Nigeria’s Minimum Wage Struggle – A Pyrrhic Victory

Nigeria’s Minimum Wage Struggle – A Pyrrhic Victory

By Martins Eke

It is superfluous to mention that interlocutions relating to the minimum wage in Nigeria have unfortunately received little or no concern. For a fact, Nigeria’s minimum wage talks are as messy as the Brexit talks. Perhaps, the sparing attention lent it is the better of two conditions: What is more is that in times where minimum wage issues motivate some conciliatory attention, there appears to be disconcerting variation in the ends of both the Federal government, Nigerian Governors Forum and the Nigeria Labour Congress. What this sloppy condition means is that Nigeria may continue to whirl in circles – one that is immensely attributable to the unfathomable doggedness of the Nigerian Government Forum which has refused to agree with the threshold of 30,000 Naira minimum wage and the near justifiable insistence of the Nigeria Labour Congress, the effect of which is the irremediable nationwide strike.

It is logical to admit that the government of Nigeria cannot, or strongly ought not to put a flat minimum wage across the states in the Nation. An action in this direction reeks of two neat indices of feigned naivety: first, that every state in Nigeria has equal economic strength and a deliberate absentmindedness to the asymmetrical output of states over the years serving to unfairly cover for the inequities of some states in terms of their returns to the Gross Domestic Profit of the nation.

While we concede that a flat minimum wage cannot reasonably be made across board, we however express dissatisfaction at the lacunae in constitution – the originating source of all laws, contemplates a minimum wage that cuts across all states of the federation which in for our money, is the genesis of this vicious circle which promises no revelation of amity. Whether it pleases us to hear, the interplay of factors such as cost of living and income generation will always interface to determine what a state can pay and we must admit that the effect of these factors do not apply across board in similar fashion. One may ask, is it not foolhardy to then consequently react in similar fashion across board?

For some inexplicable reasons, it is apparent, if not intrinsically true, that Nigeria which ought to be a federal state has always gravitated somehow to  centralization. This is perhaps as disconcerting as it is unforgivable, considering the prodigious amount of literature including the constitution that theorizes the government of Nigeria as a palatable federalism. This organic hypocrisy perhaps is borne out of the caution to not become a confederate state. We are best suited to work like the United States of America but we are stuck to the cleavages of our colonial masters who do not even practice a federal system.

The United States of America adopts a minimum wage based on a state basis and also has a federal minimum wage. Facts and verifiable statistics have it that, 29 states in the U.S enjoy a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage while states like Georgia are a bit below the threshold.

If Nigeria is to take a cue from such idealism then maybe we may have had a reasonable head way presenting a more printable panacea than any cockpit fight between the Federal Government alongside the Nigerian Governors Forum and the Nigerian Labour Congress can possibly provide the citizenry without a choice but to remain at the unfortunate end of a meaningless tussle of unimaginable grandstanding.

The National minimum wage brawl is sheer wickedness on the citizens and governors who legitimately cannot pay or at best is a nearsighted fight of the Nigerian Labour Congress to either flutter settled waters or just for what it is worth. How prudent is it to ask of Lagos state that which can be reasonably asked of Sokoto state which has 81.2% poverty rate?

By and large, the controversy has lingered this long not because the NLC and Federal  Government have held doggedly to their jealous ends of bargain but because somehow, the Nigerian Governors Forum has not reconciled with paying 30,000 naira minimum wage and of course, they wear the shoe and know the attendant consequences of assenting to a figure that they cannot pay. In fact, how many governors have religiously kept the extant minimum wage of 18,000 naira and are not owing its civil servants?  Although, corruption is a contributory factor to this failure, nonetheless, we cannot say the plaint of the Governors have no bearing. No doubts, they all admit to top up the existing 18,000 naira minimum wage but not by almost a 100% as demanded  by the Nigerian Labour Congress, a good number are within the threshold of 24,000 naira as its minimum wage and in fact, that is the amount proposed by the federal government.

Furthermore, the implication of imposing a minimum wage which is difficult to maintain is often felt more by the labour force who are often at the behest of their employers. The likelihood of reduction in the workforce is too strong to be dismissed quickly, consequently leading to an increase in unemployment rate and its far-reaching negative effect on our economy and society at large and even those who would be fortunate to retain their job will have to live with the fear of job insecurity and of course, battle unpaid salaries. These indices are not mere speculations but are the challenges that we battle presently even at 18,000 naira minimum wage.

