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New Minimum Wage Divides Nigerians

Posted: May 8, 2016 at 4:56 am   /   by   /   comments (2)

 

As the Federal Government has continued to keep mum over the recent demand for a new minimum wage by the nation’s Labour Movement, stakeholders are expressing divergent views on the issue. While some maintain that the new minimum wage being proposed by Labour is unrealistic considering the economic realities of the time, others insist that the workers should not bear the brunt of the bad economy as they have continued to make sacrifices even as the political office holders continue to swim in abundance.
Chief Tony Ezeagwu, Chairman, Labour Party (LP), Delta State, is among those who do not like the demand of new minimum wage by the nation’s two Labour Centres, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). According to Ezeagwu, who surprisingly, his party professes commitment to the ideals of a happy workforce, the NLC is not realistic. Ironically, it was the NLC which originally floated the Labour Party, his platform, before it was snatched away by politicians.
According to him, “As far as l am concerned. That is not the pressing issue now. If we have workers who are in some ministries, local governments and the governments who are not able to pay them N18,000, how do they get N56,000? NLC should first fight for those people to be paid, get their salary on N18,000 regularly before they begin to talk of increase.
“If you are owing me seven months salary under N18,000, then somebody is campaigning that government should pay N56,000. Where will the man who is unable to pay N18, 000 get N56,000 to pay? Or, is NLC saying workers should remain perpetually unpaid?”
Ezeagwu maintained that as far as he is concerned, what NLC should have done first is to see how every state and the Federal Governments should be able to pay the N18,000 religiously. When this is done, he added, then Labour can then talk of the increase.
He added: “But now, people are being owed. If they are owing somebody a meagre of N18,000 and you are talking of increment where would they get it to pay? So, NLC should go back to the drawing board and make everybody to get the N18,000 first, then fight to increase it.
“I am not saying the N18,000 is worth it, it is not. But the issue is that people are still suffering, they are still managing the N18,000 for the survival of their families and yet they are not getting it. Instead of NLC to fight for the workers to get the N18,000, it is busy fighting for the salary to be increased.
“NLC is being selfish in the sense that most of them, where they work, they are being paid regularly and they are after the increase so that their own salaries can be increased and continue to come, while those who are suffering will continue to suffer.”
 Labours’ Demand In Order

 

However, in the opinion of Comrade Igbini Emmanuel, National President, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD), the Labour’s demand for increase in minimum wage is in order. According to him, there is enough money and resources to care proportionally and equitably for all workers and Nigeria’s 170 million populating.
Emmanuel, an activist, maintained that there has been a serious distortion that must be courageously confronted and resolved once and for all. According to him, iIt is not about Labour accusing the political class of looting and mismanagement.
“Labour is also involved. Labour leaders know the truth, but many of them are deliberately misleading the masses of Nigeria to believe that they care more about Nigeria than the political class. Many Labour leaders in the past years, who have dared to expose the looting, fraud and other vices perpetuated in the oil sector of Nigeria and all other critical sectors have been unjustly thrown out of their jobs and detained in prison, yet no hope for justice for them.
“Some lost their lives in the process. This is the reason many of those who are now ‘labour leaders’ are too scared to stand for the truth, but rather flow with the tide and with any government in power at levels of government and employers.”
Emmanuel stated that VATLAD has consistently advised President Buhari to run an all-inclusive government of men and women with proven track record of patriotism and integrity, irrespective of the political party, religion, ethnicity or gender.
He stressed: “We know we have very patriotic and highly credible Nigerians in APC. But, we also have same in PDP, PRP, and others. Some also who don’t belong to any political party. They should all be brought on the table to help Nigeria overhaul this knocked engine.
“This is once more a very critical period in our nation’s history where all Nigerians must be encouraged to forgive ourselves and join hands to solve our problems. No one political party, no one President, no one government, no one ethnic group, etc, can alone fix the problems. There is time for everything under heaven (Eccl. 3). This is time to unite and rebuild our nation. It is not time for partisan politics, please.
“The sad situation is akin to a vehicle with knocked engine, though still managing to run at no load and at very slow speed, far below the minimum speed required to get to our safe destination. While other nations are running with efficient engine and at the right speed, we are lagging behind.
“Rather than stop to once and for all get the engine shut down and overhauled, our privileged elite group prefers instead to keep it running as long as it carries them ahead of all other 170 million suffering Nigerian masses. This engine needs urgent overhaul and the time is now!”

