$82 as new minimum wage for Nigerian workers worst in Africa as politicians squander national wealth

Nigerian workers hold placards during a demonstration outside the government house in Lagos to protest against the government’s failure to agree on a new minimum wage, on January 8, 2019. – Protesters across the country are demanding the government to increase the minimum wage to 30,000 naira (72 euro, $82) from 18,000 naira a month. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP) (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

With the proposed new minimum wage which is N30,000 ($82), per month, the average Nigerian worker earns the worst salary and wage in Africa, Naija247news reports.

Even though, Nigeria can be referred as Africa’s largest economy with a population of 200 million, many Nigerian families and workers live with $58 as a minimum wage.

Chika Maduka, a civil servant, based in FCT Abuja with a family of five finds it difficult to provide three square meals a day for his family.
Sometimes, we eat 101 meal a day, meaning breakfast in the morning, zero lunch in the afternoon and dinner at night, he tells Naija247news.
Most times I have to stay hungry all day for my children to be able to eat lunch, because proposed new minimum wage of $82 for a month job is not enough for me to pay up my children school fees, take care of my wife and also pay bills.
A times I call my brothers in the United States  and Europe to assist us, because things are not easy and food stuffs are very expensive, he said.

Kunle Adeola, who lives in Lagos and works as civil servant in one of the state govt agency, says
The monthly $58 minimum wage is not enough for him and his family of six.

I spend most of my salary on my children’s education and feeding and for the rest of the month, I have to stay hungry and hustle from friends and family members to support my self during the month.

Sometimes, my wife does some business of buying and selling to support the family. Most times me and my wife eat once a day to allow our children to eat enough and be taken care of.

‘Sensible compromise’ 
Even if it went through, a higher wage would still be modest given that a 25kg bag of rice costs nearly ₦10 000 naira.
“It is very low considering the cost of living,” Charlie Robertson, Renaissance Capital economist and Nigeria specialist said.

But attempting to do more would be unrealistic because Nigerian businesses already have high overheads, and many workers are unqualified, making a pay hike hard to justify, he said.
Nigeria’s patchy power supply is another factor undermining the competitiveness of businesses, and therefore their margin for any wage increase.
“Nigeria’s difficulty on the minimum wage is that because its electricity, literacy are less than most countries, its wages must be less too. Or it will attract no foreign investments,” Robertson said.
“N30 000 is a sensible compromise but still debatable.”
Ivory Coast, for example, has a higher minimum wage than Nigeria but its good energy network still allows it to stay competitive with its West Africa neighbours.
In contrast, electricity is almost non-existent in most of Nigeria and the literacy level of the adult population is close to 60%, a number that falls to less than 50% in the predominantly Muslim north.

Also South African recently signed the national wage bill into law, bringing the national minimum wage to 3,500 Rands or N91,225 per month. Even though second largest economy in Africa, As per hourly pay, the Act fixed the country’s minimum wage at $1.45 (N527) for every 60 minutes of human labour.

Staggering inequality 
Nevertheless, it will be hard to explain to voters that Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil exporter producing more than two million barrels per day can neither afford a modest minimum wage for its civil servants nor provide a decent level of education and infrastructure to attract investors.
Several months ago, a senator caused a scandal by revealing lawmakers’ salaries: ₦14.25-million a month with bonuses, making it one of the highest salaries of politicians in the world.
At ₦30 000, it would take 35 years for a Nigerian worker to earn what deputies make in a month, and 68 years at the current minimum wage level of ₦18 000.
Life expectancy in Nigeria is barely above 53.
There is hardly a better reflection of the staggering inequality in Nigerian society.
On the eve of a presidential election and after four years of painful recession beginning in 2016, voters are demanding accountability.
“Where are you going to find the money to pay the salaries?” asked Gbenga Omotoso, a columnist in the normally pro-government newspaper The Nation.
“Reduce these outrageous wages, force the rich to pay their taxes, pursue the corrupt and engage the economy in a real program of diversification.”

