27, last year.
At the Southwest hearing, which held at the Adeyemi Bero Secretariat Auditorium, Alausa, in Ikeja, Lagos, the organised Labour demanded a new minimum wage for all workers in the country.
Presenting the memoranda of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Political Committee Chairman of the local chapter of the NLC in Lagos, Agnes Sessi, said that N18, 000 was no longer sustainable as minimum wage.
According to her, the two labour union unions agreed on the urgent need to review upward the minimum wage to meet the prevailing economic realities; lift a pool of working class out of the poverty trap; and to conform with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards on minimum wage fixing to meet the needs of workers and their families.
In her submission, Mrs. Sessi said: “Based on the current realities, the two labour centres demand for a new monthly national minimum wage of N66, 500, which is approximately the average of the implied minimum wages derived under three approaches.”
An estimate of the monthly minimum cost of providing basic needs to a family of six and two dependants and analysis based on rising cost of living over time.
Mrs. Sessi added that both union seek the amendment of the Minimum Wage Act to provide its review every five years, or whenever there was a general wage review, adding that the recommended best international practice was that the minimum wage law should apply to all workers and not to establishments with 50 workers and above, as contained in the present Act as amended in 2011.
She said the review of the minimum wage would boost aggregate demand which would further provide a boost to the economy coming out of recession, adding that an enhanced minimum wage, financed by increased taxation on the rich and luxury goods, would promote equity and growth in the economy.
Also speaking, the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Lagos branch, aligned with the NLC and TUC in demanding for N66, 500 new minimum wage.
The ASCSN spokesman, Akeem Kazeem, said the upward review was overdue because the pay structure in the country had become unrealistic and inadequate, such that workers could no longer meet their basic needs, a scenario, he said that is impacting negatively on their morale.
Kazeem said: “The sum of N18, 000 which is currently being paid as the minimum salary in the civil service is grossly inadequate. An officer at that level will, however, require about N66, 500 a month to survive. We are in total support of the demand for the sum of N66, 500 for a salary of GL. 01 Step 1 officer as requested by the organised labout.”
Speaking through the Head of Service (Hos) Mrs. Folasade Adesoye, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said there was a consensus of opinion on the need for workers to be reasonably remunerated and compensated in line with current economic realities.
He said that was why a provision was made in the law for periodic review of the national minimum wage, admitting that every worker deserved a wage that guarantees decent standard of living.
Punch with additional report from Nation