Reality of New Minimum Wage

Nigeria news takes a look at the ongoing strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the reality of a new minimum wage.

The ongoing strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress and joint trade unions over non-payment of the new minimum wage by the Federal Government may not produce any meaningful result.

The Federal Secretariat, Abuja is empty, likewise all other state secretariats across the country. The civil servants are on strike and the action is gradually extending to the private sector. Some commercial banks are under locks and keys.

Business activities in many parts of the country have been affected and if nothing is done to quickly address this, soon, petrol and gas stations will shut down. When this happens, there will be fuel scarcity that will lead to serious chaos in the country.

The labour union has demanded that the tripartite body set up by the Federal Government come up with its resolution on the new minimum wage.

The committee, led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige had earlier promised that the minimum wage would be announced before the end of September but up till now, nothing of such has happened.

The labour union is demanding for N56, 000 minimum wage but since the government has failed, the workers are ready for a showdown as the Federal Government prepares to mark the country’s 58th independence anniversary on Monday, October 1.

Besides the fact that the civil servants may not turn up at the celebration venues across the country, they may not be able to force the government to pay a new minimum wage. At present, the lowest level of civil servant receives N18, 000.

Even at that, many state governments cannot pay the N18, 000. This is the main challenge of the Federal Government that has rendered the tripartite committee unsure of what amount of money can be announced as the new minimum wage.

No doubt, the Federal Government can raise the minimum wage from N18, 000 to N56, 000 but the implementation is unrealistic. Many state governments can never afford it. Except for Lagos, Rivers and some of the Oil rich states, no fewer than 25 states will not be able to pay the new minimum wage.

In a true Federal system, state government should be allowed to determine its minimum wage. And of course, wages should be regulated by the worker’s productivity.

It becomes tougher for the ruling All Progressives Congress to come up with a bill it may not be able to pay as it prepares for another election.

It would have been better for the government to raise the workers’ hope by announcing the minimum wage before now but it has refused to let the cat out of the bag, possibly till Monday.

President Muhammadu Buhari will definitely address the nation on October 1 and he is expected to announce the new minimum wage at least to score some political points, and as campaign ploys, to worm himself into the hearts of the workers.

If the Federal Government eventually makes it real, then many states will be facing unnerving challenges on how to pay the new wage.

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Sunday AKINFENWA

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