These are lean times for Nigeria. And for our governors, who like to strut their gubernatorial status with imperial hubris, it couldn’t be worse. They have been reduced to carrying begging bowls to Abuja to ask for financial reprieve. Even the initial bailout that President Muhammadu Buhari approved for them about three months ago is proving inadequate to deal with the acute insolvency of their states. The states are not only broke; they are deeply in hock to the banks and money markets, where many of them have raised billions of naira through bonds with very little to show for it. Only about nine states are financially healthy, but their condition is at best dubious.
After the meeting of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum in Abuja recently, their chairman, Abdul’aziz Yari of Zamfara State, announced with mournful regrets, that they could no longer pay the minimum wage. He said: “The situation is no longer the same compared to when we were asked to pay N18000 minimum wage, when oil price was $126 pb, and continuing paying N18000 when oil is $41 pb.” Were they testing the waters to see if they could swim against the stormy wave of opposition, especially by the labour unions, to their attempt to shift the burden of their predicament to the workers?
Their complaint was roundly rejected, as the reactions were swift and savagely negative. Nigeria Labour Congress warned that workers would shut down the country if the minimum wage, already pitifully small even for a subsistent living, were tampered with. Other critics slammed the governors for their insensitivity to the challenge of workers surviving on their meagre income in an environment where nothing works and social services are absent. It is, indeed, a tough task, that the workers should pay for the consequence of the profligacy of governors by getting squeezed further. At the official rate of $1 to N200, the N18000 minimum wage is just $90 per month and $3 a day.
It is inevitable that the governors have to look elsewhere for solution to their financial debacle. And the federal government can’t be of much help as it is facing the same problem of insolvency. The President put it in a bold relief when, during his visit to India, he declared that the country was broke. That was a strong signal to the governors that there is a limit to his benevolence as he, too, has to deal with the difficulty of running the country with hugely diminished financial resources. Having approved over N800 billion bailout fund, made up of soft loans, special allocations and restructured debts converted into bonds, there is nothing more he can do to help. But the governors have become Oliver Twists, still crying out to their Big Brother in Abuja for more bailout. Again they succeeded in getting another N30b billion ($150 million from NLNG dividend) to share, this time, with the federal government. Which still doesn’t solve the problem…Follow Us on Social Media
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