According to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the review of National Minimum Wage is supposed to be done every five years.
The last review of minimum wage was done in 2011 under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
There was supposed to be an upward review of the National Minimum Wage 2016, but because of the Holocaust of the economic recession that hit the country, the Federal Government had to persuade labour to exercise patient until the country is out of recession, when the issue was raised by labour.
The country survived the torrents of negative indices that accompanied the economic recession. President Muhammadu Buhari- led federal government, worked very hard to put the country on the path of economic recovery, which saw the country out of recession in the last quarter of 2017.
President Buhari in November 2017, set up a 30- man tripartite committee headed by the former Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Amal People, with the primary goal to assess the situation of Nigerian workers and make recommendations on what the minimum wage should be.
Labour had proposed a minimum wage of N65,000, but after a Marathon negotiation, the tripartite committee arrived at N30,000 minimum wage.
While submiting the report to the president, Mrs.Pepple said the implementation of the new minimum wage will boost the purchasing power of workers.
However, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), the apex union of governors in the country rejected the recommendation of the tripartite committee, citing poor revenue generation and dwindling federal allocation as reasons why some of the states cannot pay N30,000. The forum instead proposed N22,500 as the minimum wage.
The resolution of the labour unions that it is either N30,000 or nothing and the insistence of the governors, that they cannot pay anything above N22,500 has been a source of concern to Nigerians, as the labour unions in the country are eager ready to shut down the country if the governors don’t shift their ground.
There is no doubt that the new wage bill will ensure that the economic progress which the country has made since 2011 will reflect in the pockets of Nigerians.
A careful study of the economic indices such as; high cost of living, inflation and the exchange rate, it would be said that the labour unions are not asking for too much.
Also, given to the critical role of the informal sector in employment generation and the need for a realistic minimum wage that will not stifle the growth of the sector and the overall economy, N30,000 minimum wage is inevitable.
However, the cut in crude oil production of the country by 3. 04 per cent to 1. 685 million barrels per day for the first half of this year , as part of efforts by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce oversupply, is something the labour unions have to look into.
This is followed by the dwindling price of crude oil in the international market. The price for quite sometimes, has been hovering between $50 to $60.
With all these challenges and the fact that the main source of the country’s revenue is crude oil, it then demands that the labour unions should try to see reason with the federal government and the governors.
The threat by labour unions to resort to embark on industrial action to press home their demands, will not be in the best interest of the country. Rather, it will plunge the country into further economic crisis which may leave an indelible mark on our economy.
The proposal of N27,000 as National Minimum Wage by the National Council of State on Tuesday, should be accepted by the labour unions. Although, this wasn’t what they fought for, they should see it as a sacrifice for the greater good of the nation.