Awaiting the new national minimum wage…

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, during his speech on Democracy Day, June 12, 2024, mentioned that the bill on the new national minimum wage would soon be forwarded to the National Assembly One would have thought that by now it would have been resolved. However, to the dismay and frustration of many, the matter still lingers. The matter was stepped down by the Federal Executive Council to allow the government further consult with stakeholders.

State governors have requested to be allowed to negotiate minimum wages with labour in their states using the cost of living and the financial capacity of each state as parameters. This approach is used in some countries as financial strengths vary across states. This request was not well-received by the organised labour; who argued that the governors don’t have the power to negotiate minimum wage. It is public knowledge that some state governments did not pay the N30,000 minimum wage for years; citing inability to pay. The Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of many states is low; a situation worsened by the increasing insecurity. Nonetheless, while the federal government continues to tackle the country’s security challenges, state governments should work on improving their IGR, eliminating, waste, and prioritising workers’ welfare.

One wonders when Nigerian workers will begin to receive the new national minimum wage, given that an amount has yet to be agreed upon. Any amount agreed still requires approval by the Federal Executive Council, passage of the New Minimum Wage Bill by the National Assembly, and finally, Mr President’s assent. Only then can the new minimum wage be implemented. Where provision was not made in the budget, a supplementary budget will be required The timeline for this process remains uncertain.

An increase in the national minimum wage would be beneficial to the nation as it would boost workers’ morale, reduce brain drain and stimulate economic activities. Many businesses are struggling as household consumption has dropped drastically due to low purchasing power of workers. Skilled professionals have left Nigeria in droves in search for greener pastures Better wages would also reduce financial pressure, which sometimes pushes people into criminal activities, and motivate workers to be more productive, which include our security agents. Therefore it will aid in reducing insecurity and increase the country’s Gross Domestic Product in the long run.

The organised private sector should also recognise that a wage hike would positively impact them by increasing innovation and productivity, reducing staff turnover, and decreasing the temptation for staff to commit fraud. Multinational companies understand the benefits of paying employees well. To get the best from employees, they need to feel cared for, and there needs to be an alignment between the strategic goals of the organisation and the personal goals/needs of the employees for organisational success.

Rhetoric is good, but it must be matched with deliberate action. The welfare of the citizens is one of the core responsibilities of the government. Therefore, the federal government, which is at the driver’s seat in the minimum wage negotiation, should expedite the negotiation process as workers are frustrated and struggling to survive; unable to cater thier basic needs like food, rent, hospital bills, and school fees.

While striving for a living wage, organised labour should also be reasonable in its demands and acknowledge the financial capacity of the organised private sector and federal, state, and local governments. The Nigerian economy is not at its best, and thus government and business finances are constrained. The goal should be to achieve the best affordable and sustainable wage.

While wide consultation is critical, there is a need to expedite the process. A hike in the minimum wage will benefit workers, the government, the organised private sector, and the nation at large. The welfare of the citizens is a critical role of the government. The federal government should therefore match its words with action. The time is now.

Kenechukwu Aguolu  FCA,PMP, CBAP,

Abuja, Nigeria