N56, 000 Minimum Wage Not Feasible In Nigeria Today
Abel Igube, chieftain of the Radio, Television, Theatre Workers Union (RATTAWU), in MInna, Niger State is another stakeholder who believes that the N56,000 minimum wage being demanded by Labour for the Nigerian workers is not feasible.
Speaking with Independent on the issue, Igube described the LC and TUC leaders as jokers as they should have considered the present state of the nations’ economy, and by extension, the global economic recession, which he stressed, has adversely affected Nigeria’s crude oil export at the international market.
Igube stressed: “I see the new wage proposed by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as a huge joke because I am sure they are aware and hearing the Federal Government’s complaints over and over about the lean resources government is grappling with in order to meet the numerous needs of Nigerians.
“In Nigeria, we are good at opening our mouths to imagine things without pondering whether such imaginations can ever come real. How can any right thinking man propose that sum, almost twice what is obtainable today?”
Igube argued that the minimum wage presently is N18, 000 and that some states are complaining that they cannot pay due to their lean resources and as such, increasing it to N56,000, which Labour is demanding now, is unrealistic considering all the variables in Nigeria today. He however maintained that in future, such an increase may be possible, but not today.
He continued: “I am a civil servant and my salary is not that much, which means I will be happy if it is increased. But again, seeing what is happening in most states and at the federal level, I will be deceiving myself to believe that my salary can be increased that soon.
“Agreed, Nigerians want salaries and other entitlements of political office holders to be reviewed so that workers can receive more. But, even if you do that, it will still not reach the amount proposed by the NLC. So, to me and without mincing words, it is unattainable.”
Mr. Femi Ajala, a Minna-based estate manager and property developer, said that it is not strange that the Federal Government is ignoring the proposed N56, 000 minimum wage as it is the one that it will onto to pay on the long run.
“If the money is not there and somebody somewhere is imagining things, then the person should be ignored and that is just what the Federal Government is doing, ignoring the NLC and continue with what it is doing.
“With what is happening now in Nigeria and at the global market, how can the Federal Government honour the proposal, especially given the economic crisis? Nigerians will never stop imagining things that are not just obtainable under the current dispensation, maybe because they see that the governor of Edo state, Adams Oshiomhole, has agreed to pay N25, 000 to workers. But, did they know that some states are still finding it difficult to pay N20, 000 as at today?
“Anyway, I am not in the purse of the Federal Government to know how much is there, except for what they have been telling us. But, based on what I have heard, it is not just attainable. I want the Federal Government to focus on ensuring that the masses do not suffer more than they have been doing in the past one year by focusing on ending fuel scarcity, provide electricity, good roads and other things that will benefit the generality of Nigerians.
“The Federal Government should not focus on what workers are demanding, because, I am beginning to see the NLC and the entire Nigerian workers as beginning to be greedy. Many of them are not doing their work to the satisfaction of their employers. Many do not even go to work. But, at the end of the month, they are demanding fat salaries.
“How much do they contribute to the nations’ economy? Yes, they are paid at the end of the month. But, how much do many of them sacrifice for the common Nigerians.”

Anambra NLC, Obiano Disagree On Minimum Wage
While some stakeholders are insisting that the N56,000 minimum wage being demanded by Labour is not realistic, Mr Jerry Nnubia, chairman of the  Anambra State chapter of the NLC feels otherwise. Nnubia, in an interview with Independent maintained that the Nigerian worker should not be made to bear the brunt of the government’s failure to run a buoyant economy.
But, the opinion of the state governor, Mr. Willie Obiano, on the issue does not seem to be in tandem with that of the Labour force in his state, as he says that his government is not getting enough revenue, due to the current economic realities,  to be able to pay more than what the workers are presently getting.
Nnubia however asked: “What do you mean by economic realities? Government should look inwards and mop up funds. As we speak, Buhari’s government has no direction. What we are demanding is part of economy as well. It is the workers that suffer. So, government should do something.
“We pray that the monthly allocations to states improve. The Federal Government should diversify the economy to get more money. Workers will assist the government to raise revenue.”
According to him, the Anambra State government has never really fully implemented the minimum wage, even as he maintained that for the state’s NLC, “the old minimum wage is no more tenable, because, you cannot be talking about new minimum wage and the old minimum wage as well.”
However, like the Federal Government’s silence on the issue seems to tally with the thinking of Anambra state government as he may not be considering any wage increase for the state’s workers.
On the Workers’ Day celebrated last Sunday, May 1,2016, Governor Obiano told the workers that if his predecessor, former Governor Peter Obi, received N100, then he currently receives N30. He also said that the size of workers’ salary in the state is directly proportional to the amount of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) the workers are able to realise for the government.
According to Obiano, when he came into office, the state’s IGR stood at N500 million and that he challenged the workers that if it improved their pay packet would also improve.
The governor also stated that when the IGR went up to N1.1billion, he increased workers’ salary by 15 per cent. He therefore seized the opportunity to renew his challenge that even now, if the IGR improves, he would again increase the workers’ pay packet.
Obiano’s statement on that May Day Rally, thus appears to be the state’s official policy. Ogbuefi Tony Nnacheta, the state’s Commissioner for Information, when asked his thought about the new minimum wageas  proposed by the NLC, he said that Anambra State has not changed from its stand on the minimum wage.
He however recounted the challenges facing the state, as earlier enunciated by his principal, Goverbnor Obiano on May Day. Thus, the Anambra State workers, by implication, should not hope to get the N56,000 minimum wage being demanded by the NLC.

