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MINIMUM WAGE FOR MAXIMUM RESPONSIBILITIES BY OMILO

At long last, President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the minimum wage bill into law as passed by the National Assembly. Going through the press report on the matter, it appears that the government has removed the issue of 25 or 50 threshold that was proposed by the National Assembly last year and as has been in existent respectively. If the content of this law is not further expatiated, it means that it is applicable to all categories of employers in Nigeria. This is unlike in the past when only those having 50 or more employees were duty-bound to comply with the minimum salary rule.

The successful enforcement of this law calls for maximum responsibility from all levels of government, private organizations and individuals desiring to engage the services of employees in Nigeria. And these include private schools, trading outfits and one-man service organizations that hitherto paid an average of fifteen thousand naira (N15,000) as monthly salary to University graduates irrespective of their post-graduation years of experience.

The President of the United Labour Congress (ULC), Comr. Ajaero is of the view that even if the minimum wage act as amended is only able to accommodate a threshold of 25, it will still be a welcome development as it represents a departure from the past when it was 50 threshold. But according to a  taxation expert and a senior lecturer at the Delta State Polytechnic, Oghara, Dennis Agboma (a.k.a Professor Denco),

Ordinarily, no organization would want to pay less than an appropriate wage to an employee whose contributions to the workplace is vital to the accomplishments of set goals. But unfortunately, our economic environment is so hostile that employers of labour outside government have to play all possible “tricks” to survive the torture of the wicked social forces in our society. They have to contend with acts such as pilfery, stealing, embezzlement, lazy attitude to work, overbearing attention to weekly social functions, to mention but a few.

Since our independence in 1960, only few indigenous companies like the Nigerian Tribune founded by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1949 and Punch Newspapers have survived beyond the life span of their founders. Most these dead companies were killed by hash , unfriendly policies of government and fraudulent attitude of company employees.

For these reasons, the 2019 minimum wage act offers an opportunity for all employees, governments at all levels and the private sector employers to live up to the maximum responsibilities occasioned by the current minimum wage.

On the part of government, necessary enabling environment for businesses to strive well enough to accommodate the N30,000 minimum wage has to be created. The current epileptic electric power supply in Nigeria does not encourage private sector participation in our economic system.

Nigeria observes too many formal and informal work-free days. Gone were the days when factories were opened for production on Saturdays and Sundays. Today, Fridays have almost become holidays due to social functions in Southern Nigeria and Moslem religious service in the North. A nation that her economy is shut down frequently for one reason or the other cannot certainly maintain a healthy work force and a stable sustainable economic system.

As a country, the government, traditional institutions and every patriotic individual must join hands to “overhaul” our social value system which embraces the celebration of easy wealth acquisition with little or no input to the economic system. We cannot afford the risk of remaining a nation of fraudsters and kidnappers who are succeeding in preventing foreign investors to do business with us and yet are accorded the highest forms of honour and recognition in the society. The effect of get-rich-quick syndrome on Nigerian youths is so devastating that many young people are no longer interested in hard work.

Our economy must be diversified to make room for other means of generating income for government instead of relying heavily on the export of crude oil.

It is faulty for Nigeria to only collect taxes from government and a few companies’ workers. In other countries, appropriate taxes and levies are placed on properties and social activities. These go a long way to shoring up the internally generated revenues of those nations.

The earlier we embraced production of goods in Nigeria instead of trading on imported ones, the better it will be for an economy that wants to sustain a progressive minimum wage that all the citizens can be proud of.

Skill acquisition should take the centre stage in our education sector instead of the current pursuit of certificates that are not backed up by competence.

The social security system has a role to play in ensuring that adequate welfare scheme is put in place for all citizens at old age irrespective of the size and nature of organizations through which they offered their services to their father land as members of the working population.

Many entrepreneurs are prevented from executing their social responsibilities, including payment of adequate salaries by lack of access to friendly loans and other supports from government. As a matter of fact, if private firm owners are reasonably encouraged by banks and policy makers, the pressure on government to provide jobs for the youths will be drastically reduced.

Above all these, the Nigerian worker must understand that he is the reason for the minimum wage act. No investor takes loan from banks to do business and yet dispense wages as a mere social welfare package. Those who earn salaries in government offices without justifying their salaries are part of the causes of Nigeria’s economic woes. The new salary scheme therefore, should also be seen by all as a call for maximum sense of responsibility.

 

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