News and Society Expression Unfold

+1 202 555 0180

Have a question, comment, or concern? Our dedicated team of experts is ready to hear and assist you. Reach us through our social media, phone, or live chat.

News and Society Expression Unfold

DISCORDANT TUNES: State Governors Non-Committal About FG’s Minimum Wage Offer  By Keem Abdul

Read Time:6 Minute, 57 Second


In recent weeks and months, the responses of respective stakeholders (on both sides of the government/organized labour divide) to Nigeria’s cost-of-living crisis (which has grown from dire to apocalyptic in the one year of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration) have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. These responses include labour’s minimum wage demands, and the Federal Government’s counter-offers, as well as the strike and other actions labour has so far embarked on to press home its demands. In addition to a substantial wage increase, the country’s two main labour unions – namely, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), led by Comrade Joe Ajaero, and the Comrade Festus Osifo-led Trade Union Congress (TUC) – also want the Federal Government to facilitate a downward of the current electricity tariffs, which they view as astronomical. 

This heightened state of affairs can be explained by the unprecedented nature of the crisis ordinary Nigerian families currently face – and its implications, in the view of experts and ordinary people alike, on everything from basic welfare to national security, and even to the  corporate existence and sustainable progress of the Nigerian state. 

A ‘cost of living crisis’, experts say, is a socio-economic situation where nominal wages are stagnant in the face of sharp increases in the cost of basic goods such as food, housing, and energy. As a result, people cannot afford the standard of living they were previously accustomed to – and the population becomes poorer than it used to be. This is in contrast to a situation in which wages rise periodically to meet the rate of inflation and the standard of living of the average worker either improves or remains unchanged. 

The effect this crisis has on society – especially as regards the physical and mental well-being of the populace – can be overwhelming. For example, high food prices have forced people to choose to eat foods with less nutritional value (or LESS food in general), which usually leads to undernutrition, and, by extension, less energy and lowered performance at school or work, among other health challenges. Not only that, mental health also declines due to the stress of being unable to afford to live properly. Rates of depression and anxiety increase, and people gradually become anti-social, with a propensity to pose a physical danger to others (and even to themselves). In the worst-case scenarios, this crisis leads to a higher likelihood of sickness as well as starvation.

More broadly, the crisis has already had negative implications for the job market, the country’s business/investment profile and fortunes (especially as regards the ability of small businesses to survive and thrive), as well as consumer confidence as far as spending, and the management of debt, are concerned. 

Over the last few weeks, the aforementioned wage demands by the country’s labour unions, and the government’s counter-offer, have revealed a wide chasm between the two parties. At the time of this writing, however, the FG has increased its offer from the previous N60,000 to N62,000 – following the submission of the cost implications of the government’s proposal by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, to President Tinubu – while  organised labour has, on its part, revised its demand downward from N494,000 to N250,000. 

There has been a wave of reactions to the government’s offer – with some (including certain private sector players, as well as members of the political class) expressing cautious support for the N62k figure, and others denouncing it as a pitiful drop in the ocean of the average  working family’s range of bills, responsibilities and obligations. Some other stakeholders have tried to strike a compromise between the two parties – suggesting ‘a more reasonable’ N100,000 as the new minimum wage. 

But perhaps the most bizarre of all the reactions to the FG’s proposal has been that of a number of state Governors. Even without waiting for Labour’s response to said proposal (which would entail a considerable climb-down from their relatively lofty N250k demand), the Governors are saying that even the N62k projection coming from the Tinubu Administration was ‘unrealistic’ – impossible for them to pay, given the ‘limited’ resources at their disposal, and the many ‘competing issues‘ all begging for their attention at the same time. Any minimum wage  higher than N60k, they maintain, is way above their pay grade. 

To many Nigerians, the Governors’ stance smacks of hypocrisy and cynical insincerity. Considering the scale of the financial windfall now accruing to each of the country’s 36 states – as a result of newly-revised revenue allocation formulae benefitting subnational entities, notably from the monies saved by President Tinubu’s abolition of the infamous subsidy payments for petroleum products since last year – the stark truth is that there is NO state that is not capable of a N62k minimum wage payout (assuming organized labour is ready to accept the FG’s offer as it presently stands). And the lavish manner (and sheer frivolity) of spending at state and local level by Governors and their cronies, in the form of patronage and other inducements (often with very little in the way of visible economic and infrastructural development going on these states)  one is hard-pressed to know the rationale behind the Governors’ pushback against N62k. (One can only imagine their reaction should the FG allow itself to be pushed further up to N100k as  being canvassed by a growing number of highly influential stakeholders). 

But, then again, because one must resist the impulse to throw the proverbial baby away with the bath water – the Governors’ stance, however self-serving it might seem at first brush – cannot, in all sincerity, be dismissed out of hand. Just as all fingers of the hand are not equal, as a local adage says, so also the states of the Nigerian federation are widely dissimilar in their respective revenue profiles – and therefore their ability to pay the FG’s N62k proposed wage, not to mention the trending N100k figure, without seriously playing havoc with their coffers. 

According to some observers, there is a third way between the FG’s offer, and labour’s demands – on the one hand – and the Governors’ objections, on the other. It is very likely that the solution to this imbroglio, as being canvassed by the likes of the social and political commentator and former presidential adviser, Reno Omokri might gain some traction in coming days. (This writer certainly endorses Omokri’s position in this regard – especially given that former aide approaches the situation from a perspective that addresses not just the existential issues at stake, but even the vexed issues of true federalism, sub-national autonomy and nation-building).

In a recent post on his X (formerly Twitter) handle a few days back, the former presidential aide  made the following assertion, inter alia: 

“Since the Governors have said they cannot afford ₦62,000 as minimum wage, then, instead of a unified minimum wage, why can’t we do as the Americans, and have MULTIPLE minimum wages (i.e. one Federal minimum wage and 36 minimum WAGES) … ? That will be one small step for workers, and a giant step for true federalism. Because, in truth, why should poor states be forced to pay the same minimum wage as wealthier states like Lagos, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom states …? 

The wealthy states should rather pay above the 60k if there must be a difference. True federalism is when the states (are) allowed to manage their resources and pay (a) little percentage to the centre. Perhaps this is the way to go in Nigeria.” 

Seen from that perspective, then, perhaps it is a bit easier to see how this ends – with a window that gives individual states, especially the not-so-buoyant ones, some room to navigate the issues with a certain level of control, and to negotiate with the NLC and TUC from a position of relative strength. 

The ideal situation, of course, would be one in which ALL 36 states are willing and ready to pay whatever the FG and organized labour agree on. It is certainly the hope of the generality of Nigerian workers (and families) that the FG and labour would do exactly that – in a spirit that prioritizes their welfare and security, and advances the Nigerian polity towards the larger quest for true federalism and national cohesion. 


Prev Post


Next Post