By Gift Andrews
As the world marked International Workers’ Day few days ago, organised labour is miffed that Africa’s biggest economy pays one of the lowest national wages in the world, just as they called on the Federal Government and other stakeholders in the socio-labour community to discuss a way forward on the prevailing N18,000 minimum wage. No doubt stakeholders in the sector have come to the conclusion that the N18,000 national minimum wage was no longer realistic, considering the present socio-economic indices in the country. As a matter of fact, the immediate past President-General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, Wabba insisted that N56,000 being demanded by congress was not out of place because of the high cost of living at present.
There is constant grumbling in the Nigerian market that minimum wage destroys jobs most especially for the young. The debate over whether or not to raise the Minimum wages is an interesting one, even though the realities of the nation are obviously showing that the issues shouldn’t be debatable. The real reason why Nigerians clamour for increment in minimum wage may not be unconnected to the current economic realities and high cost of living. Even the common sense Senator got it right when he said, a bag of rice was around N5,000 when the current minimum wage bill was passed by former President Jonathan. Thus it is pertinent to increase the minimum wage again with the current situation. Anybody who have walked into a supermarket, sought to rent an apartment or have large family who is depending of him knows that it is not possible to live on #18,000 per-week or moth and that the minimum wage should be raised.
Raising the minimum wage would lift many workers out of poverty, thus directly effecting workers who are currently making minimum wage or slightly more. Joblessness is a difficult economic and psychological condition; the point of a job is for a person to earn enough money to survive in a decent manner. If a taxpayer payer took up two jobs and cannot live decent then it is pointless.
Senator Shehu Sani has said that Nigerian workers should be earning as much as N150,000 as minimum wage. Sani also said that the current minimum wage of N18,000 is a big insult to Nigerian workers.
“When you say N56,000 or N60,000, sometimes all these things are tied to our foreign exchange. Nigerian workers should have not less than $300 per month and that will be between N140,000 and N150,000,” Sani said.
“I would be one of those that would push it forward. Nigeria has the resources to do that. The amount of money that is being used to maintain and sustain political office holders, the amount of money being wasted on corruption, the amount of money being stolen both known and unknown are monumental to the point that we cannot tell ourselves that such a country that pride itself as a giant of Africa will be paying less than $20 in the name of minimum wage”.
Other governors should emulate Gov.Mr Ibrahim Dankwambo on his persistence to approve the new minimum wage. Mr Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe state has assured the state’s civil servants that his government would immediately implement the proposed N56,000 national minimum wage, if the federal government approves it. Mr. Ibrahim Dakwanmbo gave the assurance at the commemoration of 2017 workers’ day in Gombe.
Although, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured workers that Government will take necessary steps to implement the final recommendation of the main Government/Labour committee as it relates to the setting up the new committee and the needed palliatives. The President however, called for effective deployment of labour relations, an amalgamated approach that would be used in creating a conducive work environment that would attract foreign investment for wealth creation.
I strongly believe this effort will go a long way in improving the administration’s fight against corruption as it may reduce the corruption tendency of civil servants who do so due to their little salary.