Governor Adams Aliyu Oshiomole of Edo State yesterday said state governors refusing to pay the new national minimum wage are committing criminal offence.
He spoke at The Podium, a public discourse organised in Abuja by the Kukah Centre themed: “From Activism to Political Power: The Challenges of Democratic Governance in Nigeria”.
Oshiomole said it was wrong for the governors who enjoy fixed national emolument same way it was fixed for National Assembly lawmakers to turn around and insist that the new national minimum wage should not be applicable to workers in their states.
“What I questioned and which I don’t accept is that you cannot have a centralized system of compensation for executives, governors, commissioners and local government chairmen. Their pay is centrally determined and the economy can afford that. What the Lagos State governor is receiving is what Edo State governor is receiving.
If we have a national compensation, how can these governors turn around and question the wisdom of a national wage structures for workers?
“It is that selective application of fiscal federalism that I found extremely offensive and unacceptable. Even today, I remain firm that we must maintain a national minimum wage and we must find ways to implement and adjust it to reflect the cost of living and it is the duty of government and employers to find the revenue to pay those they hired to work.
Non-payment of wages is a criminal breach of contract, whether in recession or prosperity,” Oshiomole said.
He said no one could change the situation through individual activism because the order that was meant to be changed was not due to ignorance but due to the fact that those who benefit from the order would not want to let go, but that they must be engaged to change the order.
The chairman of the occasion and a former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, said it was saddening that Nigerian politicians are mostly jobbers and budget padders, advocating for themselves and not the electorate they deceived with electoral campaigns.
“They cleverly and surreptitiously apply the word change. I, of course, won’t use that word because as a member of the PDP or what is left of it that word change ‘dey do me wan kind’.
However improvement is constant. Not being satisfied without society is and seeking to better it, we advocate improvement, not change”, he said.
The Director, Kukah Centre, Dr. Arthur-Martins Aginam, said the forum among other things, was meant to elevate the quality of political discourse in the country by generating ideas through robust and informed engagement between public officials and citizens and in the processes, deepen the nation’s democracy.