What Is The Real Meaning of the New Minimum Wage?


Ordinarily the increase in the NATIONAL minimum wage of a ciuntry should elicit joy and national outbursts of celebration.It is meant to be a welcome increase in a family’s standard of living – in all facets: occasional beef in the soup(even if thumbsize per), a few more Naira to the pockets money; and the removal of a few wrinkles, in Mummy’s face ( and heart).Not so this recent increase from #18000 to #30000.But, let me hasten to give justifiable excuse for the Buhari Administration.It has GUTS.It may not on occasions put its priorities right, but, PMB and his team have guts. However,this time,as on several occasions, it has put the cart a km ahead of the loaded cart.All motion.No movement.We are,in all honestly, stuck in the same groove.It’s all make believe.Quick check – when the #18000 was instituted,a kilo of beef was #200-and on a good scale. Ok.the exchange rate argument,abi? One would have also considered that the scale was imported long time ago and that now 20 years later, a kilo of beef is #1500 – on a heavily adjusted scale. So, bye bye to full kilo beef; And all other items.Just increase in tears,all round.In the old days in Nigeria,more people worked for the Private sector than for the Government- of whatever level: The Private Sector paid more and there were all manner of alliwances. Recently, a former Vice President of Nigeria,Atiku Abubakar, boasted that he increased the “minimum” wage of his business chains to #30000.I was in shock. Whereas, many foreign companies had been paying far above the so called National Minimum wage,this man and other “entrepreneurs”, were deliberately hiding behind the mental laziness of our Labour leaders, to hold us back.One would have expected that our Labour leaders would have raised banners and pickets-since and after-in all foreign/private companies, employing more than 50 workers.Now,the ” foreign” companies were supposed to operate on the same pedestal with their mother companies,in their home bases. No Nigerian Labour leader has ever asked – would even the most casual of workers(including illegal immigrants), accept the pittance these foreign and foreign operated companies pay their Nigerian workers in their home countries? I have been asked why I make the point of calling some companies “foreign” and some “foreign operated”. The distinction is management.The ” foreign” companies come in fully packaged. They pick a few Nigerians as “contract” staff and a few Nigerians,MUST have clout in the Government of the day,as Directors on the Board. A Board that has no say,except to influence contracts. A former Chief of Army Staff,Lt Gen TY Danjuma, was quoted recently as saying, he provided office space and money, to the owners of P& ID,an Irish firm, but, he didn’t know them. Quite a universal philanthropist! Benevolence to total strangers.Beats tales of the unexpected!

What did we GAIN from the Civil War?

It is one of the ironies of Nigerian Industrial Development that the Civil War(1967 – 1970) did not have a ripple effect. No. It only produced religious mercantilism, cunny cunny and unbelievable individual protectionism. Those really “genius” inventors,who made Biafra hold on for three years, just upped and disappeared. They neither left manuals nor any device improving instructions. In fact, in spite of the Federal Government’s best efforts, not a SINGLE, Biafran scientist, turned up. One of the fallouts is that nobody can tell us the name of the inventor of the awesome,multi bullet spewing,revolving Ogbunigwe. Thus Federal Agencies like the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure(NASENI) and Project Development Institute ( PRODA) have had to start from scratch. These were desperate measures. The after war years should have been our period of slush and flush. The”slush” and “flush” period in any developing nation’s history is that period in which money flows uncontrollably and hand in hand with bribery,brigandage,thievery and mega buck deals – need outlets to flush the money into legitimate outlets – the society leaps. We never took advantage of it; even when ” money[ is ]not a problem “, as then Head of State,Gen Gowon, was famously quoted. Rather, our early buccaneers chose the option of inviting foreign companies to come and rip us apart. We lost our chance to have a genuine National Industrial Programme.

Private Sector, Labour Laws and the Minimum Wage

The Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC) knows that Private Sector workers are at the mercy of the employers. The New Minimum Wage must be all inclusive. When they start from our minimum wage, I don’t there after care if they pay their employees triple; after all, in “saner climes” the Public Sector is shunned by the top cream of each graduating year. Here,in Nigeria, I hear the reverse is the case. The Big companies head for the 3rd Class and Pass Degree graduates ( who have nowhere to go?); then, pay them peanuts.

