The leadership of organised labour in Nigeria has continued to betray strategic naivety on the struggle for enhanced wages and better service conditions for workers. Its prominent arms, the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress have been congratulating themselves on the breakthrough on implementation of the thirty thousand naira minimum wage reached with the federal government last week. As has become the pattern at every new wage negotiation, the labour movement is dodgy on the ability of state governments to pay.
The labour unions know too well that the present revenue sharing formula which gives the federal government the huge chunk of 52 per cent, 35 per cent to 36 states and 774 local governments, (and the balance reserved for special accounts), is inequitable. By glossing over this problematic structure, the labour organisations in effect, repudiate the responsibility of creating the system for even enforcement of workers’ interests.
Given that the federal government employs minimal workforce compared with the states and local governments, it follows that a meaningful implementation of wage increase is first dependent on the fiscal empowerment of the second and ‘third’ tiers of government. Accordingly, we would expect that the labour movement would be leading the crusade for a just and fair revenue sharing law. For reasons best known to Nigeria’s labour unions, they studiously shun this duty to themselves and the nation.
But while the NLC and company choose to live in denial, some State governors through their impactful strides in development, make the strong case for an upward review of the states’ percentage in national earnings. The performance of these governors are noteworthy not only in their traditional constituencies but more importantly for their strong interventions in areas of federal responsibility. Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano stands out among the fine crop of state administrators generously bearing federal responsibilities with lean State resources.
Governor Obiano has gone beyond the conventional assistance to federal security agencies to blend them into the state’s protection machinery. On the 11th of October, 2019, Obiano launched the advent of digital security operations in Anambra State with the handover of sophisticated surveillance cameras, 111 smart cars, and 77 patrol motorcycles to military and paramilitary formations.
The revelation that the state had already trained dozens of personnel for the operations and maintenance of the gadgets points to the long term approach of Obiano’s intervention. Against the backdrop of past security empowerment, the engagement by Obiano and other proactive Governors indicates that state police can work and that it’s indeed time to begin the processes. Moreover, the huge financial burden of assisting federal security agencies justifies the quest for increased national revenue to states.
Similarly, the challenge of maintaining federal roads takes a big financial toll on state governments.
For a state like Anambra where roads are vulnerable to the high incidence of soil erosion, the burden cannot be overemphasised. The federal government presently owes the state about N40b expended on rehabilitation of federal roads. There can be no gainsaying the momentum the injection of this sum into the State’s economy will bring about. Yet, for reasons of responsiveness to the yearnings of the people and the State’s peculiar environmental conditions, the Obiano regime cannot stop maintaining federal roads. In the light of this reality of federal roads ‘devolving’ on states, why should the states not get greater share of national income?
And while aviation remains on the exclusive legislative list, the Obiano regime is embarking on the construction of Anambra’s airport city at Umueri. The original airport project was initiated 33 years ago in 1986 by the military administration headed by Group Captain Emeka Omeruah.
Subsequent administrations baulked at the project because of its enormous capital outlay even as the growing Onitsha – Nnewi business axis emphasised its priority nature. Six billion naira is voted for the landmark project in the State’s 2020 budget estimate; again a considerable sum that the State would deploy in other areas were the federal government to take over this responsibility.
It is heart-warming that even in the face of these commitments, Obiano has already accepted to pay the new minimum wage. He deserves commendation for serving his State well and by that very fact making a strong case for better financial deal for States.
- Afuba is Editor of Anambra Times.