The National Council of State, NCS, unwittingly sowed the seed of confusion on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 when it “approved” two minimum wages for the country – N27, 000 for the lowest paid worker in Nigeria (Grade Level 1 Step 1), and the N30,000 minimum wage the Federal Government proposed for its staff.
The Presidency has since forwarded the proposal to the National Assembly for legislative attention.
Minimum wage As expected, Organised Labour and its various affiliates have rejected the N27,000 which officially stands as the new proposed National Minimum Wage, NMW, sent as an Executive Bill to the National Assembly. The Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, argues that the two minimum wages negate the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 131 of 1970 which defines equity as the cornerstone of an NMW.
We agree with those who argue that the two figures, apart from being discriminatory, negate the efforts of the Tripartite Committee which, after detailed negotiations with critical stakeholders, had arrived at N30,000 as the new NMW.
Besides, the NCS did not disclose the criteria it employed to arrive at N27,000. It could be the handiwork of the state governors who had made it clear they could not pay the N30,000.
If we are to have differential minimum wages, it must be done through due process.
The Constitution must be amended to enable the various tiers of government and employers agree on minimum wages that suit their financial circumstance, provided that no Nigerian worker will be paid below the National Minimum Wage.
This will also necessarily involve the reconfiguration of the Revenue Allocation Formula and the devolution of resource control.
These would provide the verifiable picture of ability to pay.
We, therefore, urge the National Assembly to ignore the N27,000 NMW suggested by the NCS and legislate a reasonable NMW that will not only be acceptable but also payable.
The current N18,000 NMW which is about $58 is the lowest in the continent. Even the N30,000 will still be well below $100.
Nigerian workers would still be earning lower than their counterparts in impoverished Chad ($110), let alone South Africa ($304) which we erroneously regard as our economic rivals.
Governments at all levels must adjust to the reality of the new NMW (N30,000) by dealing with the extravagant lifestyles of their senior servants and political officeholders.
The war on corruption must be properly fought as opposed to the political anti-graft war which makes no true impact.
Governments must be more imaginative in resource mobilisation and allocation.
The huge sizes of government must be cut down across board. We must also vote wisely.
It is only by electing competent, patriotic and capable leaders that our economy will grow and our workers can begin to earn living wages.
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