Wage: Quenching Fumes Set For Explosion


The outright rejection of N48,000 minimum wage by leaders of Organised Labour this Wednesday is a prognosis of what to expect in the dreaded coming weeks and months. Apart from being a reflection of the dire situation confronting workers, the monumental reduction in the purchasing power of citizens has given rise to incapacitating poverty plaguing the land. Government’s recommendation that N48,000 be the new minimum wage is not only contemptibly insolent to workers, but equally, the demand by workers that N615,000 be approved as the new minimum wage remains an infantile hallucination that resides on the hills of ignoble fantasy. Government’s recommendation that N48,000 be the new minimum wage is not only contemptibly insolent to Nigerian workers, but equally, the demand by unions that N615,000 be approved as a new minimum wage remains an infantile hallucination that resides only on the hills of fantasy.

Wages and poverty

Indisputably clear is the fact that most workers, especially in the public sector, are victims of deprivation arising from poor wages. That explains why the public sector is fraught with endemic corruption that has continued to militate against national development. Despite huge earnings from sales of crude oil since the late 1950s, Nigeria has continued to rely on crude oil revenues for development. With prices of oil in the international oil market plummeting to rock bottom, the attendant dwindling revenues has left the country with yawning gaps in sourcing funds for growth.

Beyond fall in prices of oil products in the international market, the failure of the nation’s moribund refineries to refine crude and failure ramp up oil production, Nigeria, in the past 28 years or so has continued to export its crude oil to foreign refineries to meet domestic fuel consumption needs, using billions of dollars for imports and subsidies payments by previous governments. After spending billions of dollars to resuscitate collapsed refineries that can’t still produce a litre of fuel, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), now a private company, with no shareholders, has successfully enthroned a culture of indolence as national ethos.

Surviving by loans

Burdened with loans, both foreign and local, Nigeria is best described as a rich nation that is heavily indebted to both local and foreign creditors. After President Olusegun Obasanjo negotiated out country out of the International Debtors’ Club, General Muhammadu Buhari, renegotiated us back, thus culminating in the attainment of Nigeria as the ‘Global Headquarters of Poverty’.
Apart from being a member of the prominent club of ‘Most Terrorised Countries In The World’, the incapacity by past governments to manage our nation’s diversity has opened up new frontiers by ethnic advocates to demand self-determination. The crippling rot in the public service has rendered any attempt as a gross failure in improving workers and citizens’ welfare.

Except for the few at the top echelon of public service, with willing collaborators in the organised and unorganised private sector, corruption has become the staircase to unquestionable means to wealth acquisition and empowerment. In the face of dwindling revenue generation from oil production, and coupled with the economic crisis making a mincemeat of citizens’ survival, only altruistic minds and perspectives can be enough in salvaging our country. Increasing the minimum wage without recourse to realities on ground can only be a recipe for disaster and an open invitation to chaos that may threaten the survival of our nation.

What option?

Unlike in the past when Nigeria’s problem was not money, but how to spend it, as the country is presently passing through excruciating moments of poverty. Despite faulty steps of succeeding governments, it is not clear if the current administration has demonstrated commitment to doing things differently in order to salvage millions of our citizens trapped in the bottomless hole of distressing economic deprivations. Now, corruption has become the only option in surviving a system that rewards only the dishonest and punishes honest citizens.

To solve the problem posed by paucity of funds, there should be deliberate efforts at increasing revenue generation to cater for the welfare of citizens. What is needful now is for leaders of the unions to note that, while they have the right to protect and advance the welfare of their members, they must take note that less than 20 percent of the nation’s population works for the public and organised private sector. What happens to the other 200 million Nigerians outside the public and Organised Private Sector’s wage net?

Beyond insisting on equitable wages, the union must question the continued retention of workers in moribund refineries. Workers should consider pouring into the street to resuscitate these refineries that are now conduit pipes for corrupt government officials. The need to eliminate the hair-rising level of crude oil theft in the Niger Delta, and at the same time ramp up oil production must be embarked upon as acts of urgency. The opaque manner under which the nation’s oil company operates without recourse to the Nigerian people must be stopped. Our national resources must be aggregated and transparently exploited for the benefit of the overall majority.

Leaders of the workers must not restrict themselves only to demanding a new minimum wage. Our nation is on its knees because corruption has crippled Nigeria’s prospects for development, with some of the workers being responsible for our present predicament. Union leaders must take up new mandates in ensuring that our country is salvaged from the debilitating impacts corruption has unleashed on our the system. Much as it has become imperative for the government to improve welfare of workers, resorting to only increasing minimum wage can’t be the only solution. The path this country is presently treading on is fragile, with frightening consequences if the wrong decision is taken.

Labour should begin to go beyond workers’ immediate demands and organise peaceful protests over spate of killings shredding our nation that is on the throes of perpetual insecurity.

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