Min­i­mum wage and govern­ment in­sin­cer­ity

The Punch - - EDITORIAL - John Kokome, La­gos State, kokome­[email protected]­hoo.com 08083241780

Nige­rian work­ers are among the most marginalised in the world to­day, with lit­tle or noth­ing to show for their ef­forts to­wards build­ing a sus­tain­able na­tion. if i may ask, when will Nige­rian work­ers be­gin to en­joy the fruits of their labour? Un­for­tu­nately, this sounds like one of those rhetor­i­cal ques­tions with no an­swer in sight. For how on earth can it be ex­plained, that a coun­try that is en­dowed with enor­mous hu­man and nat­u­ral re­sources will per­pet­u­ally ex­pose its cit­i­zenry to un­told eco­nomic hard­ship with­out com­men­su­rate mea­sures put in place, in terms of re­mu­ner­a­tions to help cush­ion the ef­fect of the hard­ship. Leav­ing them at the mercy of the im­pe­ri­al­ists and cap­i­tal­ists who are hold­ing our econ­omy to ran­som.

Suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments up till the cur­rent govern­ment have all dis­played the high­est level of in­sin­cer­ity and in­sen­si­tive to the plights of the Nige­rian work­ers, who make daily im­mea­sur­able sac­ri­fices to­wards the growth and de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try in their own lit­tle ways.

it is, how­ever, most un­think­able in this time and age that a coun­try like Nige­ria that prides it­self as the “gi­ant of Africa” and the sixth largest pro­ducer of crude oil in the world is still foot-drag­ging whether or not to im­ple­ment the newly agreed N30, 000 min­i­mum wage, as against the pal­try N18, 000, it is cur­rently pay­ing as min­i­mum wage or liv­ing wage as the case may be. This amount or­di­nar­ily is not enough to take care of the daily needs of our po­lit­i­cal of­fice hold­ers, let alone a whole month.

Some­times, i be­gin to won­der like Femi Kuti, whose in­ter­est our rep­re­sen­ta­tives are serv­ing at the Na­tional Assem­bly. Nige­ri­ans or their self­ish and in­sa­tiable in­ter­ests? if they can­not make laws that will en­sure that Nige­rian work­ers earn de­cent wages, i see no rea­son why they should be there. it will not be too much a call for them to make leg­is­la­tion to en­sure Nige­rian work­ers are well-re­mu­ner­ated in tan­dem with what their con­tem­po­raries earn in other parts of the world. Con­sid­er­ing the monthly al­lowance pack­age of an av­er­age mem­ber of the Na­tional Assem­bly which is ma­jorly used to ser­vice their ever grow­ing ex­trav­a­gant po­lit­i­cal life­styles. Both the ex­ec­u­tive and leg­isla­tive arms of govern­ment must be will­ing to make the needed sac­ri­fices by dras­ti­cally cut­ting down on their al­lowances in or­der to ac­com­mo­date the needs of our labour force.

In the Nige­rian con­text, democ­racy has been re-de­fined by the po­lit­i­cal class to mean ‘govern­ment of the peo­ple by the few and for the few’. Ac­cord­ing to Napoleon in ge­orge Or­well’s An­i­mal farm, “some an­i­mals are more equal than oth­ers.” That is the case in Nige­ria to­day, where the few priv­i­leged are more equal than the ma­jor­ity un­der­priv­i­leged in the so­ci­ety. An in­cre­ment in the na­tional min­i­mum liv­ing wage is a must and not an op­tion. The in­sin­cer­ity and shenani­gans sur­round­ing the re­cent de­bate on whether or not the min­i­mum wage should be re­viewed up­ward by the govern­ment of the day, par­tic­u­larly our state gov­er­nors, have clearly demon­strated that our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers do not gen­uinely care about the wel­fare of the peo­ple.

More­over, as en­shrined in the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria, “the se­cu­rity and wel­fare of the peo­ple shall be the pri­mary pur­pose of govern­ment” and that “…the state shall direct its pol­icy to­wards en­sur­ing a rea­son­able na­tional min­i­mum liv­ing wage for all ci­ti­zens”. Un­for­tu­nately, the re­verse seems to be the case, as govern­ment pays lip ser­vice to is­sues con­cern­ing the wel­fare of the Nige­rian work­ers at all times, de­lib­er­ately de­ploy­ing var­i­ous tac­tics to shy away from its pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity to the peo­ple.

As a mat­ter of fact, this is the best time for work­ers to as­sess the cur­rent govern­ment in power, in terms of its sin­cer­ity of pur­pose to­wards ad­dress­ing the needs and chal­lenges of the Nige­rian work­ers. And to also crit­i­cally as­sess other can­di­dates with the pur­pose of get­ting the best deal for the work­ers. it is im­por­tant to state that, govern­ment at any level, be it fed­eral, state or lo­cal, that can­not pro­vide a sus­tain­able wel­fare pack­age for her teem­ing labour force does not de­serve to be voted for, let alone com­ing back for a sec­ond term. The elec­torate and in­deed Nige­rian work­ers, should as a mat­ter of ur­gency mo­bilise to en­sure that only a govern­ment that is ready to up­hold the prin­ci­ples of our con­sti­tu­tion is voted into power come 2019 and those who are not ready to live by the tenets of our con­sti­tu­tion are stopped through the bal­lot.

Labour union lead­ers and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions must stand firm on their de­mand, by en­sur­ing that the govern­ment of the day im­ple­ments the agreed amount for the new min­i­mum wage now. Af­ter all, a worker (labourer) de­serves their wage.

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