Nigeria has exited from
recession but Nigerians are
yet to feel the impact. The
benefits of the recovery
from prolonged economic
doldrums is coming in trickles
but even the trickles can
hardly form a drop in the
surging ocean of pervasive
poverty. Hardship bites harder
as the year draws to a close
with President Muhammadu
Buhari charging the State
Governors to ensure that
workers in their respective
states are paid before the
Christmas holidays. In the
last two years, the issue of
payment of salaries has been
such a thorny subject to the
extent of forcing the Federal
Government to accede twice
to a bailout and further
agreeing to special refunds to
enable the states pay workers.
Within the private sector,
millions of jobs have been lost,
while pay cut and outright
retrenchment have become
normal in industries striving
hard and devising means to
succeed.
Amidst this scenario
however, a contradictory
escalating call for pay
rise rises to a fever pitch.
Understandably, the
brutally recessed economy
has mercilessly reduced
the purchasing power of
the naira. And Nigeria is
already running foul of the
provisions of the International
Labour Organization that
stipulates a timely review of
the Minimum Wage law. The
nation’s five-year mandatory
review has elapsed and
the value of workers take
home cruelly shrunken by
galloping inflation which has
obviously left workers with
little alternative. The review
of the national minimum
wage is significant at this time
but the stake is certainly very
high. How will the states most
of whom currently owing
months in arrears of salaries
and allowances cope with the
new minimum wage? And
how will the private sector
already bruised by downturn
and tiers of government
battling with lean resources
cope with the new wage
bill? This and many other
questions are troubling.
But the President while
inaugurating the thirty-man
Minimum Wage Committee
clarified that the new wage
should be anchored on the
ability of the tiers of government
to pay. However, that is where
more troubling questions arise.
Why is the Federal Government
legislating on a new minimum
wage for states and local
governments in a federation?
How can the committee on a
new minimum wage determine
holistically, the ability of
different tiers of government
whose resources differ across
boundaries? Can the minimum
wage in Rivers and Lagos
States for instance be sustained
in Bornu, Benue or Abia?
Though the minimum wage
is on the exclusive legislative
list and the composition of
the members of the minimum
wage committee drawn on
a tripartite basis comprising
government at all levels, the
workers and the job providers
in the private sector to ensure
a plural view and guarantee a
composite agreement, matching
the capacity of these respective
tripartite groups with a realistic
wage bar looks like a recipe for
crisis. The reasons are obvious.
The Yoruba socio cultural
group, the Afenifere observed
recently and asked the Federal
Government to allow states and
local governments decide the
its constitutional responsibilities.
The Executive Governor of
Rivers State Nyesom Wike for
example has argued the current
exercise would come out futile.
Wike in a broadcast television
interview thwacked the charge
by the President to the State
Governors to clear all arrears of
salaries owed workers before the
Christmas holidays, dismissing
it as political. He asked the
Federal Government to shade
weight so as to demonstrate
its genuine sympathy for the
plight of the state civil servants.
He further punctured the case
for a new minimum wage in
the absence of a review of the
federal revenue sharing formula,
wondering how states that could
not pay N18,000 minimum wage
can afford the new pay rise.
Many have argued that the
basis of the on-going wage
crisis is the de-structured fiscal
federalism where the Federal
Government takes 52% of the
revenue of the federation, States
22%, and 774 local governments
26%. The total wage bill of
Benue State for instance is
about 7 billion with its total
monthly revenue standing way
below 5 billion. By the time, the
minimum wage gets to say N56,
000 ( the factional leader of the
organized labour movement, Joe
Ajaero is demanding for N100,
000 minimum wage) from the
present N18, 000, what becomes
the fate of the state? Even the
Minimum wage, maximum
woes
Federal government will not
be left out of the pending
crisis. By last count, a total of
about eleven organized labour
unions have gone on strike
over wage related issues and
unmet agreements spanning
close to a decade. Containing
the cascading labour unrest
has so far been as a result of
the outstanding performance
of some of the cabinet Ministers
in the Buhari administration.
Sen. Ngige though without a
prior labour background has by
sheer brilliance, unimpeachable
character, deep experience in
both executive and legislative
arms coupled with towering
political clout have so far,
masterfully engineered a
proactive labour diplomacy that
held the nation from sliding the
way of Venezuela. There is no
disputing the fact that all the
socio-political and economic
milieu that made a Venezuela
have been staring the nation
on its face in the last two years.
Therefore, that the ever sensitive
and easily restive labour has
neither snapped its patience
nor trigger a social upheaval is
to the credit of the Minister of
Labour and Employment.
Seething discontent is
widespread. Though the Federal
Government has relatively met
with the demands of workers,
there is palpable apprehension
as to what the future holds.
Your guess is as good as mine.
The bottom-line is that the
nation is headed for further
doom unless the economy
grows. Resurrecting the dying
value of Naira and through
that, restore the value of wages
and income is a smarter way
to achieve better working
conditions for workers. Pay
rise will lead to rising costs of
goods and services, making it
easy for inflation to eat away
the added value. The vicious
circle continues. Importantly,
which private sector
organization can afford a wage
increase in an environment
where businesses are posting
losses and retrenchments at
the centre stage? With the 2017
budget performing woefully at
15%, where is the assurance
that 2018 will be better? The
mass discontent in the land
can easily be measured by a
recent warning by the leader
of the APC , Asiwaju Bola
Tinubu that hunger is ravaging
the length and breadth of the
nation. And with the Governor
of Imo Imo State, Rochas
Okorocha, another leader of
the ruling APC declaring that
85% of Nigerians are unhappy,
which better way expresses
the muted upheaval at hand?
Minimum wage looks more of
a recipe for Maximum woes!
…Udekwe writes from Abuja
17
By Udekwe Idemili
minimum they can afford
for their workers. Again,
this patriotic opinion
is not realistic without
an amendment of the
constitution to remove the
minimum wage from the
exclusive list.
Sen. Chris Ngige
is an experienced
administrator and an
astute politician having
been Governor of his
home Anambra State as
well as Senator in the
seventh Senate and now
the Hon. Minister of
Labour and Employment.
He said that by the new
minimum wage, the
federal government was
determined to eliminate
“poverty pain” which
according to him occurs
when worker’s earning
could not guarantee him
a good living. In spite,
more questions hang on
this move by the Federal
government to live up to

