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Sanwo-Olu, heads of Lagos tertiary institutions disagree over new minimum wage

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Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State has asked the heads of the state-owned tertiary institutions to be responsible for the implementation of the new minimum wage for their workers.

The governor said the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted negatively on the state’s revenue generation capacity and demanded that whatever is given to these institutions as subventions should be augmented with the internally generated revenues across the campuses.

But some members of management of the affected institutions, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on the matter, described the directive as unrealistic. They said that the governor is not unaware of their lean purse, and that shouldering such responsibility “would simply mean that nothing else can be done in the institutions apart from salary payments.”

Members of various workers’ unions across the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), Lagos State University (LASU), Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED), Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (MOCPED), among others, had on Monday disrupted resumption activities on the various campuses.

The protesting workers under the umbrella of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) and the College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), among others, had accused the government of exempting them in the implementation of the N30,000 new minimum wage.

But responding to PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry, the special adviser to the governor on education, Tokunbo Wahab, said the resolve of the administration is that the institutions should be responsible for the implementation.

According to a statement issued by the official and dated September 14, the government asked the institutions to pay workers’ salaries to “avoid situations that look more like deliberate sabotaging of the efforts of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration as we prepare for schools resumption this week.”

The statement further read; “We wish to state categorically that Lagos State University, like other subvented MDAs, collects the sum of N450,000,000.00 (Four hundred and fifty million naira) every month from the Lagos State Government as subvention. The Government expects the institutions to also be responsible in the application of the funds and the staffing of the institutions. We must also have at the back of our mind that they have IGR which they generate and are not accountable to the government on how the same is expended.

“Aside the subvention, the government is also responsible for the infrastructural developments (which include the recently approved 8,000 plus bed hostel in this same LASU) of the institutions and other ancillary things including payment for accreditation exercise for which the last one cost the government close to N500m.”

Mr Wahab added that both the state’s polytechnic and AOCOED receive N210 million monthly while the Michael Otedola College of Primary Education receives N125 million monthly.

Institutions’ managements kick

In their separate reactions to the development, both the provost of MOCPED, Nasiru Onibon, and an official of the bursary unit of LASU, who craved anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, expressed their dissatisfaction.

According to Mr Onibon, out of the N125 million subvention received by the institution, N121 million is spent monthly as gross salary payment including workers’ taxes and deductions without the implementation of the new minimum wage.

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The provost said; “As an institution of just a little above 1,000 students that charges between N18,000 and N25,000 as fees depending on courses of study, we generate just around N30 million annually. Our degree programme with the University of Ibadan also fetches us between N70 million and N80 million annually which is shared between the two institutions. When you add this to the balance of roughly N4 million left from subvention, then we have a little above N100 million annually.

“So when you compare the expenditure including capital and running cost, payment of allowances, conduct of examinations, purchase of diesel and facilities maintenance, you would realise that except we are not sincere with ourselves, there is no way we can run effectively if we should attempt to implement the new minimum wage.”

In a similar development, the LASU official said he was surprised that the government was proud to announce a monthly subvention of N450 million to the university, saying workers’ salaries alone cost the university N560 million every month.

According to the source, though the understanding reached with the university was that the government would pay salary while internally generated revenues should be used to take care of running cost, allowances, maintenances, among others, but on a monthly basis, the university coughs out N110 million to augment the deficit.

The source said; “It is understandable that times are hard as incomes for both government and institutions have been affected as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but we must communicate appropriately to the affected workers. LASU only charges N25,000 for the regular students and how much do we generate monthly or even annually?

“From ground zero, the new administration picked LASU up to achieve what we now have, which is a pride of the state and the country by extension. I strongly believe there is a need for us to iron this out properly. Our workers have a right to demand their pay, and we must engage them adequately, as authorities have been trying to do, and not engaging in buck passing.”

Meanwhile, the acting rector of LASPOTECH, Olumide Metilelu, said he would respond to the development appropriately soon.

“I have an appointment with the house of assembly today, once I am done, I will get back to you,” Mr Metilelu said on Wednesday.

His response, however, did not come as of the time of filing this report.

Solution

Meanwhile, the provost has appealed to the government to reconsider its position, saying to resolve the matter, the government must jerk up the subventions allocated to each of the institutions.

“Like a father to a child, we will still go to government to support us by increasing the subventions because that is the only way to address this matter,” Mr Onibon said.

Similarly, the source at LASU said the situation is not new. He said whenever there is a salary increase, the government usually intervenes by increasing subvention.

“Without such intervention, there is no institution that can meet the new demands. For instance, instead of the N560 million we currently pay as salary monthly, we will need about 800 million every month to implement the new minimum wage,” the source said.



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