Minimum wage and government insincerity
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.