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Opinion- What NLC and TUC Got Wrong!! Way Forward

By Femi Ojikutu
The one-day virulent labour (outage) strike led by the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress was a fight for the right cause but the wrong thing. From the get-go, discerning Nigerians knew that under the administration of President Tinubu, no nation-wide strike could last longer than 3 days. President Tinubu would break their ranks and the industrial action would collapse under whatever excuse like a pack of cards in less than 72 hours. So was the case in this instance.

Nigerian do not trust this crop of Labour leaders. 99% of the time, they are jostling for their own pockets or pecuniary gains. PBAT knows that much, so do Nigerians. We all imagined that why the labour leaders insisted on proceeding with the strike action was because the government was not ‘playing ball’, hence the breakdown in negotiation. It was not about any minimum wage. If it was, how sensible is it for anyone asking the government to pay N494,000 as minimum wage?

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Did the Labour leaders do the economics of this frivolous demand? Many State governments are said not to be paying the current minimum wage of N30.000, NLC/TUC have not challenged or picketed those States but are now coming up with more egregious demand which everyone knew was unconscionable . Yes, Nigerians are hungry. Yes, there is insecurity and hyper inflation, but then, is increasing the minimum wage the solution? There are more fundamental structural economic malaise that NLC/TUC should address rather than engaging in a wild goose chase.

We know that with the harrassment and noise made so far by the Labour leaders, the government would palliate them by offering a Greek gift in form of enhanced minimum wage. Then, what next? The State Governments would start owing salaries, the Organised Private Sector (OPS) would start retrenching their employees, Small and Medium scale enterprises would be snowed under by operating costs (salaries, power, fuel, etc.), then we are back to square one. This contraption is like a circular firing squad or a revolving door. In the near future, nobody would listen to the Labour leaders again when the aftermath of their demands manifest on the citizenry.

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The most annoying part of the whole saga is when chronic politicians like Godswill Akpabio is referring to some Nigerians as economic saboteurs. Who is Nigeria Saboteur-in-Chief if not Akpabio? What moral standing does Akpabio have to comment on workers’ salaries in Nigeria?
It is Akpabio and his ilks that the NLC/TUC should have targeted. As a matter of fact, the purpose of the strike should not be increase in minimum wage to workers but decrease to minimum wage of the remuneration of all elected officials and political appointees.

In Nigeria, it is time for us to insist that all political appointees and elected officials should be on minimum wage. If any elected official or political appointee feels minimum wage would not meet their economic demands, they should look for another job. Out there, there are many Nigerians of means and integrity both locally and in diaspora willing to serve the government in various capacities with zero remuneration.

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Can anyone imagine that while the fight for a minimum wage increase was still festering, the National Assembly was alleged to be passing a law to increase the salary of judicial officers by 300%! If that is true, then we are doomed with the kind of leadership that we have. Even if that law was already in the works, its passing should have been postponed to a calmer period.
In conclusion, the next minimum wage fight should be for NLC/TUC to insist on MINIMUM WAGE FOR POLITICAL OFFICE HOLDERS AND ELECTED OFFICIALS. With that, the stage would be properly set for a sensible conversation regarding what the minimum wage or living wage should be.
Femi Ojikutu
Lawyer, Chartered Accountant and a Social Commentator

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