‘Workers Have Right To Demand For Pay Rise, But Timing Is Wrong ’
In Osun State, most Nigerians who spoke on the Labour demand for N56,000 minimum wage said the timing was wrong considering the country’s current economic situation.
Some of these stakeholders include Mr. Gbenga Olarinoye, a journalist; Hon. Olatunbosun Oyintiloye, a lawmaker with Osun State House of Assembly; Alhaji Waheed Lawal, the National Executive Secretary, Justice Now Foundation and Chieftain of National Conscience Party (NCP).
They all maintained that although the workers have the right to demand for wage increase, but the demand is coming when the nation’s economy cannot carry it.
However, the labour leaders insist that there is no going back on their demand. They maintain that the government has never saved enough during oil boom, and as such should not expect the workers to bear the pains of collapsed economy.

Comrade Chris Ani, National President, Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), stated that “even when we were being paid N18,000, the amount could hardly take anybody home. Now look at the exchange rate, how do you think workers will survive?
“There are a lot of jumbo salaries and allowances for political office holders. They should work to reduce that and not roll whatever challenge the economy is facing on the workers.”
Olarinoye, on his own, maintained that the workers deserve whatever wage increase the labour leaders are demanding, but “given the present economic situation in the country, the timing is wrong. Even the current N18,000 minimum wage, how many state government in the federation are able to pay salary as at when due.
He said: “We are all aware of what is going on around the world economically which has not left Nigeria out. Any attempt to increase workers salary now would definitely bring the country to its knee. If the public servants are demanding for new minimum wage of N56,000, what happens to workers in the private sector who are also integral part of labour in the country, who are not earning as much as what their counterparts in the public service are earning?
“What the government should do in that circumstance is also to give financial succor to the companies that engage these set of workers so as to keep them running.
“When General Motors in United States of America was affected by economic recession few years ago, the America government pumped billion of dollars into the private companies to keep them running because if the General Motors should sack the labour force, it will definitely increase unemployment rate in America and this will in turn affect the country’s GDP.
“For some of these companies which are having problem with their workers, the government should equally give bail out to them to keep them running.”
Alhaji Waheed Lawal, a chieftain of National Conscience Party (NCP) and human rights activist in Osun State, said: “l also observed that the workers have right to make demand for new wage”. But, he added that the government must consider the available resources before listening to such demands.
Lawal maintained that many of the states in the federation cannot pay N18,000 minimum wage not not talk of N56,000 being demanded. He advised the government to look at the demands critically, but should first ensure that the nation’s currency regains its strengthen so that what the workers can get value for what they are collecting.
Hon. Oyintiloye, a member of Osun State House of Assembly and Chairman, House Committee on Information, said the state of the nation’s economy calls for realistic measures, realistic policies, sacrifice and innovative approaches and inward looking by the Federal and State governments.
He maintained that there should be systemic approach to the wage increase based on financial ability of the governments.
Oyintiloye, representing Obokun State Constituency, maintained that “in as much as there is the need to enhance the purchasing capacity of Nigerians, we should not gloss over the state of the economy.  What I consider important is collective effort on the part of Nigerians, labour and government to lift the economy out of the wood.”

