Towards a sane minimum wage, by Comrade Remi Adelele
It is with utter disgust I watched the deliberations over the minimum wage on one of the TV stations where the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige was stating that the FG is ready to offer 24K minimum wage while Labour that was asking for 60k to my surprise is now suddenly asking for 30k.
It should be 50k minimum wage or nothing. Is it not from the same economy that a Legislator who could be a school certificate holder goes home monthly with N13.5million while a Director in the Public sector who could be a Phd holder earns N350,000 monthly? Is this not ridiculous? In fact but for the bravery, integrity and conscience of Senator Shehu Sani, we would not have known that the Senators earn that much in a month, yet they are our representatives.
It is quite disheartening to observe that over 6years after the last minimum wage was reviewed, and almost four years in the life of present administration, we are still at the stage of negotiation while workers wallow in grinding poverty as what is being paid is for workers to exist and not to live. But the politicians in the same socio-economic milieu are living ostentatious life due to their bumper income (excluding their Constituency and oversight “paje”) as revealed by Senator Shehu Sanni.
For God sake, must we be politicians before we earn a living wage that could earn us minimum comfort in this country? With the Labour asking for 30k Minimum wage, are they actually representing us workers, are they presenting the true pains, adversities and yearnings of workers in clear and strong enough language to secure N50,000 minimum wage from Federal Government? Is Labour reminding the Politicians that we all own this country together, and that they the politicians are to serve us not the reverse. Is it not a Paradox that Nigerian Politicians are about , if not the highest paid in the whole world while the workers are the least paid with exception of Malawi.
Should the FG come up with the excuse that the economy is not strong enough to accommodate N50,000 MIMINUM WAGE, Labour should moot the ideas of 1) dropping the present Bicameralism and adopting the more economical Unicameralism to be in tune with the present emerging economic realities. 2) Their monthly N13,5m if it is true be slashed to N3.5m monthly which is ten fold of what a Director earns monthly in the Federal Civil Service. The present gap between the earnings of workers is laughable and dangerous.
This main purpose of this piece is however not to expose the horrendous gap between the political class and other Nigerians who are actually creating the national wealth, but to discuss the option of a more reasonable and acceptable minimum wage.
The idea of a single uniform minimum wage across all strata i.e( Federal, states, local government and even the private sector is to me not only puerile and preposterous but disconnected. What is the wisdom in using the same minimum wage for Ekiti and Rivers states, same minimum wage for Zamfara and Lagos? How can you use the same minimum wage for Kebbi and Federal government workers?
During the period of regionalism in Nigeria, the then Western region, when the late Obafemi Awolowo was the premier, Western region paid higher than the Federal government and workers not only fared better and there was better industrial harmony.
What is bad in having differentiated minimum wage in accordance to capacity to pay i.e resources at the disposal of each strata i.e stratifying states to three classes (1st, 2nd and 3rd). Minimum wage of each be determined based on allocation received from Federal Government/revenue generating capacity. States like Lagos, Rivers, Akwa IBOM, Edo, Delta and Kano should be in 1st class. In that order we have 2nd class and 3rd class states with their respective negotiated and agreed minimum wage
Same premise should be adopted for the Federal government workers and the Private sector workers. For the private sector, the Medium, Small, and large enterprises be used to determine minimum wage. The Federal GOVERNMENT should also have their separate minimum wage.
The excuse that only singular minimum wage is constitutionally recognized is not tenable. Spirited efforts be made towards sensitizing the Lawmakers to amend the provision to meet the current and emerging realities,
Comrade Adelele, is a civil servant/resident of No. 10 Innocent Close, PDP Quarters of Suleja, Niger State.