Minimum Wage Should Not Be Politicised

Nigeria’s Labour Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige has been off the radar for a while. After the tortuous and still controversial Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, strike that appeared to have engaged the nation in a long-drawn suspense, he has become again relevant in the news following the resurging issue of national minimum wage.

He was quoted recently that the nation was about tinkering with the minimum wage which he noted was statutorily long overdue. When some are concerned that as a nation, we do not need to be bothered about a review of the wage to meet up with trending inflation, others think the best way to go is to reverse the status quo along the line of rising inflation.

Ngige was quoted some days ago as having consulted with President Muhammadu Buhari on the need to raise the nation’s minimum wage to what is realistic and in tune with the nation’s economic realities. From the relays from his comments, he had noted that the government was working assiduously to enforce a new minimum wage across the nation. His position has been eliciting several reactions from several Nigerians who are worried that this move may just be an attempt to score a political point.

The Labour Minister was emphatic that the government would ensure that it adjusts the minimum wage in line with current realities. In keeping with that promise, the Minister was said to have met with President Buhari on the matter.

The euphoria following the move is not unexpected and misplaced. It has been over a decade that the current minimum wage subsists and if we must hail these moves which expectedly would reverse the lethargy and pains that civil servants are going through. We are aware that the current minimum wage of thirty thousand naira is unrealistic and not in tune unreasonable in the current economic dispensation. The nation is living below global standards and we cannot pretend to be doing well.

In line with this, many stakeholders have opined, the move should not be a politically motivated adventure, aimed at enhancing the cause of the ruling party’s chances in the forthcoming elections so close in a matter of days. Like many Nigerians have cautioned, wage adjustments and indeed minimum wage, is not something outside the realm of normal bureaucracy, hence shouldn’t be politicised by the initiating authority or the recipients. It is within the purview of the government to initiate wage review in line with existing negotiated and legalized frameworks.

We abhor attempts to make it appear that they are all out to do what is gargantuan and undeserving.

With this euphoria also comes a sad reality where some state governments are yet to pay the last approved minimum wage. To further accentuate this painful circumstance is the fact that some of them are not even paying salaries at all, while others pay percentages of salaries based on whims of the affected state governments.

We insist that salaries and emoluments are not within the purview of discretional tendencies but statutory. It is a common dictum which assumes currency everywhere that: A labourer is entitled to his wage. It is therefore disheartening to accommodate the debilitating tendencies of many establishments.

On the part of the government, it must not be hasty in fixing a minimum wage which is intended to score a political point. It should be handled with a temperament that suggests it does not bear any hidden motives. We are concerned that if the government does this to woo the electorate without any accompanying capacity to pay the same, whether or not the ruling party succeeds itself or not, it would have created substantial concern for the incoming administration. It should not be intended to score a political point but handled in tandem with what is sustainable.    

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