LEAGUE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS JOS, NIGERIA

Thursday, August 11, 2011

THE N18, 000.00 MINIMUM WAGE TRAP

8h August 2011
THE N18, 000.00 MINIMUM WAGE TRAP
“As I talk to you, only four states can comfortably pay without compromising their development programmes – Lagos, Rivers, Bayelsa and to some extent Delta. We have reached a stage now that if we pay, we are damned. If we don’t pay, we are damned,”
A governor who prefers to remain anonymous, Source ThIsday 4th August 2011)
Not even after the chairman of the governors’ forum finally agreed on behalf of his colleagues that they would pay the minimum wage, not a few governors have been grumbling - not even that of Lagos, which generates an IGR of between 18 to 21 billon naira monthly - about the high cost of the minimum wage on their finances. The complaints centre mostly on the balances which will be left after they return from monthly federation account meetings.
The federal government perhaps negotiating from a position of weakness and keen on avoiding an imminent industrial action has agreed to pay across board. We must however give it to the federal government. They have been the pacesetters in improving the pay of their workers. For close to a year they have increased the wages of federal workers. A civil servant on level 9 working in a federal agency earns about N120,000, while his counterpart in some states on the same level including Plateau takes home about N26,000.00
It is true that many governors concern about the practicability of paying the minimum wage is not in doubt. Many have the burden of competing demand and how to address them. They have to cope with a bourgeoning political class, challenges of insecurity, demands of other arms of government, the public service, political, tribal and social patronage, sudden contingencies, demand for social services and infrastructure. To compound issues, the numbers of pensioners are on the increase, while productivity is on the decline.
Yet, the anger, according to a union official, for the imposition of the minimum wage has some link with how the political class are rewarded in Nigeria. A huge gulf exists, according to him, between the two. He gave me an example of a Health Assistant who worked in one of the ministries I headed who was engaged during the Chief Dariye era and whose last level was level 6, who hitherto received N12, 000 a month as total emolument but is now receiving around N500, 000.00 monthly as a member of the House. Little wander organised labour said it would no longer negotiate with governors over the N18, 000 minimum wage. This is coming against the background of the stance of many governors that they would rather brace up for a “crippling strike” because the new wage cannot be implemented. Organised labour on the other hand has asked all governors “to toe the path of honour” by immediately commencing the implementation of the new wage since the Federal Government had agreed to pay across board. This is coming against the backdrop of the nature of our federation where decisions of such nature are taken at the centre and passed down without consultation with key stakeholders at the state level. At the same time, the idea of a national minimum wage across the country is good as it provides a standard. It is the practice even in developed countries.
What is the way out? There are many things wrong with the nature of the Nigerian society. It is a consumer society that loves pleasure, where we indulge in consumption with little thought of how to create wealth and improve our productive capacity. We live in a society where almost everything is imported from food items, to diesel, to generating sets, to tooth pick to mango juice and even kerosene reading lamps. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars importing things we ought to produce. The new minister of Agriculture has stated that Nigeria spends trillions of naira importing food yearly. Nigerians have become guinea pigs to be used to improve the technology of many Asian countries and because the elite class has not shown the way forward in patronising local goods, imported goods have become a status symbol and means of personal prestige. Nigeria is a renter state that depends on rents collected from the sale of crude oil. To make matters worse, a lot of money is spent on overhead and recurrent expenditure mostly gotten from proceeds of oil money which is shared monthly.
While many governors have complained that they cannot afford to pay, yet they lack the necessary political will to begin the process of taking concrete measures towards radically improving their state’s economy through improvement of the revenue base. Lagos stands out. It didn’t happen in Lagos by wish. It came about through hard work, diligence and proper planning. It came about through putting square pegs in square holes. Many others are not living by example. They make the right statements about improving their revenue base, entrenching due process, ensuring probity and accountability, having zero tolerance for favouritism, sleaze and systematic looting, yet their acts and conducts are far from it. Albert Schweitzer has noted that example is not the main thing in leadership it is the only thing. Many of them have not been good models beyond rhetoric. They must do the difficult thing and practice what they preach. There is nothing more confusing to the masses than a leader who gives good advice and sets bad example. A pint of example they say is worth more than a gallon of advice. This issue of minimum wage offers us an opportunity to prioritise and see how governance can offer us the best result towards concretely improving the lives of our people and reducing the cost of governance..
MY MARCH THROUGH GOVERNMENT: By the time the Chief Dariye/Baba Botmang administration was winding up in 2007, it was evident that the people of Plateau were yearning for change. The two were variously accused of corruption - a matter EFCC is still prosecuting in court. The latter was in fact accused of tribilization of power - a condition where others outside the tribe of power were made to think that they were done a huge favour if they got any appointment or patronage. So when that change came in 2007, yours sincerely had the privileged of been Commissioner for Housing and Environment, then Commerce and Industry and finally Youth and Sports. How did I cope with pressure of people who dissuaded me from accepting to serve, some even as we appeared at the House for screening? Did I sell out when I accepted to be a commissioner or was it merely a continuation of service? If I did not, what has been my contribution in concrete terms? What did I meet on ground when I first reported on 29th of August in the Ministry of Environment? What were the challenges of setting up an engine room for environment? (i.e. purchase of about 32 vehicles made up of trucks, compactors, water tankers, cars, tractor, motorcycles for supervisors and forest officers, strengthening the Forestry Department and raising 2 million nursery trees, engagement of over 5,000 ad hoc staff- mostly made up of widows - and supervisors who worked in 40 communities, installation of sidewalk refuse bins in Jos and all tertiary institutions in the state including UJ etc) How did we go about the issue of cooperative revitalisation in Commerce? After so many false starts how did we get it right to restart the abandoned Zaria road stadium with an increased seating capacity from 27,000 to 44,000 not to forget the Jakatai (Mangu) NYSC permanent orientation camp. How about getting approval for the renovation of the derelict Rwang Pam Township Stadium to a befitting standard with proper seats and standard dressing room and borehole? How did I handle the issue of those who made a big issue just because I engaged a non indigene as SA? What of some political elite in (from) my local government who have an obsessive hatred for my district which has since developed into an encompassing political philosophy? What has been my experience and what are the lessons? Did I take my assignment too seriously? Did I make a difference? What initiative and ideas did I bring into governance? If I did, where did I draw my inspiration? Did I ensure that government resources were used prudently and creatively? Did II walk the talk? What are the legacies? Questions and questions and questions....for another day

Nankin Bagudu esq.

posted by
khalid kassim
M&E LHR

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