I am in sympathy with the Nigerian worker. He is the goose that lays the golden egg but gets little in return.
The Nigerian worker carries the weight of the entire nation. Whether you are the President, Governor, Minister, Senator, House of Representatives or House of Assembly member, Commissioner, Special Adviser, etc., you cannot do without the Nigerian worker.
It is the Nigerian worker that is in charge of their offices either as Secretary, Office Clerk, Typist, Messenger, Cleaner, etc., and ensures that everything is in their proper places. Without the Nigerian worker, all these big ogas will not spend even a minute in their offices to do whatever work they had set out to do.
It is the Nigerian worker that articulates the policies and programmes of the President and the Governor, sorts out all necessary documents, and prepares their public speeches. It is the Nigerian worker that writes various position papers for the Minister or the Commissioner and prepares relevant bills for the Senators and other legislators. What these superhumans merely do is to append their signatures and claim the glory.
It is the Nigerian worker that builds the wealth of the nation. He is the construction engineer, architect, agriculturalist, tax collector, customs or immigration official, health worker, teacher, accounts clerk, etc., but his efforts are hardly recognized.
When the Nigerian worker begins to ask for a marginal increase in his salary, nobody will listen to him. It is only when he begins to press further, threatening to go on strike, that the government will grudgingly set up panels upon panel to look into his demand. Later on, these panels will come out with reports to say that the economy is too bad, that the government has no money to meet his demand.
But the Nigerian worker is not amused. He is not happy. Why is it that each time he asks for a little increase in his salary, they will tell him that the government has no money? Does the Nigerian worker begrudge or envy the big ogas for the millions and billions of naira, and sometimes dollars, they corner to themselves, legitimate and illegitimate – security votes, constituency allowances, padded contract awards, etc?
How much, in the first place, does the Nigerian worker earn as salary? How much is he demanding – a paltry N30,000 a month.
What is the value of this N30,000 in today’s Nigeria? What can it fetch in the market? Absolutely nothing.
For the past nine years, the Nigerian worker has been receiving N18,000 a month. At that time, the Naira was exchanging at N180 to $1; a bag of rice sold for N8,000; a litre of petrol was N85; a bag of cement was N1,300, etc.
Now, everything has changed. The exchange rate of the naira is N365 to $1; a bag of rice sells for N16,000; a litre of petrol goes for N145; while a bag of cement is N2,500, etc. The landlord has increased his house rent, transport fares have gone up, and the school fees for his wards are at rooftops, and he is still earning the same salary.
When the organized labour, late last year, threatened to go on strike, the government persuaded them to back down, and promised to pay them the N30,000 minimum wage. But it turned out that the workers were simply deceived, because, for two months, the government did not deem it necessary to transmit the Minimum Wage Bill to the National Assembly.
When the workers again threatened to go on strike, the government called them to another meeting. But comparing Nigerian labour leaders to one mad woman in his village who, he said, was unable to carry the firewood she already had, but asked that more firewood be put on her head, our President wondered why Nigerian workers would be demanding N30,000 minimum wage when most state governments were not able to pay the present N18,000 minimum wage.
He however promised to transmit the Minimum Wage Bill to the National Assembly on January 23, 2018, but quickly turned round to set up a technical committee on the same new minimum wage, and gave the committee one month to submit its report – another circuit show – the more you look, the less you see!
In other words, by the time this new committee will submit its report, and the government comes up with its white paper on it, the 2019 election, which the labour leaders was threatening to boycott unless the N30,000 minimum wage was implemented, would have come and gone!
And the Nigerian worker would still remain where he was.