Empowering Nigeria’s Workforce: A Temporary Boost in Minimum Wage?

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By Emem Ekanem

In the last five (5) years, the minimum wage of thirty thousand Naira (₦30,000) per month has been the law in Nigeria. This adjustment came into effect in 2019 after prolonged negotiations between the Nigerian Labor Unions and other stakeholders.

The increase in the minimum wage in Nigeria was a big deal when the decision was reached. It was a boost for a lot of workers, especially those in low-income sectors like retail, basic services, etc.

That is not a huge amount considering the cost of living, but many argued that it was a step in the right direction. But many people still struggle to make ends meet, especially in bigger cities. The cost of living varies greatly depending on where you are in the country. In places like Lagos or Abuja, thirty thousand Naira (₦30,000) will most likely not stretch as far as it would in smaller towns.

As Nigeria marked her 63rd Independence Day anniversary on Sunday, the 1st of October, 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu offered a temporary increase of twenty-five thousand Naira (₦25,000) in the minimum wage for low-income workers. The president announced this during a nationwide broadcast in Abuja, stating that the increment was part of efforts to alleviate the hardship resulting from fuel subsidy removal. According to the president, the provisional wage increment will be paid to workers for the next six (6) months.

In his words, he stated; “Based on our talks with labor, business and other stakeholders, we are introducing a provisional wage increment to enhance the federal minimum wage without causing undue inflation. For the next six months, the average low-grade worker shall receive an additional twenty-five thousand Naira (₦25,000) per month.”

This temporary measure will see the national minimum wage for Federal Government workers rise from Thirty thousand Naira – ₦30,000 (approx. $32) to Fifty-five thousand Naira – ₦55,000 (approx. $71) over the period of time stated by the President.

The President also reiterated his administration’s commitment to relieving the hardship faced by Nigerians, adding that various measures had been taken by all tiers of government to mitigate them. According to him, efforts are being taken by the government to touch all aspects that would impact directly on the lives of Nigerians to ease the pain of the new economic reforms.

This announcement came just two days before major labor unions are due to begin an indefinite strike on 3rd October 2023 in protest against the rising cost of living.

Following President Tinubu’s entrance into office in May, he ended a long-standing fuel subsidy and liberalized the Nigerian Naira in a bid to attract more foreign investment. His government stated that the reforms were necessary to revive the declining Nigerian economy. But with inflation currently standing at twenty-five percent (25%) and prices of fuel soaring, citizens of Nigeria are seriously struggling to make ends meet.

The increment of the minimum wage announced on Sunday is less than what Nigerians hoped for, as this monthly wage falls short of the Two hundred thousand Naira – ₦200,000 (approx. $260) demanded by the unions. The Nigerian President Tinubu, during his address, made no reference to the looming indefinite strike by the unions, which is due to begin on Tuesday, 3rd October 2023.

The people are hanging on to hope, though, as they continue to push for further improvements and adjustments to keep up with the country’s ever-changing economy. After all, a fair wage lays the foundation for a healthy and thriving workforce.


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