Minimum Wage Palaver: What Nigerians Say

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It is not in doubt that the recently suspended warning strike organised by labour in the country saved the nation substantial money considering reports from financial experts across the country.

Nonetheless, current uncompromising stance of labour to go all out on a nationwide strike this time around without warning in less than a week’s time, could well be likened to an economic time bomb waiting to explode. Some Nigerians think that if the impending strike is not averted, it might heighten the existing insecurity situation in the country.

For Emere Mgbere, managing director, Apollo Guest House, Port Harcourt, the negative economic implications on both small and medium scale industries would not be palatable.

“If this strike is allowed to go on, definitely people would stay at home and nobody will come out. Mgbere who is into hospitality business fears that in the event of any nationwide strike, his business would suffer, as he said he could not imagine his losses.

“Most of the people who patronize us are workers who go to work, and at break time just pull out, come around drink, eat, relax and before you know it, the market is moving and at the end of the day you smile to the bank.

“If this strike is allowed to take place, definitely people would stay at home and nobody would want to come out. Even people who have money would not want to spend it anyhow if the strike eventually takes place”.

On the other hand, Mr. Mgbere is of the view that so far no Nigerian government has shown sincerity in its dealings with the people and workers in particular and described the government as not being forthright.

“In all honesty, I must say that the government of this country can best be described as a wicked sort of irresponsible people because if you sit back and look at how things are run or managed in this country, none of them cares about their credibility”.

He was of the view that N18,000 was a mere pittance as far as the life styles of most of the governors were concerned and frowned at the claim by some state governors that they could not pay.

“What is N18,000. It is nothing. It’s what I feel and know they can comfortably pay and even more than that. You begin to see where government is wicked and insincere when they are supposed to plan and cater for the people, make sure there is law and order in the society, convenient business environment and enhance economic growth and wellbeing of the citizenry”.

He further advised government to always keep its part of any bargain in order to gain the confidence of the people, not only workers but the international community as well.

Wondering how government would go into discussion and agree with organised labour in a matter that was already an Act of Parliament and then midway turn around as if they wanted to scuttle their part of the bargain was an act of insensitivity on the part of government, Mr. Mgbere posited.

“Imagine where you have a state governor collecting N6.5 billion naira annually for his security vote. What is he securing, and yet in that state you have the highest crime rate. You collect N6.5 billion for four years and it amounts to N26 billion”. This was made known by a new governor from another party who took over in a state, Mr. Mgbere added.

“How much is the wage bill of such a state. So you begin to imagine how this same governor  would have been crying too that oh, government cannot pay.

“In fact it is commendable that the present governor in question has cut down the security vote from N6.5 billion to N2.5 billion to enable him fulfill some campaign promises. Therefore, if the government on its part continues in its insincerity to the people, then warning strikes and even indefinite ones will abound in the future”.

For Mr. Reuben Vincent of the Rivers State Post Primary Schools Board, Labour on its part should not have suspended the warning strike since, according to him, that was the only language the government of this country understood.

“The warning strike could have been embarked upon by organised labour because of the insincerity of the government.

You know, the new minimum wage bill has been passed into law but the governors’ forum were able to sit and try to dribble the system. Since it has been passed into law, there is the tendency for them to implement it.”

Mr Vincent explained that the government took advantage of labour because after the president had signed the minimum wage bill act into law, labour believed whole-heartedly that government would implement it. He, however, praised labour for suspending the warning strike which has gone a long way in  not placing it in a position of playing to the gallery.

“It is good they suspended the strike in the sense that the nation’s economy, the banking sector and other governmental agencies would have been paralysed.

“The cost of goods and services is high and this situation is affecting the average worker and it was for this reason that labour believed all along that government will pay. So now that the warning strike has been suspended because of the agreement reached between labour and government, we pray that the agreement, would be respected by government.

“That is to say five months arrears will be paid and if the Federal government fails to implement this new agreement then labour will have no option left than to resume the strike which will be indefinite. They should not give labour the opportunity to go on strike because it will surely cause the president and the nation embarrassment”.

For Chima Austin Iwuala, a student of the Rivers State Polytechnic, Bori, the strike would have made the people in Abuja uncomfortable and urged the government to settle with the workers amicably.

“I will say the strike would have definitely affected the economy because workers will not go to work and you know what it means. It would hamper the production of people over there (Abuja), therefore I advise the government not to fail in the new agreement reached so far.

For Bisi Olaiya who sells meat at the Mile One market, it was all thanks to Allah as he says the last time there was strike, he lost a large quantity of meat as he was forced to sell at give away prices.

“I thank Allah. I bought one cow lap then. If workers went on strike, I wonder how I would sell the meat. I lost a good quantity of meat the last time there was strike, because I sold it anyhow. I Pray there should be no more strike in our country because only the poor man will suffer it”, he added.

In all, since labour is not relenting in making good their resolve to resume the suspended strike action should government renege on on the part, the question on the lips of most Nigerians now is the consequences, such labour action would have on the economy, as well as the security of the nation.