Politicians lip-talk

On the campaign trail for re-election in February, Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari may have spoken too soon when he backed an initiative to hike his country’s minimum wage by a whopping two thirds.
Buhari, who had been advised on the wage by a negotiating committee made up of union representatives, the government and the private sector, praised the “patriotic and professional” members.
The recommendation to hike the minimum wage to 30,000 naira (R1179) from 18,000 (R707) was “realistic, fair and implementable” and would be studied by the executive “within the shortest possible time”, before being returned to parliament for final approval, he said.
The unspoken agreement was that Nigeria’s unions, which had threatened to paralyse Africa’s largest economy of more than 180m people with a massive, open-ended strike, would deliver their members’ vote to Buhari in a presidential poll set for February 2019 in return for the pay hike.

Lawmakers fat pockets

The average legislators’ pay is more than 50 times Nigeria‘s GDP per capita. In a country where millions live on less than two dollars daily and minimum wage is set at $82 a month, the legislator’s bumper pay has been described as outrageous. The campaign for a cut in the National Assembly’s funds as a new government comes in is fitting as President Buhari to consider if he wants to be remembered as Nigeria’s democratic legend.

A report by The Economist magazine reveals that Nigerian federal legislators are the highest paid in the world with an annual basic salary of $189,500 (N30.6 m).

The report, quoting data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), considered the salaries of lawmakers around the world and expressed it as a ratio of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita.

It reveals that the annual salary of a Nigerian federal lawmaker at $189,500 is 166 times the country’s GDP per capita, estimated at $1,600

However, it is a symptom of the massive gap between the rich and poor in Nigeria which the figure of $1,600 as Nigeria’s per capita income conceals. The annual income of middle class professionals would range between $15,000 and $30,000, senior middle class professionals up to $60,000, while executives would typically exceed $100,000.

A Nigerian Professor of Economics at the Ekiti State University, Abel Awe, said: “This is part of the reason why 70 per cent of the nation’s budget is allocated to re-current expenditure. We are using a huge chunk of the nation’s resources to service just less than 1,000 people in a country of over 160 million people.

“We are running the costliest democracy in the world. We can’t develop this way when we spend huge money to service a few people. How will you get money for productive activities to expand the economy? An average Nigerian cannot access good medical care, good roads and other basic things of life when the legislators are smiling to the bank.

“This democracy is satanic. We have to review this democracy. The cost of maintaining the lawmakers is outrageous. What they are taking is too much.”

The Chairman of the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Monday Ubani, suggested it was time for Nigerians to take a decision whether the economy should keep supporting two Houses and whether legislators should serve on full-time or part-time basis.

He said: “This is a fact already and well known to Nigerians and the world. It is not a new story. What is baffling is that their legislative output is not commensurate to the amount of salaries and allowances they are earning.

“Take for instance, the ongoing constitution amendment. Their propositions and submissions on almost all the important clauses are at variance with that of the sovereign Nigerians. Both Houses have created a big hole on our national treasury.”

Quoting figures it obtained from the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the Naija247news reports Senators receive N35 million a year while members of the House of Representatives receive “N29.28 million in the first year of each legislative session when they receive allowances that are payable once in four years–accommodation, furniture and car allowances.

A further breakdown of RMAFC 2007 figures
…lawmakers’ allowances include accommodation (Senator N4m, Rep N3.97m), vehicle loan (Senator N8m, Rep N6.948m), furniture (Senator N6m, Rep N5.956m) and severance gratuity (Senator N6m, Rep N5.956m), which are due once in four years.
Other allowances, which are payable every year, are car maintenance (Senator N1.52m, Rep N595,563), constituency (Senator N5m, Rep N1.687m), domestic staff (Senator N1.5m, Rep N1.488m), personal assistant (Senator N506,600; Rep N496,303), entertainment (Senator N202,640, Rep N198,521), recess (Senator N202,640; Rep N198,521), utilities (Senator N607,920; Rep N397,042), newspaper/periodicals (Senator N303,960; Rep N297,781), house maintenance (Senator N101,320; Rep N99,260) and ward robe (Senator N405,280; Rep N397,402)
There are also estacode (Senator $600, Rep $550) and duty tour allowance (Senator N23,000; Rep N21,000) payable per day when a lawmaker is on official trip.