N18 000 is Still Minimum [Poverty] Wage

By Adeola Aderounmu

There was a strike in Nigeria on Wednesday November 10. These strikes were called by the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress.

These Unions reached an agreement with the Nigerian government in 2009. As a tradition the government didn’t keep its part of the agreement.

The people want a raise of the Minimum wage to USD120 (about N18 000). The present minimum wage is about USD 60 or N9 000.

The goal is to eventually get the minimum wage to USD350 which is about N52 200.

This is touching, sad and extremely irritating. In 2010 there are people earning USD 60 in Nigeria!

More sadly there is no unemployment benefit, which means that some people don’t earn or gain anything at all at the end of the month.

This is the same country where the politicians earn more money when compared to the US president Mr. Obama. Nigeria is one of the largest producers of crude oil in the world and our politicians are probably the highest paid in the world.

Irritatingly they are also grouped among the most corrupt persons on planet earth.

These demands for wage increase reduced the Nigerian labourer to almost a piece of unappreciated rubbish. Very sorrowful and extremely painful against the backdrop of a country that tries to preach that it is the giant of Africa.

If we put the national earnings of Nigeria since 1960 side by side with what the workers are demanding we see one of the biggest contradictions of the century.

We need no reminder that Nigeria has been mismanaged and plundered by her rulers and dictators in various forms-military and civilian authoritarianisms even to this day.

The strikes have been suspended. What the Nigerian government should do is to assess the standard of living of the average Nigerian and work out appropriate wages that will ensure good quality of life for all and sundry.

Apart from money, infrastructures must be provided or reinstated. Food, Water and Housing must be provided for all. Good roads and modern schools cannot be left out. Along with good health, these are the indices of poverty.

Nigeria must fight corruption by all means and ensure that the dividends of the oil and other revenues trickle down to the last man/woman on the street. By all means we must become more productive and transform our economy for the better.

Unemployed persons should receive benefits while active measures are taken to reduce the rate of unemployment both in the skilled and unskilled labour forces.

The strengthening of our democratic structures and empowerment of public and private institutions through manpower development and the acquisition and utilisation of technological knowhow are not least among the exigencies facing Nigeria.

The outcomes of the 2011 electoral processes will be a decisive factor that will shape the things to come.

Anyway, with the cost of living in Nigeria today no one should be earning less than N200 000 as monthly wages. This is about USD 1 300 and it is definitely not a bad proposition. This is what the labour unions should be struggling to achieve and not a poverty wage of USD120.

With probity, accountability and functional economic variabilities, the issue of inflation should not become a threat or hindrance to the good life that we deserve.