On May 1, 2021, Nigerian workers joined the rest of the world to celebrate Workers Day. This year like in years before, people across the world observed the day by conducting protests and march for the rights of workers.
But in Nigeria, there appears to be nothing to celebrate at this time when workers are barely surviving. Workers and labour leaders across the economy fear a gloomy future for the Nigerian worker, a situation which calls for sober reflection. This is hinged on many unresolved factors, such as the refusal by some state governors to pay the N30,
000 national minimum wage, lingering strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), judiciary and health workers, unresolved industrial disputes and the controversial minimum wage Bill before the National Assembly. Which is an attempt to expunge the minimum wage from the Exclusive Legislative List!
The workers say that with the paltry N30, 000 minimum wage, life is difficult in the present economic climate. They expect an upward review of the minimum wage. Statistics from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) prove them right.
According to NBS, Nigeria’s inflation rate for the month of March 2021, rose to 17.33% from 16.47 % recorded in February 2021. This represents the highest inflation rate recorded in four years.
This is according to the Consumer Price Index report, recently released by the NBS. On a month-on-month basis, the Headline index
increased by 1.56% in March 2021, this is 0.02% points higher than the rate recorded in February 2021 (1.54 percent). Food inflation, a closely watched index spiked to 22.95% from 21.79% recorded in the previous month. On a month-on-month basis, the food sub-index increased by 1.9% in March 2021, up by 0.01% points from 1.89% recorded in February 2021. The rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, potatoes, yam, and other tubers, meat, vegetables, fish, oils and fats, and fruits.
Also, the average annual rate of change of the food sub-index for the twelve-month period ending March 2021 over the previous twelve-month average was 17.93%, representing 0.68% points from the average annual rate of change recorded in February 2021 (17.25%). The “All items less farm produce” or Core inflation, which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce rose to 12.67% in March 2021, up by 0.29% when compared with 12.38% recorded in February 2021. On a month-on-month basis, the core sub-index increased by 1.06% in March 2021. This was down by 0.15% when compared with 1.21% recorded in February 2021. The average 12-month annual rate of change of the index was 10.01% for the twelve-month period ending March 2021; this is 0.76 percent points lower than 10.77% recorded in February 2021.
The highest increases were recorded in prices of passenger transport by air, medical services, miscellaneous services relating to the dwelling, passenger transport by road, hospital services, passenger transport by road. Others include; pharmaceutical products, paramedical services, vehicle spare parts, dental services, motor cars, maintenance and repair of personal transport equipment, and hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishment.
Meanwhile, the urban inflation rate rose to 18.76%n (year-on-year) in March 2021 from 17.92% recorded in February 2021, while the rural inflation rate jumped to 17.6% in March 2021 from 16.77% in February 2021.
The galloping nature of Nigeria’s inflation is an indication of the dwindling purchasing power of Nigerians. This implies that Nigerians spent more on purchasing goods and services in the month of March, compared to February. Under this harsh economic climate, the workers take-home pay of N30,000 minimum wage surely cannot take them home.
For years Nigerian leaders have failed to prioritize workers’ welfare.
The situation has reached a ridiculous extent that payment of workers’
salary is now viewed as a favour to workers or even presented as a ‘dividend of democracy.’ Politicians now take the payment of the paltry N30,000 minimum wage as part of their achievements in office.
Yet even the World Bank has indicated the importance of workers welfare. In a World Bank paper titled, “Civil Service Pay and Rewards: What Incentives By World Bank”, the financial institution examined the
nexus between rewards and civil servants’ performance. It said that an approach being followed in some Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries is to link civil servants’ pay to the person and their performance as well as to the position.
According to the bank, in Singapore, employees receive an annual bonus – depending on the national economic growth. Chinese civil servants receive an annual bonus, but because of difficulty in assessing individual performances accurately, virtually the same amount has been paid to every person. In Thailand, 15% of officials in each grade can be awarded one extra increment for exceptional performance each year. In a recent World Bank survey, public officials in sixteen countries were asked whether they knew of any employee in their organizations who had been rewarded for good performance in the preceding twelve months. In all countries surveyed, the majority of civil servants reported not knowing any rewards for good performance.
Nigeria is among the countries that the civil servants could not identify any employee who has been rewarded for good performance. The system in Nigeria only rewards politicians at the detriment of the rest of society. Politicians are most often rewarded for their failures in governance.
If our leaders realize the importance of a well-motivated workforce, they would prioritize workers’ welfare. Satisfied employees show greater interest in their work and focus more on what they do. They are proud of the job they do and become more productive. When employees are comfortable in their offices, in a dynamic and less routine environment, they become more creative and do their best. They start thinking outside the box, opening the way to innovation that will grow the economy. When staff is satisfied they will seek to grow within the system instead of running after better job offers abroad.
A well-paid worker takes care of his immediate family and extended family, therefore a N30,000 minimum wage is not enough for the worker and all others that the money must trickle down to in Nigerian setting. Because workers salaries could not take them home, many of them have turned to corruption to make ends meet. That is why our public work places have become cesspool of corruption.
As wages continue to dwindle and workers fail in their societal responsibilities of taking care of their families and extended families, those that are left behind resort to crime and criminality, including banditry and terrorism.
Governments at all levels, individuals, and organizations that employ labour must prioritize workers welfare for increased productivity, national development and security.