Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole yesterday declared that the payment of N18,000 minimum wage should not be a burden to any state governor.
Speaking with State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, Oshiomhole said that welfare of the people is the main business of the leaders.
He said: “With due respect to my colleagues, it is offensive to talk about minimum wage, how can the food of the steward be the reason that the elders cannot eat. I mean by conventional wisdom. If there is crisis in the system, it’s the excess fat that will share fats not the skeletons. The idea of using minimum is very offensive.
According to him the problem with Nigeria is that each time the country is confronted with a serious economic problem they look at the escape route option adding that” Those are not the heart of the challenges, we must go to the heart of challenges, we must revisit issues. I also believe it is simplistic to believe that one drug will cure all the ailments in the various states. ”
He advised that every state has to take its own independent evaluation the nature of its own problems and design appropriate policy instrument to deal with those problems as they relate to each state.
“The problem in one state is not the same with the one in Edo state. Everybody will have to deal with its own. Lastly I also think that if anybody wants to talk about federalism, lets not talk about federalism where it affects the wages of the lowest paid.
“I have asked this question why should Edo state governor recieve the same salary as the governor of Lagos State when the population of Lagos State is doubled that of Edo state and their GDP is much higher. Why should I receive the same pay as the governor of Zamfara state or Akwa Ibom, these states are richer by accident of location.
“If we want to preach this principle we are in a federal system, everybody should pay according to his cost of living, the cost of governing Edo state is not the same cost as governing Lagos State. So why should the revenue mobilization fix my pay and that of Lagos State. If we want to run a true federalism, start from the top that is leading by example,” he said.
“We can’t protect people at the top and attack the people at the bottom and this has nothing to do with the fact that I was once a labour leader. Even if I was my, the truth remains that wages is not a burden to the economy. People need to understand that if we are not careful, assuming we are suggesting we abolish wages, we have no money, people don’t earn and therefore they cannot spend, they are excluded from the economy, that fact of exclusion will have devastating impact on the consumption level of the economy.
“You need to put more money in the hands of low income poeple whose consumption pattern will stimulate the economy and make the manufacturers to respond.” He said
According to him, many leaders are not doing enough deepening reasoning.
“The responsibility of any government in governance and public is to critically evaluate the nature of the crisis you face and devise appropriate tool to deal with them on a sustainable basis. I Don’t want the governors being portrayed as anti- people. What are we doing in government, because of the people.
“The primary purpose is the welfare of the people. We are not statisticians. If everybody is saying Nigeria is growing at 200% but people are dying on a daily basis that is not the kind of country we want. I don’t want us to be portrayed as what we are not.
“I know many of my colleagues are deeply concerned about the welfare of the people. I am fighting battles in Edo state, I am saying to the rich guys you have to pay tax and you have houses in other countries and you pay land use charge and you think when you come to Edo you can use bold face, we will squeeze you and when you don’t pay we take you to court, secure conviction and send you to prison. They are excreting and we will just squeeze money out of their pocket , we have to pay salaries,” he stated.
He pointed out that the former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, be included in the ongoing probe of alleged $2.1bn arms purchase.
According to him, Okonjo-Iweala, who was also the coordinating Minister of the Economy under Goodluck Jonathan administration had a lot of explanations to make regarding how the funds spent by the former NSA were appropriated and released.
Okonjo-Iweala, he noted, could not have “coordinated a corruption-ridden economy” without being made to face the consequences now.
He said: “I am shocked. I have been talking about it, I just said to a couple of persons, the government have to go the whole hog, because i know as a governor that no money gets out of the Treasury even after I have approved as the governor without the approval of the commissioner of Finance ,those are the procedure, so the probe should go into whether all these monies are appropriated all of it, when the money got out of the Treasury through who? The Minister of Finance under the rules must endorse before money gets out of the Treasury before CBN approves.
“So all those ministers of Finance including Okonjo – Iweala, I don’t care what people say because you cannot be coordinating a corruption ridden economy and you pretend to be an angel, you cannot selectively deal with issues, you must deal with all involved in the conspiracy, in criminal law when two to three people are involved in a act of criminality, all of them are charged with conspiracy.
“You cannot get money out of the Treasury without getting it endorsed and for a government that talks about transparency, due process and I am unable to accept that money will come out without the Minister of Finance having to endorse document and if you endure documents, you must follow through to see that the purpose through which funds are released are actually used for that purpose,” he said.
“Now you lay your hands on the various appropriation bill passed by the National Assembly and see how much the National Assembly appropriated for subsidy for all those periods, you will find they are not even up to half of what was spent.
“Which means money not appropriated for was spent. If people are involved in those acts they must be brought to justice,” he added.
According to him, N6 trillion budget being proposed for next year will be a good proposal as it will boost infrastructural development.
“Over the past four years under the previous government we have been doing the rituals of annual budget basically to service the recurrent expenditure. If you look at the amount allocated for 2015 budget by the previous government, you didn’t have more than 10% allocated to capital projects ,it means you are going to watch your infrastructure decay by the day and that explains the crisis of road infrastructure across the country and if you are going to revise that and put more money in capital projects which is the entry point for ordinary Nigerians then you need to increase the size of the budget.
“The options open to government is if you want to cut the personel cost in order to reduce your recurrent expenditure, then two things will happen, you either reduce wages or the number of workers. But because this government is committed to job creation, that option is clearly not on the card, then how do you then find funds to deal with capital projects that will improve on the quality of life of people, infrastructure that will create the much talked about enabling environment for business to be able to compete in the Nigerian environment,” he stated.
The governor pointed out that the arms deal scam linked to the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, was a tip of the iceberg and only one of the leaking points in the past administration.
He alleged that past administrations had been engaged in “arrange stealing”.
He said: “The NSA is supposed to be an advisory officer, he is not supposed to be a procurement agent for government. I am happy the figures are coming out and I know that this is a tip of the iceberg and I read some reports, the numbers are in billions, Dasuki is just one bleeding point, there are several bleeding points in the system.
“You look at the total number of expenditure on subsidy which the World Bank have released figures just now, about how many trillions of Naira over the past four to five years,” he said.