New Wage: When The Dew Can No Longer Quench Thirst
Workers in Nigeria are celebrating another May Day amidst shrinking salaries, uncertainty in the market value of what they presently earn. The economy is unpredictable just as their future as workers cannot be guaranteed on account of present economic reality caused by dwindling fortunes in oil revenue.
Curiously, no state in Nigeria has been able to fund its wage bill. An abysmal gap which is indeed a very repugnant situation. Presently, states are on bailouts. Interestingly even the bailouts have not helped much. State workers are being owed in more than 27 states.
There is no state in Nigeria without an Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) program. Lagos state has a well-planned IGR system and it is on record that as at 2014 it generated up to N276.16bn (still rising), ahead of Rivers and Delta which generated N89.11b and N42.82b respectively.
Lagos has a huge business hub and may not really be a good reference point for other states with weaker prospects like Borno, Yobe, Zamfara, Ekiti and Kebbi, generating N2.8b, N3.1b, N3.2b, N3.5b and N3.7b respectively.. The point to note is the way and manner IGR's are collected and remitted.
If states manage the way and manner revenue is collected, what they are presently collecting will quadruple and would be more than enough to pay workers salaries. Once Nigerians are asked to pay revenues directly to dedicated government accounts without a third party, the difference will leave many drooling.
Corruption, laziness and laidback attitude of governors and lack of political/administrative will have brought Nigerian government at all levels to this precipice. Over a period of years of decay, the economic situation is worsening. Soon there will be no money left to pay workers.
Most states in the country have vast arable lands, mineral resources to sustain viable economic growth without crude oil revenue from the center. Corruption, laziness, lack of willpower has continued to choke developmental strides in the country.
The system Nigeria operates only favors the rich. The poor are forced to accept their fate, doomed to keep them perpetually poor with little or no will to correct the surging lopsided situation pelted at them by their leaders.
The present economic reality appears to be over played up as politicians are beginning to hide behind it to deny the hapless civil servant of his due. In Cross River, governor Ayade shocked workers when he paid May salaries on workers day. In Edo state, Oshiomhole demystified his colleagues when he increased minimum wage to N25,000.
The action of this two governors clearly expose the sycophancy of many governors. Though Oshiomhole is deceptive and desperate publicity stunt. He has less than five months to vacate office. Why didn't he go for a raise earlier. With the amount of money the state is owing, he has simply tied the noose around the neck of his successor.
Presently 27 states of the federation are finding it difficult to pay salaries yet more than 21 former governors and deputy governors are paid salaries from their states/pensions and at the same time receiving salaries/allowances as Senators or Ministers.
For the governors asking for extra bailouts, they should be asked to publicly account for the first one, then mandated to present a marshal plan for economic strategy on how to sustain their states through realistic strategies. They must also cut excesses, which must include unnecessary allowances, unscrupulous privileges and of cause, double salaries of former governors and their deputies.
The change era must address the slave wage. If prisoners in Nigeria can enjoy free medical bills, free accommodation, free utility bills and enjoy free meal amounting to N27,000 monthly, then N56,000 minimum wage peg is not out of place in the light of the present economic hardship.
It is indeed instructive to stress that Japan, South Korea, Italy, Hong Kong, Singapore, Belgium, Switzerland and Taiwan have been able to compete respectably among largest economies in the world with little or no natural resources, Nigeria must rise above its limitations.
Therefore, aside the need to diversify the economy, to contain the looming wage rage, there is need to adopt a major repositioning of the economy to generate more revenue, create more jobs and promote better welfare for its citizens.
It is therefore imperative to intimate that higher government wages will raise the cost of job loss due to corruption. It will also give government employees impression they are being 'fairly' treated. It will indeed make the change mantra implementable and the task of growing back Nigeria to its rightful position easier.
Once a civil servant is happy with a good wage, it is most likely to decrease the urge to be corrupt. It will also attract better employees to government and prevent qualified government workers moving to the private sector, thus improving the government's ability to control corruption and grow the economy.
Civil servants have endured the good, the bad and ugly administrations. Even the best administrations, Nigerian workers are at the rock bottom of the food chain. They work like elephants and forced to eat like ants. Now the change mantra has educated the proletariats, they will certainly insist on their rights.
Nigeria's mono-economy, corruption, administrative impunity has left the country's economic fortunes at the brinks as cost of government soar without cognizance to principle and practice of cost effectiveness.
Nigeria must therefore address its abysmal recurrent expenditure. The resultant negative implication of high recurrent expenditure is the paucity of funds for capital development. Good thing our president is addressing that aspect already.
I am optimistic Nigerian government has learnt from its mistake of gambling with a single economic focus. Everything was tied to oil. With the abysmal crash and attendant consequence, no reasonable government at the center or state level will ever depend on a single source of revenue.
Written by Israel A. Ebije.