Nigeria: Divergent Views Trail New National Minimum Wage Discourse

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Minimum wage.
3 October 2018

As the organised labour pushes forward its demand for a new national minimum wage, opinions are varied regarding the timeliness of the demand, which resulted in a warning strike following a breakdown in negotiations among committee members.

According to some of the views, embarking on a strike in a pre-election period is not a good sign that demand would be immediately met, as majority of the governors, who would implement the agreements, would be out of office by 2019 at the expiration of their two terms, while those hoping for a second term are still struggling to get their parties' nomination.

The organized labour had called for a nationwide warning strike over refusal of the Federal Government to come up with a new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers.

Labour, September 12 issued a 14-day ultimatum to Federal Government to recall the tripartite committee to fix a new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers to conclude negotiations or face industrial action. Inauspicious

An independent development consultant with a UK-funded programme in Nigeria, Dr. Mike Uzoigwe, had urged the Federal Government to approach the subject of wage increase cautiously.

Uzoigwe, who argued that the timing for such a demand was inauspicious, also cautioned against increasing salary when the country is borrowing to finance its budget.

He urged government not to succumb to pressure or make promises it cannot keep.

According to him, there are infrastructural deficiencies yet to be fixed, even as Nigeria is dependent on earnings from its natural resources to run its affairs.

"We have not done it in the right way and this is not a good time to increase wage.

Countries that are blessed as we are used their oil resources to build other aspects of their economy.

This has not allowed them to be tied to the vagaries of oil prices at the international market," he said.

Reacting, Chief Economist, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Andrew Nevin, told The Guardian that Nigerian workers need a new national minimum wage, but the policy of isolation may not help the country.

Citing the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, he noted that the fundamental issue is that Nigeria is not rich enough and its citizens are getting poorer per capita since 2015 and may continue to get poorer and poorer until 2022.

"We obviously want a higher minimum wage, but this policy in isolation will not help us.

We need to focus on increasing our GDP per capita, which means the private sector must become much bigger - by at least ten times over the next 8 to10 years.

"So the political class must enact and implement policies that will support private sector growth.

If we are increasing the size of the private sector considerably, this will give us the room to also implement the necessary minimum wage increase."

But the General Secretary, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Peter Ozo-Eson, dismissed Uzoigwe's argument as being "irrelevant and baseless," stating that N18,000 current minimum wage for an average Nigerian worker is nothing to write home about, asking, "Is it time for slave labour"?

He insisted the timing was proper, saying: "We will not allow politicians to use that against us; we will stand our ground, and until government acts, we will not relent."

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