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Why are Nigerian Workers Not Regarded as Humans by Govt?

By Ifeanyi Anagwu


It has become necessary to reflect on the life of the Nigerian worker in relation to his remuneration and productivity.
In every sector of the national economy, various economic theories and principles – such as market forces of demand and supply, inflation, GDP-forex relation, etc – are often applied as indices to determine the economic standing of the nation in various fronts.

For instance, central to the determination of the monetary values of fixed capitals, assets or contracts is the prevailing exchange rate of the naira in relation to American dollar.

Only recently, the central bank of Nigeria has proposed the recapitalization of Nigerian commercial banks.

According to the CBN governor, Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, ‘it has become imperative to demand that Nigerian deposit money banks recapitalise as their current capital could no longer finance large transactions’.

Their capital base has dropped by $3.5bn since the last capitalisation in 2004. This measure, he said, was necessary in order to strengthen the banks and reposition them on the world financial stage.

World over, long-term contrcats always take inflationary trends into account; effects of changes in the time value of money are usually critical components of all government and corporate businesses.

The main reason why Nigerian national budgets continue to increase from year to year is that the country’s currency is on an unfortunate trajectory of continued devaluation.

Without claiming professorial knowledge of economics, let me quickly and aptly situate the Nigerian worker in the current scenario of the country’s economic downtown vis-a-vis the worker’s remuneration.

Certainly, it is not an overstatement to come up with the thesis that Nigeria, a country that prides herself as the giant of Africa, parades the poorest workforce on the continent.

This is an unfortunate situation which the government cannot claim ignorant of. Towards the end of the year 2015, Nigerian government initiated policies and programmes that skyrocketed the pump prices of petroleum products, the country’s economic mainstay; programmes that stopped rice importation thereby increasing astronomically the price of a 25 kg of rice to a level unaffordable to most Nigerian workers; made foreign exchange inaccessible to manufacturers and other investors leading to close up of many firms and downsizing of workforce by others.

The result was an unprecedented job losses within one year and a resultant mass hunger. This was, of course, accompanied by currency devaluation to a level N500 was exchanging for $1, while the prices of food items and other consumer products went up to an all-time high.

In all, the government saw no reason to, as a matter of urgent national importance and of emergency, take palliative measures to cushion the effect of this national tragedy to Nigerian families whose source of livelihood was truncated by government policies.

Two years down the line, the nation’s labour movement had to struggle it out with government to review the national minimum wage upwards to make up for the loss of purchasing power by the nation’s workers.

The struggle came with ultimatum for warning strike, actual warning strike, ultimatum for indefinite strike, actual but truncated indefinite strike, all in an attempt to get the government to discuss with labour and come up with an acceptable national minimum wage.

When N30,000 was eventually agreed in the first quarter of 2019, another phase of politicking with the wellbeing of Nigerian families started till the time of writing this article (late June 2019).

The reason for the present logjam is that while the new minimum wage law stipulates N30,000 as the new minimum wage, government does not believe in meaningfully increasing the salary of those already earning above N30,000 ($83.3).

Government prefers a situation whereby a certain amount, say N900 (nine hundred naira) will be agreed as consequential increment that will be added to existing salaries across all salary grade levels. On the other hand, labour is insisting that there has to be percentage increases across all salary gade levels.

A look at this issue shows that if Nigerian labour is to feel that something has happened, there has to be percentage increase and not fixed increase as demanded by government. What follws next will show whether the government is really for the wellbeing of the people of Nigeria.

Before I conclude this article, I have a question for Nigerian government: where is the place of economic reality on ground in the new salary structure the government want to force on Nigerian workers?

Why must Nigerian worker’s remuneration be the only sector where economic theories and principles fail? “Diaris God ooh…”

~ Ifeanyi Anagwu is a lecturer.

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