It was not certain whether the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, was flying a kite or actually pronouncing a pending government policy direction when she recently directed the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission to “reduce” the salaries of workers of “several” Federal Government agencies “to save costs”.
Organised Labour through the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, has since issued a total rejection of such a measure, describing it as “unthinkable” at a time when “multiple devaluations” of the Naira and hyperinflation have “knocked out” workers’ salaries.
It was only two years ago – April 18, 2019 – that the president signed the new National Minimum Wage Bill into law. Eleven states are yet to pay . These are Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Benue, Ekiti, Kogi, Plateau, Imo, Nasarawa, Osun and Taraba, with Bauchi, Oyo, Kebbi and Yobe partially implementing it.
Since then, the pump price of petrol has jumped from N145.50 to N164, with the prospects of rising to N230 in June when the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, plans to rescind subsidy payment. The inflation produced by this and the general insecurity in the country have rendered the little that workers are paid insignificant. If salaries are slashed, how would workers survive?
Salaries and wages in Nigeria are governed by laws and are usually arrived at through negotiations with Organised Labour. We are not running a military government; so the idea of a unilateral pay cut is out of the question. The federal and state governments have themselves to blame for the continued high cost of governance in the country.
For instance, the Finance Minister at the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, forum on cost of governance where she disclosed government’s intention, had lamented the yearly duplications in the federal budget. This is the same for most states in the federation. If government is serious about reducing the cost of governance it must start with the political office-holders in the legislative and executive arms who take home more than their fair share of our commonwealth.
The same Federal Government that wants to slash worker’s salaries is busy establishing new federal executive bodies with new bills being passed by the National Assembly. What has become of the Federal Government’s intention to bring back the Oronsaye Report which prescribes an orderly downsizing of the federal workforce, but which successive governments failed to implement?
The country is beginning to pay dearly for the wrong structure of its governance across board. This is why the tepid attempts by the Buhari regime to secure the country, repair the economy and fight corruption have failed. Unless we embrace massive change, Nigeria is doomed.
Unilateral slashing of workers’ salaries will only add to the current difficulties in the governance of this country.