Nigeria: Minimum Wage - Something Has to Give

26 October 2018

We are back to where we started from on this new minimum wage brouhaha. The government is insisting they cannot pay above N20, 000 and organised labour is also insisting on N30, 000 or they will down tool come November 6.

The governors, on their own part, are saying they are not against the upward review of the minimum wage but the quandary is the capacity to pay. Some states are still struggling to pay the N18 thousand.

For a government whose cardinal principle is fighting corruption, one of the ways of tackling corruption is by increasing the salary of its workers. We know some people's greed are on steroids and no matter what you pay them they will still dip their hands in the cookie jar but those are in the minority. I make bold to say that 80 per cent of corruption in Nigeria takes place in the civil service. If the civil servants were well paid, it would significantly reduce the rate of corruption in the country.

What's the way out of this? To me it's a simple situation that requires a simple solution. But both sides must make sacrifices for this to work, something has got to give.

On the side of government, every state can afford to pay its workers N30, 000 and above .The states need to shed some weight, many workers on the payroll of governments are redundant. The government, both federal and states, are presently running a welfare system. Some civil servants just come to the office, gist and gossip and virtually don't do anything and at the end of the month they get paid their salaries for doing nothing.

The governors need to reduce drastically the number of their aides and white elephant projects that take a chunk of the state allocations. Governors need to put on their thinking cap and find creative ways of improving the internally generated revenue of the states. To me increasing taxes is a lazy governor's way of improving the IGR. Almost all the states in Nigeria are blessed with at least one natural resource. States can explore areas where they have comparative advantage to shore up their revenue. Governors need to start thinking like chief executives of companies and see how they can lead their states to prosperity and profitability.

The labour unions should know that for this to work, some workers have to go. You can't eat your cake and have it. The civil service needs to be prunned. Govenment cannot employ everybody. This welfare system the government is operating right now is not sustainable anymore.

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