WITH the signing into law of the National Minimum Wage Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari, the nation is likely to be challenged by a lot of industrial hiccups, especially at the state and private sector levels. The Federal Government, with the lion’s share of the national revenue formula and flexible ways and means at its disposal, can cope better.
Conscious of the challenges ahead at the state level, the Labour movement in Nigeria has been firing off warning shots at governors to pay the new Minimum Wage or face massive industrial actions.
The pre-May Day Rally held at Abuja on Monday, April 29, 2019 by the movement had a very graphic theme bespeaking of the shape of things to come: “March for Jobs, Labour Rights and Shared Prosperity.”
The question is: What should we do to be able to pay the new National Minimum Wage? We have to bear in mind that many states, even under the old N18,000 regimen, still owed months in salaries and pensions. To worsen matters, most states and the Federal Government did not factor the new National Minimum Wage into their current budgets.
It will take major constitutional, policy, institutional and attitudinal changes before the governors can even attempt this hurdle. Good enough, the push for the implementation of the policy is coming at the onset of new and renewed regimes at the Federal and State levels.
We can start by seriously reducing the sizes of government, from the cabinets to the Chief Executives’ aides. Where necessary, the sizes of the Civil Services might have to be realistically adjusted for efficient service delivery. The President and Governors must cut down on their attitudes of callously dipping their hands into the treasuries and spending lavishly to maintain their imperial lifestyles.
For as long as the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly remain unable to exert their constitutional authority on the finances of government and hold the Executive to account it will be difficult to have enough to pay workers their wages.
The issue of restructuring will become more inevitable as we confront the cold reality of the new National Minimum Wage burden. Nigeria is poor because our dependence on crude oil and sharing of the revenues therefrom robbed our leaders of initiative and enterprise.
With massive devolution of powers to the various federating units, governors will be left with no choice but to explore the rich potentials of their states and tailor their spending to their financial abilities.
The revelation that in three years, Nigeria lost N350 billion to gold smuggling shows the stupendous wealth we are sitting on.
Labour must join hands to enforce critical paradigm shifts. Otherwise they will picket and strike in vain.