States, Nonpayment of Salaries And the New National Minimum Wage

And what do we say of the situation in the States? Many States are owing upwards of 5 months salaries. Some have become so creative, that they put the owed salaries on the back burner – and start paying from whichever month suits them. Are they owing salaries? No. They only have “backlogs”, to be cleared when the allocation from the Federation Account increases. Devilishly smart,I grudgingly concede. As things stand now, the States have their own salary scale; and with the “autonomy” of the Local Governments, we should expect new salary structures. And all tiers – and the Private Sector – blithely ignoring the faint protests from the ever silent Labour Laws. Aware that the Federal Government is empowered to set up Industrial Wages Board ” for specific sectors or geographical areas where it considers wages to be unreasonably low or WHERE THERE IS NO ADEQUATE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING MACHINERY FOR THE EFFECTIVE REGULATION OF WAGES OR OTHER CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT OF THOSE WORKERS. So, why has the Federal Government not stepped in? Why are these states deliberately NOT paying their workers? In fact, most of the MDAs of the Federal Government and almost all the States’ Governments do not know the exact figures of their WORKERS. So, can the Federal Government ENFORCE the new National Minimum Wage,especially, with the ineffective Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC) garbed on Labour Day, in an admixture of military uniform and the Clown’s get up! Why should the Federal Government give “bailout” to the States,to pay salaries? I think it is unnecessary petting and encouragement to embezzle.

Can The Federal Government’s Fight Against Corruption Work?

Answer: NO! Why?

We have over the past 45 years witnessed the slow dying of the Civil Service. Which death was given a shove by the “great” irascible General Murtala Mohammed( head of State 1975-1976).He injected a lethal dose, in a moment of sheer over exuberance, by dismissing, retiring and suspending (indefinitely) an already comatose Civil Service workforce. This action of retiring “with immediate effect”, scared and scarred the National psyche. For the first time, the patient, obedient and underpaid Civil Servant, saw the myth of ” job security ” explode all over him. Thus, the remaining “servants” realised that they must save for the unforeseen. This is the beginning of the Corruption in Nigeria.

What’s To Be Done?

It is a dire situation. The Presidency, the National Assembly, the States and their Houses of Assembly MUST shed load. Unlike Murtala Mohammed’s irascible action, we advocate the 80% – 85% of the shed workforce be shunted to the Private Sector. Not everyone can be a farmer. It must be forced on them. Again, we must emulate the ” great” Gen Mohammed, who also sent all discharged military personnel into the Nigeria Police and other paramilitary arms; and sent others to maintain discipline in the schools. I know some body somewhere will soon claim credit for that or his proxies are already emitting fire and smoke from their nostrils – to fight for their master’s sagacity. We must note that most States have over the years been run to the ground. A State like Benue, which has fluctuating wage bill of almost Three billion(#3b) monthly,but, honest to God, does not know its actual workforce strength. This is in spite of several audits and verification exercises. Now, it is the Federal Government’s turn to arm twist the Private Sector. The Federal Government must take the lead to drag the once boisterous Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to FORCE the Private Sector to increase their workforce. I ask: Aren’t most of the Contracts awarded by the various governments in Nigeria to the Private Sector? Haven’t we killed all “direct labour” initiatives? For a small example, we gathered that the Federal Emergency Road Maintenance Agency(FERMA) is so starved of funds that it has being reduced to using unskilled local help to mend any bad stretch. No doubt, many of these “Construction” companies have succeeded in making FERMA ineffective.So, let them absorb the skilled and unskilled Government spill over. Please the era of big government is gone. For Nigeria to truly progress to the #NextLevel,Government at all levels MUST downsize drastically. Do we need all the levels of cleaners,tea girls, messengers ? It’s embarrassing and outright ridiculous to find in almost all offices,in the MDAs, such posts as Chief Messenger, Principal Messenger, etc. If you need your office cleaned, engage professional cleaning companies. If you need messengers,get a courier company. And in these days of the Internet, there’s nothing that cannot be emailed.

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