March 24, 2019

Minimum wage: Looking At Agitations Through Abuja Workers’ Daily Struggle

Minimum wage: Looking At Agitations Through Abuja Workers’ Daily Struggle

As strike looms and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) continues to reject the N22,500 proposal by the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), we take a look at the economic reality of workers in Abuja.

An average Senator takes home N13.5million (according to Shehu Sani), and they attend the same market as every worker in the FCT, go to work on the same road, and compete in the same real estate market.

The National Assembly complex is a beehive of activities, as workers in their thousands troop in daily, however like most workers in Abuja they all come from outside the main city.

From Abaji, Kwali, Kuje, Gwagwalada, Kubwa, Zuba, Nyanya, Mararaba, workers come to the city every working day, as accommodation within the city is a bit on the high side.

While some workers benefited from the Government Housing Units in Garki and Wuse, the majority has to drive/enter public transport for up to two hours to the central business district.

Also Read: Minimum Wage: NLC Increases Demands to N66,500, Criticizes Governors

In Gwagwalada and other area councils within the Federal Capital Territory, buses from ministries, departments and Agencies park as early as 6 am, waiting for workers but these buses are insufficient, as workers with private vehicles pick passengers in what is popularly known as “along”, majorly to augment their cost on fuel. This is not without the struggle with “agberos” whom they had to settle just to pick passengers.

Some workers are fortunate enough to get direct vehicles to the Federal Secretariat while some still have to board city taxis to get to the Federal Secretariat.

Despite these transport challenges, workers still have to engage in another struggle to enter the NASS shuttle (most in deplorable conditions) which charges between N30-50 within the complex while others depend on the goodwill of colleagues with private vehicles to enter the complex.

The shuttles can only take them to the second gate of the National Assembly complex, as they have to go through the security check, which means trekking for some distance to their main offices. The same process is repeated at the close of the say with the people in Nyanya having to face heavy traffic on their way home.

Wage increment agitations

The Nigerian Labour Congress is currently demanding for an upward review of the current N18,000 and is currently deadlocked at N30,000 with the state governors.

This demand according to some analysts would lead to increase in inflation rate, increase in recurrent expenditure and difficulty for some states to implement as some are currently struggling with the N18,000 minimum wage, hence, the federal government had to bail some states out on several occasions while some states are still lagging in payment of salaries.

However, a senior lecturer at the Department of Economics, University of Abuja, Sabiu Sani, argued the current minimum wage of N18,000 which is less than $50 dollar is an ‘embarrassment’, noting no worker can make a decent living from such income.

He refuted the claim minimum wage increment would lead to inflation saying “We just came out of recession, and the main thing is to create economic activities, by increasing salary, it would revive the economy, because as it stands there is no purchasing power, if producers produce, who would buy if there is no money?

“Through an increase in purchasing power in line with the Keynes theory in (general theory), workers are wealth makers, if you increase salary, you increase productivity, you are not paying workers because you like their faces, hence, you pay them well, you increase wealth”, he argued.

Analyzing the new minimum wage

According to the figure released by BudgIT, over N1.75trillion has been released to states as bailout fund between 2015-2017. If the federal government should agree to the new proposal by NLC, the increase in the minimum wage would be 400%.

Another economist, Emmanuel Brown said this new increment would not make a real and sustainable impact on the long run in the lives of workers.

He said an increase in the wage bill would make more people have more money while competing for fixed commodities such as real estate.

“It is just a simple demand and supply. What the government needs to invest in is metro transportation, which would be more affordable and workers can easily access the city through the railway system.

“Government should also make the mortgage system more efficient, minimum wage would only have a negative multiplier effect, leaving fixed earners (workers) worse off.”

This piece was compiled by Bakare Majeed, an Abuja-based journalist.

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