Nigeria: The Elusive Minimum Wage

15 October 2019
opinion

Abuja — It may be recalled that on May 14, the federal government inaugurated a relativity and consequential adjustment committee which incidentally created a sub-committee that is to work out the template on the adjustment of 'public labour force' salaries.

However, the implementation of the new minimum wage is being barricaded with minor relativity and consequential adjustments. Recently, the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) made a declaration that they cannot afford to pay what they don't have, acknowledging that even though it is consequential to make this adjustment in salaries of workers at the lower levels, it will harm the economy.

Well, history has documented that the demand for the increase in minimum wage started in 1947 - when workers staged the famous 45 days general working strike for the Cost of Leaving Allowance (COLA). But agreements reached with federal government were seldom implemented or always distorted during implementation.

All over the world salary increase in the public sector is underlined by the principle of equity and the need to bridge social inequality in the face of economic and social gaps amongst citizens of a country. The minimum wage saga has been in the news and has created so much clamour that workers are getting more apprehensive.

Similarly, there has been outcry that civil servants in Nigeria earn appallingly low wages, while Nigerian political office holders earn one of the biggest wages in the world- according to analysts. However, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has since the 18 April 2019, when the new minimum wage was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, been at odds with the federal government over its proper implementation.

In such view, the new minimum wage of N30,000 is to replace the former N18,000 and to set a new track in the interest of the least paid workers who can be said to be the most economically vulnerable. But the new wage is yet to be implemented as a result of vague disagreements and has in turn made it elusive to certain extent.

· This is because the federal government on its own part has offered to pay 5.5 per cent to those at levels 15 to 17 and 10 per cent increase to workforces at grade levels 07 to 14, and the civil service unions have rejected the FGs' offer. On their part, the union wants an increment of 25 per cent in the salary of the upper level's employees and 30 per cent for grade levels 7 to 14 employees.

· There have been several accusations and dismay from the congress, particularly the National Executive Council (NEC), directed towards the federal government for its failure to implement the demands which has consequentially led to the delay of the implementation of the new N30,000 national minimum wage.

Meanwhile, the federal government on its part has assured the organized labour that the tripartite committee on the National Minimum Wage would conclude its negotiation before the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum. Both the organised labour and the government should come to a compromise.

Isah Ismaila Gagarawa writes from Abuja

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