Be that as it may, how then does the present struggle improve the lives of the labour force if it comes with the attendant consequence of job insecurity? Isn’t the Nigeria Labour Congress being overly short-sighted in this struggle?  Wouldn’t it be fair to say that NLC victory over the minimum wage will spell tomorrow’s doom? can we then say such victory is laughably pyrrhic.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Ultimately, the constitutional provision on minimum wage should be revisited. The extant placement of minimum wage as a matter for the exclusive legislative powers of the National Assembly is too rigid. The state should enjoy the privilege of legislating on minimum wage bearing in mind the threshold as contained in the national legislation, this will afford the State Labour congress a leverage to agitate  on a wage it thinks is fair in a particular state that way, it would avert possible nationwide strike.
  2. That the Nigeria Labour Congress should invoke the Freedom of Information, Act in demanding for the financial books of each state to ascertain the threshold of the federal minimum wage scale.

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18 thoughts on “Nigeria’s Minimum Wage Struggle – A Pyrrhic Victory

  1. Nice piece .. I buy ur thoughts that the minimum wage may backfire considering the fact that many states many not be capable of paying her workers that as a minimum wage.. Probably, they may further slash out a fraction to cope with payments… My thoughts though.. Well ..we can’t categorically tell the ability of the states to pay or not as many of its funds are syphoned into private pockets.. So can’t tell where they stand .. Nice 1 bro

    Reply
  2. Wonderful write up Mr Martins. There are too many shortsighted views squirted out of the bowels of sentiments, devoid of any logical analysis. I personally feel the 30k is even too small for economically viable state like Lagos, PH city in Rivers and Abuja that cost of living is on the high side, while it may be too much for the Northern parts of the country that has always spiked Nigeria’s negative statistics.
    But of all points, I like the recommendation part. You didn’t just lament what the problem was, you proferred solutions. States that claim they won’t be able to pay 30k minimum wage should submit their financial books, they should even make it public.
    As for Nigeria’s federalism, I cringe when I have to for academic purposes, mention Nigeria as an example of country that practices federalism, I always fight within myself not to argue otherwise. All in all sha, nice write-up. It’s been a while. ?

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  3. A rather beautifully sculptured script. The ultimate societal salvage.
    Again Martins you have remained unhesitant in ur drive to make your input. There u have it people, it all boils down to

    Reply
    1. Profound.

      Some States of the federation are still owing their employees many months unpaid salary even when minimum wage is pegged at 18,000 Naira. Sad, we can’t even conclude that some states won’t still fail to pay their workers regularly even if minimum wage is 10,000 Naira as a result of many factors of which chief among them are corruption and lack of compassion for the masses by some leaders. This current reality taunts the workability of the new set minimum wage of 30,000 naira across board. Like you submit in your well -written article , that the new minimum wage is a pyrrhic victory is not a doubt. Although the new minimum wage is a welcome idea – and it is awesome if only it can be implemented across board. As it is,we can only hope that it will not become another paper giant.

      Reply
  4. A rather beautifully sculptured script. The ultimate societal salvage.
    Again Martins you have remained unhesitant in ur drive to make your input. There u have it people, it all boils down to restructuring.

    Reply
  5. Permit me to give God before I give Caesar . Eke the leader, I appreciate greatly the charitable inputs u discarded in this article. Well done bro!
    However, permit me to dissect and dissent a bit.U said, “it is logical to admit that the government of Nigeria can’t,or strongly ought not to put a flat minimum wage across states of the Nation.”I think it is supposed to be the other way round :it is not proper to put a maximum wage across board.It is in recognition of the revenue discrepancies of states, that made Labour and the constitution to be lenient: if you can’t pay your workers like other states’workers,pay at least this minimum. So that labour will not be abused and its dignity retained. The issue in question is not maximum wage rather minimum wage. A Governor who can’t pay his workers a meagre sum of #30,000-which is honestly insufficient – is a disquieting inconsideration on his part . Vis-a-vis our economic atmosphere ,standard of things and living demands.I like your comparative assessment of other federal countries like U.S.A. Well,we have been gagged to interprete federalism by our constitutional definition.However ,it is equally an anomaly which must be normalized by a subsequent amendment. Your clamour for the leaving of minimum wage in the hands of states, is to some extent discomforting. I think it should be a mutual disquisition for the prevention of abuse. Nevertheless, your recommendations are fascinating. Nice article bro!

