Terminating the minimum wage imbroglio
Last month while visiting the post office to post letters to my friends at Abuja, the postman told me that Monday was the last day I could post letters. When I asked why, he said the post office was embarking on a strike for the non-implementation of the minimum wage agreement. So, when President Muhammadu Buhari directed the implementation of the newly approved minimum wage of N30, 000 per month, it was a welcome development. The President had ordered that all federal workers who earn below the amount be paid starting from April 18, 2019.
The Presidential order disclosed that the salary structures affected included consolidated public service salary structure, consolidated health salary structure, consolidated tertiary institutions salary structure, consolidated research and allied institutions salary structure and consolidated tertiary educational institutions salary structure. The directive said “the negotiations between the Federal Government and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council on the consequential adjustments arising from the new national minimum wage for officers who earned salaries above N30, 000 per month before April 18,2019 in the federal civil service will continue.”
The outcome of that negotiation would be implemented from the date the agreement was reached. The President also said arrears arising from implementation of the N30, 000 wage would be worked out by the concerned agencies in partnership with the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation. That statement came after a meeting between the federal government and Labour ended in a deadlock. Soon after Buhari signed the new minimum wage into law, a joint negotiating committee was set up. Up till date, no adjustment agreement has been reached.
The Trade Union Congress has threatened to embark on strike over the issue. It said government appeared not to be committed to the implementation of the new wage agreement through the non-challant attitude of its representatives. The presidential order to commence payment of certain category of workers came as a surprise. This issue of minimum wage review has dragged on for too long since the last time wages were reviewed was eight years ago in 2011. Certainly there is no reason why three months after signing the law, it is yet to be implemented.
The wage law should be implemented forthwith because of the current high cost of living and galloping inflation. For me who isn’t a civil servant, high cost of living is biting. Friends and wards have no jobs, all depend on the meagre income we are making. There is no regular electricity forcing us to use generators to power comfortable living. This takes its toll on a purse preyed upon by acquaintances, who have turned beggars because some private companies have closed shop due to inadequate power supply.
This is why the federal government has to implement the recent electrical power deal with the German electric company, Siemens. If implemented, the deal is capable of doubling Nigeria’s energy output. This will create the opportunity to jumpstart economic growth and the Buhari prosperity. According to the power sector recovery programme of the World Bank and the Nigerian government; Nigeria’s deplorable power supply costs the economy over $29.3 billion yearly. No economy thrives on generators. This is why the Siemens deal is timely. This agreement will inject $3 billion in new investments. The last time any meaningful attempt to improve power supply was 2013 when power was privatized. Now we know power privatization has failed.
Only recently, the former power minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola during the Senate ministerial screening said that the power ministry is swimming in debt and that there was no way they could surmount the challenge. Worse still, Goza in Kpanyi Community along Airport Road, in the Federal Capital Territory has not had electricity 70 years after it was founded. More than 30 residents of Goza had died this year while crossing the expressway to charge their phones in neighbouring communities.
Surprisingly, Siemens is helping the Transmission Company of Nigeria and the DisCos to improve capacity. Indeed, this is the best place to start. Our national power grid has collapsed more than a dozen times this year of which we’re just in its third quarter. Perhaps foreigners will help ameliorate corruption in the power sector, which is among the top most corrupt institutions in Nigeria according to indices just released by Transparency International. Thirty per cent of power sent to the DisCos often get lost due to dilapidated transmission lines.
Lack of investments in networking and distribution infrastructure impede how much consumers get from DisCos. However, the most critical area is in revenue collection where corruption is rampant. Hopefully Siemens will assuage our failings there. The involvement of Siemens in metering is an invaluable help to the DisCos in revenue collection which has remained below 60 per cent threshold since privatization. As I see it, lack of political will by government is impeding Nigeria’s progress. This so because government has refused to enforce performance agreements with contractors, it has failed to employ more companies in order to boost competition and hasten national prosperity.
Where were we when in 2015, Siemens signed a similar agreement with Egypt for the installation of 16 gigawatts gas plant and wind farm costing only 8 billion euros which improved power and transformed the 87 million people of Egypt into prosperity? Truth be told, government tardiness is retarding Nigeria’s progress. Power supply is crucial to economic development, without uninterrupted power supply nothing can be achieved. The Siemens deal should be pursued with utmost sincerity. We need it to drive full employment, the growth of the economy, and lift Nigerians out of poverty through rapid industrialization.
At the same time, we should decentralize and diversify the power sector by investing in renewable energy for concentrating in one power system is suicidal in a war-mongering world. There is no harm in each of the six geo-political zones having its exclusive power system. I want to put it to Buhari that inadequate power supply is impoverishing Nigerians. And that there isn’t any magic wand he might have up his sleeves in this nadir of his administration that can upstage uninterrupted power supply. Only adequate power supply can stop Boko Haram, banditry, unemployment and lift Nigeria out of poverty.
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