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Nigerian families and the minimum wage

By Emeka Asinugo KSC

When Nigerians massively defied heavy rains and voted Gen. Buhari and his All Progressive Congress party into government in 2015, it was in the hope that the change the party promised them would bring much relief from what they all thought at the time was the cluelessness of Dr. Jonathan’s administration. They had high hopes because APC made strong commitments to change, or so it seemed at the time. They had confidence in the APC perhaps because political manipulators had succeeded in capitalising on the very few weak indices in the administration of President Jonathan to the extent that Nigerians were ready to accept anyone else but Jonathan as President.
Therefore, it scarcely made news when recently President Buhari reeled out to the country his achievements in his first three years leading up to the last quarter of his first tenure, and in preparation for his second term bid as Nigeria’s  Head of State.
On paper, those achievements appeared voluminous even to academicians and the book-minded. But in reality, how had those “changes” transformed the life of the average Nigerian for better? Ask anyone on the streets of Nigeria’s major cities or even the country’s remote villages and the answer would be just about the same. Many would be eager to declare to you that no changes for better have actually taken place in three years. If any changes have happened at all, they are changes that have widened rather that bridged the gap between the rich families that have access to the national treasury and the poor families that daily battle with poverty, unsure when to eat their next meal – underpinning the country’s inadvertent or perhaps planned slide on well oiled wheels towards a feudalistic society.
And so we ask: what arrangements have been put in place to ensure, for instance, that there is social fluidity in the Nigerian society? What changes has the APC government put in place in three years to ensure that there is social mobility and that Nigerian children born into poor families are not trapped in poverty, and that they have the ability to rise above poverty and access positions in the governance structures of their local communities, their local councils, their states and their country? At the end of the day, these are the issues that count in the arduous march towards true democracy.
And so, it was not a surprise that the Nigeria Labour Congress and its affiliates decided to embarrass the government by targeting the period the country was to celebrate its independence to press on its demand for a new minimum monthly wage for its numerous members across the country. The NLC and its affiliates marched in protest and embarked on a three-day “warning” strike that affected the entire workforce, days before the independence celebrations of 1 October.
Workers in banks, institutions of higher learning, the civil service, the petroleum industry, the private sector, the aviation and maritime industries and so on, all were required to stay away from their workplaces in the days leading up to first October. And they did. And so, anyone can see that if the strike continued, not only would the government collapse, the country would get back into recession, there would be an increase in crime rates, more pressure would be put on the police to cope with the situation on the ground and the country would eventually come on its knees.
But before all that would or would not happen, it may be necessary to look around, and know what other workers at least within the ECOWAS community are experiencing. What is the experience of the average worker in neighbouring countries like Ghana, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, among others? Perhaps knowing their condition can help Nigeria find the way forward.
One very peculiar fact about most of these ECOWAS countries is that their minimum wage is calculated on a daily, not monthly, basis as is the case in Nigeria. In such a way, it is easy to observe whether families are living above or below the poverty level prescribed by the United Nations. And I think there is nothing wrong with Nigeria coming along with the others this way.

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