By Leonard Karshima Shilgba
I understand that the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) says the minimum wage for Nigerian workers should be fixed at N30, 000 a month. I have a different take on this:
1. When the minimum wage was set at N18,000 a month by a PDP government, in comparison to the US dollar (USD) in which both Nigeria’s foreign reserves and GDP are denominated, the minimum wage was more than USD 110. Today, in dollar terms, this minimum wage is less than USD 50. The NLC is now asking for a national minimum wage of N30, 000, or less than USD 85, which is more than USD 20 less than what it was pre-Buhari. I ask, is the NLC taking Nigerian workers to the “next level” or to the “death level” ?
2. When the Buhari government devalued the naira by more than 100% (i.e. from about N170 to N360 to one US dollar) it was obviously intended to give governments in Nigeria (federal, state, and local) more naira per earnings in dollars on a barrel of crude oil. For example:
(a) Whereas Buhari government could not pay the minimum wage of one employee with USD 100 before the fantastically weird devaluation, now, with only USD 100, it can pay the minimum wage of two employees! In other words, Buhari government has reduced its personnel wage bill by half! What an achievement for the government and mischief against the Nigerian worker!
(b) Whereas pre-devaluation capital budget votes were less than N2 trillion, post-devaluation capital budget under Buhari exceeds N2 trillion! Great achievement, isn’t it? Except that this is less than N1 trillion of pre-Buhari era! This argument also can be used, and has been used by the Buhari Campaign, against the claim that Buhari government has almost doubled the national debt from N11.2 trillion pre-2015 to current N22.3 trillion (and counting). The argument is that while Buhari, in dollar terms, added only about USD 31 billion in less than 4 years, in 7 years (i.e. between 2007 and 2014), the PDP governments added more than USD 60 billion.
3. I would propose that, since the Nigerian economy is closely tied to the US dollar, so much that officially, some allowances/benefits for some Nigerian public officials are quoted in US dollars, the NLC should demand that the national minimum wage be quoted in dollars (e.g. pre-Buhari USD 100) and paid in naira. Similarly, all public-sector wages should be quoted in US dollars, but paid in naira. This may be a disincentive to the disingenuous temptation by government to devalue the naira in order to create artificial increases in the volume of naira at its disposal.
Furthermore, the dollar inflows to the federation account should be shared out to the three beneficiaries (federal, state, and local governments) without first converting to naira.
I have seen a long list of ills and deficiencies abounding in public universities in Nigeria, which are intended to justify ASUU’s current strike. I say that ASUU has a hand in creating those. Many of the Vice Chancellors of those universities are ASUU members, some of whom embezzle university funds under various dubious schemes in collaboration with ASUU members serving as Deputy Vice Chancellors, School/Faculty Deans, Department Chairs, Unit Heads, etc.; ASUU members are the ones that frustrate graduate students from getting PhDs in good time; ASUU members are the ones that recruit mercenaries (who themselves are ASUU members) to pose as lecturers during accreditation visitations by NUC (that is run by former Vice Chancellors; NUC is now called the graveyard of former Vice Chancellors); ASUU members are the ones that force students to buy “handouts/books” against their will, but if they wish to “pass the courses”; ASUU members are the ones that sexually harass students. Doesn’t the NUC know about these?
ASUU cannot successfully pretend to care for Nigerian students, who can narrate better their ordeals at the hands of some ASUU members if they are not afraid of backlash. ASUU is complaining of “inadequate funding” of public universities. How do you explain a situation where more than N22 billion has been invested in less than 7 years in a federal university, and it is still operating from a “temporary campus”, with no access road to the “main campus”, which has less than six (6) completed blocks? Why is ASUU against bringing of university staff under the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS)? Wage billing corruption shall be exposed if IPPIS is implemented. I urge boldness on the part of government.
To appreciate my proposals on fixing Nigeria’s education, read my series on Re-engineering Nigeria’s Education Sector, Nigeria’s Education Reform, and On Buhari and Corruption in Nigeria’s Education Sector. I may start re-posting them, but they are available online for the interested reader.
I am disappointed that Buhari government, in almost 4 years, has failed to show capacity to fix Nigeria’s Education Sector. Sure, it has problems, but ASUU is not the solution. It is part of the problem.