■ Expert warns against increase
■ Labour may raise N56,000 demand
Stories by Olakunle Olafioye and Ayo Alonge
Hard pressed by the biting economic recession a cross section of Nigerian workers has said that only a significant review of the nation’s minimum wage would ameliorate the suffering of workers in the country.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige had recently restated Federal Government’s readiness to raise the minimum wage which currently stands at N18, 000 while the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Waba said the labour union had settled for N56, 000.
But a section of Nigerians who spoke to Sunday Sun said the proposal by the NLC was grossly inadequate considering the inflationary trend in the country.
A civil servant, Mrs. Judith Adimefe said since the prices of goods and services had more than quadrupled since the minimum wage was fixed for N18,000, only a minimum wage in the region of N100,000.00 would ease the suffering of the Nigerian workers.
“As at the time the minimum wage of N18,000.00 was agreed, prices of food items, for instance, were still within the reach of the common people. For instance, a bottle of groundnut oil which was sold for N100.00 about three to four years ago, now sells for N600.00, an increase of 500 per cent. The same goes for other food items like rice, garri, pepper etc. It is only logical to say that the government should consider an upward review of 500 per cent to the current minimum wage. By this, they should be looking at N100, 000.00 for the least paid person in the country,” she said.
Speaking in the same vein, Mr. Ephraim Oladele, a school teacher, described the current minimum wage as too demeaning and dehumanising, saying no Nigerian can survive on N18,000 monthly pay. “Anytime the minimum wage is mentioned, what comes to my mind is how possible is it for anybody to survive in Nigeria of today with N18,000; not even a five-year old child. It is very demeaning and dehumanising for any adult to go home with N18,000 as salary at the end of the month. What can he or she do with that?” he queried adding that, “no Nigerian worker deserves anything less than N100,000.00 monthly pay.”
Another Nigerian, Abdulrasheed Usman, warned the government and the organised labour to tread cautiously on the issue of minimum wage, saying the current minimum wage proposal could be counterproductive if not properly handled.
Usman, who observed that the upward review of minimum wage could further worsen inflationary rate in the country, said the current minimum wage was a mockery of the dignity of labour. “To say that the national minimum wage is too small is an understatement; it is indeed a mockery of dignity of labour. Rather than clamour for salary increment which is most likely to push inflation higher further, I would suggest the government looks inwards to see how it can reduce the burden of Nigerian workers in the areas of accommodation and transportation because these are the two major areas an average Nigerian worker spends the larger chunk of his salary. But where the government fails to do this, an average Nigerian worker will need to earn a wage of nothing less than N100,000.00 to be able to live a relatively decent life,” he said.