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November 30, 2023

Pay Workers N120,000 as decent minimum wage —Lawyer Emodamori tells Tinubu, Govs


On 27th October, 2021, the Nigerian Senate Committee on Interior approved a modest increase in the daily feeding allowance of each inmate in the Nigerian Correctional Services (formerly Nigerian Prison) from N450 to N1,000. Ironically, that translates to N30,000 per month, exactly the same official minimum wage being paid to the Nigerian workers.

A prisoner pays no rent, transport fares, electricity bills, or any other utility bills. Therefore, paying the same N30,000 approved for feeding (just feeding) each of the inmates, to a Nigerian worker with a wife and at least two children, paying annual house rent, daily transport fares, school fees, electricity bills and other utilities, and still expected to support his aged parents, is, in my candid opinion, completely unjust, and tantamount to servitude.

It is a gross violation of Article 23(3) of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides that: “Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by means of social protection.”

There is no better time to seriously interrogate what qualifies as a decent minimum wage than now that Mr. President (The Renewed Hope Chief Campaigner), the Welfarist Senate President who believes in tokenism for life enjoyment, and our exuberant Honourable Speaker, are all vowing toensure that our workers earn what they have all described as “a decent living wage”.

In fairness to this government, it appears to have inherited a quite pathetic economic situation. But Mr. President rightly said we should not pity him, since he even danced all over the country to apply for the job; and so be it. Let us not cry louder than the bereaved.

My simple submission, therefore, is that we cannot have a decent living or
minimum wage with anything worse or less than the Nigerian prisoners’

If we feed every prisoner with N1,000 daily, then a man should not feed
himself and a wife as well as two children with less than N4,000 daily (which translates to N120,000 monthly) for him and his family to enjoy just the prisoners’ portion. Would that be asking for too much? The N120,000 is just about $160, using an exchange rate of N750 to a dollar.

According to Statistical (2023), many African countries pay far higher than
the $160 as minimum wage.

Seychelles is paying $456 (N342,000) minimum wage; Libya is paying $322
(N241,000) minimum wage; Morrocco is paying $315 (N236,000); Gabon is
paying $256 (N192,000); South Africa is paying $.242 (N181,500); Mauritius is paying $240 (N180,000); and Equatorial Guinea is paying $200 (N150,000). There are all African countries.

The current N30,000 minimum wage in Nigeria translates to an abysmal
$40. That, to me, is nothing but a slave wage. The official revelation we now have, is that the value of the gold being
plundered and smuggled out of Nigeria with private jets by some private businessmen who pay virtually nothing in tax, is about $10billion or
N7.5trillion annually.

The data obtained from the budget implementation report of the Federal
Government also states that our annual personnel cost in 2022 was N4.11trillion.

That means the value of gold (just gold) being illegally plundered from Nigeria annually may be enough to triple our current minimum wage to N90,000 ($120), and that would still be lower than the N150,000 ($200) being paid by Equatorial Guinea, the least of the above listed seven African countries.

In fact, earlier today, the National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, was quoted in the national dailies to have confirmed that Nigeria is still losing about 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily to local and international thieves, despite the government’s efforts to curtail the menace. At $76 per barrel, that would be $30,400,000 daily. Using an exchange rate of N750 to a dollar, it would be N22.8billion daily. In 365 days, that would be over N8trillion.

So, the value of the gold and crude oil being stolen in Nigeria annually alone
could conveniently catapult our minimum wage to N180,000, apart from leakages through theft of other natural resources, and the “fantastically corrupt” system in Nigeria (to borrow the May 2016 notorious phrase of David Cameron, former UK Prime Minister).

No Nigerian worker and members of his family deserves, in aggregate, anything less than the daily feeding allowance of each prisoner. Otherwise, we may be consciously or unconsciously saying that the whole nation is no better for our workers than a big ‘prison’, with our political leaders acting as Warders and/or Chief Superintendents.

In that case, perhaps our national identity registration is nothing but prisoners’ smug shots, and curtailing the ‘Japa’ syndrome and its adverse economic effects, including brain drains, may be nothing other than a
fruitless effort to prevent some massive jailbreaks.

We have too much anger, anguish, dissatisfaction, disenchantment and
disillusionment in our nation today. People are hungry and angry. There is an urgent need for us to assuage their despondency by paying them a decent and realistic living wage, which cannot in any way, be less than our own prisoners’ feeding template.

Barr Femi Emmanuel Emodamori
(Akure Based Lawyer)
(27th August, 2023)

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