The Minimum Wage Challenge

[ctt template=”11″ link=”8570G” via=”no” ]there are indications that some states government may not be able to pay the new minimum wage of N56, 000,[/ctt]



As the clamour by organised labour unions in the country for an upward review of the minimum wage returns to the front burner, there are indications that some states of the federation and their workers may be on warpath over implementation.


It was on May 1, 2017, at the Eagle Square in Abuja, the nation’s capital and the stage was set for the May Day rally of Nigerian workers under the auspices of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and the Trade Union Congress, TUC. They had prepared for the usual march, though with heavy hearts as many of them had been weighed down by the tough economic crunch. Yet, they managed to endure, but for the federal government, it was another opportunity to dazzle the impoverished workers with sweet sounding words to massage their ego, a long-standing practice that has kept many of them in abject poverty.

As Labour and Employment Minister, Chris Ngige waited to deliver President Muhammadu Buhari’s message to the workers, while a permanent secretary in the ministry was meant to deliver the minister’s speech, the workers rose in anger and frustration, disrupting the rally that was meant to be a celebration of their dexterity for about one hour. Just as they were chanting solidarity songs, an apparently rattled Ngige, told journalists by the sideling of the failed rally that government had already designed a framework to set up a committee that would work out a new minimum wage for workers in both public and private sectors of the economy.

TELL Cover Page Photo

TELL Cover Page

The minister explained that “On the issue of minimum wage, the workers themselves and their leaders know that we employ what we call tripartite negotiation. It’s not only the government or public sector that will pay; there will also be private sector people that will obey that law on minimum wage. That is why we’ve tried to carry everybody along. We have finished the framework for the composition of the committee and we have passed it on to the government to source for requisite, qualified, fit and proper persons that will man this committee.”

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But why the government had to wait for the workers to become agitated over pay rise from a paltry minimum wage of N18, 000 per month to N56, 000 is confounding to many.  Ayuba Wabba, president, NLC, had over time, accused government of deliberate foot-dragging on the convocation of a committee for the negotiation of a new minimum wage citing rising inflation and devaluation of the naira as some of the compelling reasons that have made an upward review unavoidable. Ayuba said the NLC had submitted to the Buhari administration, a request for an upward review of the minimum wage, which was signed into law in 2011 by then President Goodluck Jonathan. He also contends that despite that the minimum wage was due for renegotiation after five years the current administration has not taken the right steps in setting up a tripartite committee that the minister talked about. Waba is further frustrated by the fact that in the face of low-income and rising inflation a number of state governments still owe their workers several months of unpaid salaries.

But the labour minister says the government is committed to workers’ welfare, for which reason it initiated and implemented the bailout funds it gave to various state governments. In 2016, state governments received from the federal government, about N713.7 billion in bailout funds to enable them to pay the backlog of workers’ salaries and another N90 billion thereafter. However, several months after, many states still owe their workers even as allegations of diversion of funds make the rounds across the states.

But as the organised labour unions represented press for a new minimum wage, there are indications that some states government may not be able to pay the new minimum wage of N56, 000, especially states that depend largely on federal allocation with very little or nothing coming in as internally generated revenue. However, one of the surprises of the new minimum wage came from Gombe State, where Governor Ibrahim Dankwabo assured civil servants in the state that he will pay the new minimum wage once the federal government gives its approval…

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