Restructuring Should Mean Substantial Increase in Minimum Wage

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There has been much chatter in the media in recent months over restructuring.   This is just a squabble among the ruling elite over who should loot which parts of the economy and the country.  To the mass of the poor it does not matter whether the looting is done by the money bags of the Hausa, Igbo, the Yoruba or any other ethnic group.

The key difference in society is class, not state nor ethnicity.  The only restructuring that makes sense and will change the lives of the poor majority is economic restructuring – a significant increase in the minimum wage would be a good start.

The creation of a new regional layer of government would just mean more politicians and more jobs for the boys, and a few girls.   Devolution of more responsibilities to the states would just mean that the politicians in each state have more resources to loot.   Providing local governments with greater powers would just mean that the local government chairs could steal even more of Federal allocations than they do now.

The richest people in Africa are to be found in Nigeria. The largest concentrations of poor people in Africa are also to be found here.  There are very few rich people at the top of the economic ladder. The mass of the people is the poor majority who suffer pressing needs.  Nigeria is a rich country but its people are poor.   What we need is not a political restructuring but economic restructuring. We need a massive redistribution of wealth, income and resources to the poor majority of the population.

The minimum wage was last increased to N18,000 a month in 2011 when it was agreed that this would be reviewed in five years’ time.  So, the minimum wage should have been increased last year.  Costs have increased massively over the last six years so workers can now afford to buy much less than they could do.

Even according to the official inflation rate, prices have nearly doubled in the last six years.  This means that workers can only afford to buy half as much food or clothing for their families as they could when the minimum wage was last increased. But food price inflation has been even higher so the minimum wage should be increased to at least N56,000 just to ensure that workers can still buy the same amount of food!!

The government talks about economic development, the Sustainable Development Goals and reducing poverty.  These require significant increases in the minimum wage.  We have had massive economic growth and the size of the economy doubled in the first decade of this century. But all the benefits went to the rich. This enabled them to pay for the 24 private executive jets that flew into Minna airport taking their owners to the former president Babangida’s daughter’s wedding in May of this year.

Political restructuring will not benefit the poor majority.  Trade unions should not take part in such counterproductive chattering.  The NLC, TUC and the trade unions should be launching a major campaign leading to a general strike for a minimum wage of at least N56,000.  This is the only type of restructuring that we will benefit from.

by Drew Povey

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