At a time the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) is agitating for a review of the National Minimum Act of 2010 that raised the minimum wage from N5,500 to N18,000, some state governors are insisting that they can no longer pay the minimum wage owing to the poor state of the economy. Engr. Martin Onovo, presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in the last general elections, bares his mind on the raging issue. Excerpts:
By Akoma Chinweoke
The claim by the Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State that the N18,000 Minimum Wage is not sustainable is illogical and vexatious. Only reckless state governors have difficulty paying wages. Effective state governors have been paying as and when due. Recently (after the 2015 general elections), Anambra State government announced a general increase in wages in its public service.
The National Conscience Party [NCP] had promised during the 2015 campaigns for the general elections, to increase the minimum wage by reducing maximum wage while maintaining the size of the wage bill. This would have compressed the inequality index by bridging the wage gap in the public service. It would also have reduced the pressure for corruption and boosted public service productivity.
It would also have promoted a national ambience of social justice. The increase in its public service wages announced by the Anambra State government is a confirmation of the very obvious feasibility of the campaign promise of the National Conscience Party.
Corruption, waste, abuse of office and inefficiency in governance are what we must check in governance. Some specific measures we can take to check these include: Establishment of effective controls for the benefits and allowances of political office holders, firm control of corruption in public office, elimination of wastes in public service and improvement of efficiency in public administration.
We must note that Anambra State government announced a general increase in wages and did not have to reduce any wages to achieve the increase. With the devaluation of the Naira, the minimum wage has painfully lost about 20 percent of its value. Therefore an immediate increase of 20 percent is justified to restore the value of the inadequate minimum wage. Since even the minimum wage is clearly inadequate when compared to the minimum cost of living, it has become necessary to increase it to the level of a wage sufficient to sustain an employee for a month. This can reduce the pressure for corruption and boost morale and productivity of public servants. State governments can afford a significant increase as confirmed by the Anambra State government. To achieve same, the errant states may have to control the outrageous benefits of political officials, control corruption firmly, eliminate wastes in governance and improve efficiency in governance.
The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has rightly rejected the claim of the governor of Zamfara State, that the minimum wage is not sustainable. The NLC also called it a declaration of war against Nigerian workers. We agree with the NLCs.
We recommend an immediate increase of the current minimum wage by 85 percent to raise the level to the minimum standard required for the sustenance of an employee for one month and, thereby, reduce the pressure for corruption, boost social justice, increase morale and boost the productivity of the workforce.