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17 August 2018

We were not elected to only pay salaries, governors declare

Governors under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, have said that they are not elected to only pay salaries of civil servants.

They argued they were also elected to provide good roads, electricity, education and other necessary amenities for the people.

They said there was no way they could perform magic if there were no funds to work with.

They therefore called for the examination of the national income in the last 14 years to enable them to agree on the contentious issue of minimum wage implementation.

Chairman of the NGF, who is also the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, made their position known to journalists after the meeting of the governors in Abuja on Wednesday night.

One of our correspondents reports that the committee working on the minimum wage is almost concluding negotiations on the matter.

The Federal Government had set a September date to roll out a new minimum wage for workers.

The Nigeria Labour Congress is proposing a minimum wage of N65,000 for workers, but the governors are insisting on the gradual implementation of the new wage,  if eventually approved.

Yari said it was a pity that state governors had been limited to the payment of salaries alone in their respective states.

He said the lack of funds had hindered them from carrying out their responsibilities in other sectors such as health, electricity, education, roads, among others.

On minimum wage, he said, “We have a committee of six which represents us in discussions in the committee headed by the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige.

“The committee has yet to give us the final report. They have given us an interim report that at the Federal Government level, over 82 per cent is being spent on overheads which cannot move the country forward in terms of infrastructure development and development that we need now.

“So, on our own part, we are saying we are going to look at how our income is taken from our final account from 14 years ago so that we can come up and stay in the middle.”

He added, “I don’t think you people voted us only to pay salaries. You are looking for good roads, electricity, education and others. So, we can’t do magic. It’s only when we have the funds that we can do all those things.”

He disclosed that the governors also deliberated on the way the anti-graft agencies had been handling the war on corruption in the country.

He said that the governors resolved that both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corruption and other Related Offences Commission must adhere strictly to due process.

He said the agencies must not engage in illegalities.

He said while the governors supported the present administration’s effort to curtail corruption, they were however not comfortable with some of the actions taken by the nation’s anti-corruption agencies.

He berated the EFCC for freezing the accounts of both Benue and Akwa Ibom states, adding that even President Muhammadu Buhari will not support the illegalities perpetrated by the agencies.

“We believe strongly that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari would not sit down and supervise this illegality in the system.

“What we are saying is that we all support the government to fight corruption because it is endemic and has retarded the nation for over six decades. Definitely, it was part of what we discussed.

“What we are saying now is that we are going to support the government in terms of what it is doing to fight corruption, but due process must be respected in whatever action the agencies are going to take in the name of fighting corruption. That is the position of the governors,” he said

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