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its constitutional responsibilities.
The Executive Governor of
Rivers State Nyesom Wike for
example has argued the current
exercise would come out futile.
Wike in a broadcast television
interview thwacked the charge
by the President to the State
Governors to clear all arrears of
salaries owed workers before the
Christmas holidays, dismissing
it as political. He asked the
Federal Government to shade
weight so as to demonstrate
its genuine sympathy for the
plight of the state civil servants.
He further punctured the case
for a new minimum wage in
the absence of a review of the
federal revenue sharing formula,
wondering how states that could
not pay N18,000 minimum wage
can afford the new pay rise.
Many have argued that the
basis of the on-going wage
crisis is the de-structured fiscal
federalism where the Federal
Government takes 52% of the
revenue of the federation, States
22%, and 774 local governments
26%. The total wage bill of
Benue State for instance is
about 7 billion with its total
monthly revenue standing way
below 5 billion. By the time, the
minimum wage gets to say N56,
000 ( the factional leader of the
organized labour movement, Joe
Ajaero is demanding for N100,
000 minimum wage) from the
present N18, 000, what becomes
the fate of the state? Even the

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Federal government will not
be left out of the pending
crisis. By last count, a total of
about eleven organized labour
unions have gone on strike
over wage related issues and
unmet agreements spanning
close to a decade. Containing
the cascading labour unrest
has so far been as a result of
the outstanding performance
of some of the cabinet Ministers
in the Buhari administration.
Sen. Ngige though without a
prior labour background has by
sheer brilliance, unimpeachable
character, deep experience in
both executive and legislative
arms coupled with towering
political clout have so far,
masterfully engineered a
proactive labour diplomacy that
held the nation from sliding the
way of Venezuela. There is no
disputing the fact that all the
socio-political and economic
milieu that made a Venezuela
have been staring the nation
on its face in the last two years.
Therefore, that the ever sensitive
and easily restive labour has
neither snapped its patience
nor trigger a social upheaval is
to the credit of the Minister of
Labour and Employment.
Seething discontent is
widespread. Though the Federal
Government has relatively met
with the demands of workers,
there is palpable apprehension
as to what the future holds.
Your guess is as good as mine.
The bottom-line is that the
nation is headed for further
doom unless the economy
grows. Resurrecting the dying
value of Naira and through
that, restore the value of wages
and income is a smarter way
to achieve better working
conditions for workers. Pay
rise will lead to rising costs of
goods and services, making it
easy for inflation to eat away
the added value. The vicious
circle continues. Importantly,
which private sector
organization can afford a wage
increase in an environment
where businesses are posting
losses and retrenchments at
the centre stage? With the 2017
budget performing woefully at
15%, where is the assurance
that 2018 will be better? The
mass discontent in the land
can easily be measured by a
recent warning by the leader
of the APC , Asiwaju Bola
Tinubu that hunger is ravaging
the length and breadth of the
nation. And with the Governor
of Imo Imo State, Rochas
Okorocha, another leader of
the ruling APC declaring that
85% of Nigerians are unhappy,
which better way expresses
the muted upheaval at hand?
Minimum wage looks more of
a recipe for Maximum woes!

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…Udekwe writes from Abuja


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