Proposed N56,000 Minimum Wage A Huge Joke
Comrade Aboyowa Blessing,  a Warri-based human rights activistis of the view that in the face of the present economic reality, the proposal of a minimum wage of N56,000 per month is only a joke as some state governments cannot pay the current N18,000 wage due to low federal allocation.
“So, where will the money to pay what the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) is proposing come from? Thank God it is just a proposal. And as if that is bad enough, another faction of the NLC is proposing N96,000. That is madness.
Blessing said that it is sheer wickedness for Labour to raise the hopes of Nigerian workers with such bogus proposals, even as he called on the Federal Government to ignore them, but should do more to provide employment for the teaming jobless graduates in the country.
For Mr. Tare Ebikeme, a marine stakeholder, “if so many states cannot afford to pay ordinary N18,000 now , why call for an increase in the first place? This brings me to state creation issues. When people make cases for the creation of new states, they go all the way to list trailer-load sources of financing the states through various allegedly owned resources that make their proposals viable and a necessity.
“Now we know better. Some of these unviable states should be merged if their only source of fund is the Federal Allocation.”
Engr. Emiko Dore, a retired oil and gas expert and public affairs analyst, on his own stated that with the current exchange rate, dwindling oil price in the global market, massive looting of the country’s finances by the past Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government in the past 16-years and other social and security challenges, the President Muhammadu Buhari government should ignore the Labour’s proposal.
He said the government should concentrate on how to revive comatose economy first, even as he opined that the argument put forward by the Labour is too week in the current situation.
Again, he maintained that if the Federal Government can afford to pay such amount as minimum wage, let labour engage the various state governments and see how many of them can pay it, stressing that the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) that should assist state governments run their administration successfully has now become funds to settle politicians, thugs, thieves and other associates.
“Even the bailout fund dished out to the state governors recently were largely misappropriated. So, what are we talking about? The FG should ignore the proposal for now because it was not thought out with good intention.
“It is intended to embarrass the new APC government that inherited massive and hydra-headed socio-economic problems that appear to be insurmountable. But, thank goodness that President Buhari is up to the task. We need to support him and stop compounding the problems. Why did they not make such proposal during the PDP 16-years of locust?”
Lalong, Advocate Centre Differs
Barrister Osim Jones, the Executive Secretary, Advocates Centre, Jos,  has given  his backing  to the Labour proposal of  N56,000 minimum wage  for the lowest paid  government worker  in the.
Jones in an interview with Independent said  it is right for the Labour to make such demand at this moment  because  the price of everything  has tripled.
According to him ,”if you give the lowest salary earner Grade Level One  his take-home pay, which is  in gross, plus transport allowance, housing allowance  and other allowances, it is less than N38,000.”. This, he said is grossly inadequate,, saying the salary cannot sustain the worker for the whole month.’
Jones said there is need  to review the salary of workers at the federal,  state and local government levels,  arguing  that  the silence of Federal Government  since the proposal was made is political.
“What Labour did on the May Day rallies was a proposal. They have not handed the proposal to the Federal Government. So, the Federal Government cannot act on a thing that has not been handed over to it.‘’
He recalled that when the issue of N18,000 minimum wage came up , Labour submitted its proposal to the then Accountant Ggeneral  of the Federation and the Head of Service of the Federation  and it was discovered that the take home pay then was nothing to write home about.
Jones insisted that if Labour is sincere about the agitation, let they should give the breakdown of what N56,000 will stand for. ‘’
Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, on the other hand, suggested that  the issue of review of workers’ salaries  be discussed at the national  level,  especially at Governors’ Forum and the Presidency. He, however, stressed that he is baffled that  after such discussions , some people usually  do something differently.

.According to Lalong, state governments are not even finding it easy to pay the current N18,000 minimum wage, adding that the civil servants in Plateau State know the situation on ground.
He  however said that as time goes on, the state government hopes that things would improve, adding that he was not saying that there was no room for wage review in the state.
He stressed that for  now, the wage bill of Plateau State is N 1.7 billion and what it gets from the Federation Account  is less than or about N1 billion.
According to him, it may not be possible to review workers’ salary now, until there is an improvement  in revenue.
However, the NLC and TUC have been advised to shelve their demand of N56,000 minimum wage for now, because of the current cash crunch the nation is facing as a result of oil glut.
Abraham Amah, an Umuahia, Abia State based activist told Independent hat if the nation’s economy had been booming, the demand was proper and ought to be attended to by the government.
He counselled that Organised Labour should reconsider the demand taking into cognisance the present economic downturn and the fact that salaries of workers are no longer paid as regularly as before.
According to him, what should occupy the mind of the labour leaders should be programmes that would ensure that the workers receive their salaries and allowances “as and at when due.”
He insisted that demanding and getting an upward wage review when not followed by constant implementation, would only amount to frustration, leading to incessant breakdown in the relationship between labour and the government.

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