Celebrating The New Minimum Wage

From N18,000 a month to N30,000 a month, is what the National Assembly has approved as the new national minimum wage for government wokers at both the state and federal levels. This difference will be N12,000 from what they currently receive as monthly salary.

A lot of people have been critical about the prevailing N18,000 monthly minimum wage, contending that it has for long outlived its usefulness. What can N18,000 do in Nigeria today in one month for a family of even two persons, not considering the fact that workers in this category are usually known to have very large families of between six and eight persons?

Yet, those who govern us had been dragging their feet, claiming that the Nigerian economy could not support any salary increase for the workers, while they themselves would be swimming in the ocean of opulence, arising from their ill-gotten wealth. That’s not good.

The National Assembly has jettisoned the N27,000 earlier proposed by the Federal Government, which was also approved by the National Council of State, and settled for N30,000 monthly salary, and which the organized labour had insisted. This is commendable.

The new national minimum wage, if implemented will, to some extent, enhance the standard of living of many Nigerian workers and make life more worth living for them, particularly if some arrears are to be paid.

We also believe that if and when the new national minimum wage is implemented, it is going to be a big bonanza reminiscient of the 1974 Udoji Award, when Nigerian workers received a big windfall in form of salary increase with several months backlog of arrears paid to them.

It was during the oil boom, and many workers in Nigeria seized the opportunity to advance their lives to the next level. They married new wives, built houses, bought cars, motorcycles, bicycles and different kinds of electronics, depending on their salary grade levels, and the amount paid as arrears.

Our concern, however, is that the Federal Government might not be too much in a hurry to implement the new minimum wage package. Considering the rate our President has been turning down bills passed by the National Assembly, one will not be surprised if President Muhammadu Buhari refuses to sign the Minimum Wage Bill, claiming that it was N27,000 that was proposed, but that the legislators had jerked it up to N30,000, and that the government might not be able to pay the new wage increase.

Again, were President Buhari to reluctantly accede to assent to the Minimum Wage Bill, the problem would be how to source the money with which to pay the proposed wage? Already, one of President Buhari’s Ministers has suggested increasing the percentage Nigerians now pay as Value Added Tax (VAT), if the government was to pay the new national minimum wage.

If this suggestion were to sail through, it means that Nigerians would be paying more for every of their needs, which will led to another level of inflation.

The implication therefore, is that what the government will be giving out with one hand, it will also be taking back with another hand. And the new minimum wage would have come to nought.

About Dons Eze

DONS EZE, PhD, Political Philosopher and Journalist of over four decades standing, worked in several newspaper houses across the country, and rose to the positions of Editor and General Manager. A UNESCO Fellow in Journalism, Dr. Dons Eze, a prolific writer and author of many books, attended several courses on Journalism and Communication in both Nigeria and overseas, including a Postgraduate Course on Journalism at Warsaw, Poland; Strategic Communication and Practical Communication Approach at RIPA International, London, the United Kingdom, among others.

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