    Reply
    1. Well said, however you may have drifted a bit from the disquisition. I admit to having a federal minimum wage. I mean it is only sensible but what I question is the existing structure to ensure its implementation which is further frustrated by the fact of minimum wage being on the exclusive legislative list. I compared America’s structure with ours to show it may have worked if it were a concurrent issue. Truthfully, some states cannot pay a minimum wage of 30,000 naira which has led to the valid excuse of the NGF saying Governors cannot pay same across board. Take note, the problem isn’t necessarily 30,000 naira but paying same across board. The chairman of the tripartite committee on minimum wage once said in an interview that some states proffered as high as 28,000 naira while some as low as 24,000 naira. So my focus is by and large saying, we should thread more on the path of federalism than centralization. Let minimum wage be open to negotiations on a state basis as well as on a federal basis.

      Reply
  6. I am not only impressed with the solutions you provided but pointing out other favorable federal systems that we could and should adopt.

    With the freedom of information act (2011) in place, I do hope that every Institution in connection with the implementation of the new minimum wage should push for a wage each state should have as its least or minimum.

    And as for open financial records from state governments to determine the minimum wage for its workers, I do know that this will lead falsification of data and fabrication of documents that cover looted funds. A thorough investigation or committee should be set up to make sure that these records they provide are true and do not in any way leave the inhabitants to an insufferable and non viable minimum wage that will be set for more funds to be swept away.

    Nice one Martins.

    Reply
    1. Nice, I agree with you a whole lot.
      However, the Freedom of Information Act is not merely a directive statute. It has punishment attached to it. Honestly, your fears are valid but it is a better to have a measure in checks than have none at all. Thanks all the same, I really appreciate this comment.

      Reply
  7. Well opined recommendations, baring corruption though..
    Inasmuch as I feel 30k threshold might be on the high side for all states, I still think 24k as proposed by state governors forum is meagre. The threshold for me, seeing how the economy is situated should be 27k.
    It is visible to the blind & audible to the deaf how public holders siphon & waste public funds, hence, NLC’s insistence on 30k wage threshold.

    Reply
  8. I need not gild the lilly, this is in all fair respects , a magnum opus. Adding anything more may end up superfluous or somewhat a repetition. I enjoy the fact that you didn’t stop at discussing the problem(s), you took a commendable step forward to proffer viable recommendations. That evinces ingenuity and one of the perks of a scholar……keep blazing the trail man, kudos

    Reply
  9. Dear Eke Martins Esq,

    I have carefully gone through your masterpiece. I must say you haven’t just written words but you ‘ve been able to in a very fine way exempt yourself from the complacent majority of Nigerians who in the words of an Australian-born philosopher, Paul Feyerabend would say “Allow a thousand flowers to blossom”.

    The issue of Minimum wage has been worrisome for a period of time now! We pretend it isn’t of grave concern because majority of Nigeria’s citizens are romantic analyst and statisticians. Suffice it to say we act as though all is well when we know nothing is truly well.

    In my opinion, with respect to the constitution, Nigeria as a country practices “federalism system of government” hence, the federal minimum wage should be equal across strata but then, exceptions can be given only to economic productive states. This is because the coat of living is relatively on the high side as a result
    States such as Rivers, Lagos Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Bayelsa etc should be treated with special preferences. On the other hand, states such as Gombe, Sokoto, Katsina etc that are less economic productive should run on the generally accepted Minimum wage. Because an imposed minimum wage becomes only beneficial to the extent and how frequently it can be paid.

    Reply
  10. Profound.

    Some States of the federation are still owing their employees many months unpaid salary even when minimum wage is pegged at 18,000 Naira. Sad, we can’t even conclude that some states won’t still fail to pay their workers regularly even if minimum wage is 10,000 Naira as a result of many factors of which chief among them are corruption and lack of compassion for the masses by some leaders. This current reality taunts the workability of the new set minimum wage of 30,000 naira across board. Like you submit in your well -written article , that the new minimum wage is a pyrrhic victory is not a doubt. Although the new minimum wage is a welcome idea – and it is awesome if only it can be implemented across board. As it is,we can only hope that it will not become another paper giant. Nice recommendations from you,esq.

    Reply
  11. When i saw Martin’s wrote an article, I never expected less. This is an excellent article. It’s quite an unfortunate happening that a minimum wage in Nigeria can pass for an allowance of an average Nigeria student…thank you Martin’s for another opportunity to learn

    Reply
  12. Your piece is well articulated. As a matter of fact, I would like to say you have struck the pith and meat that sadly the men at the helms have shown to be oblivious of.

    Reply

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