• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

FG’s calculator, Labour’s misery and manhunt on Abia killers

Minimum wage: How not to leave pensioners behind

It has been a week of red eyes. Everybody’s eyes are red in Nigeria at the moment. While the eyes of workers are red as a result of hunger and suffering, driving the agitation for an increased minimum wage, the Federal Government’s eyeballs are like red charcoal. The dingdong between the Organised Labour and the FG, which started as an ordinary push, entered into shove on Monday. Nothing has been settled, except that Abuja cried out, begging for two days to make use of its calculator in order to be well advised. Labour is anxiously waiting on the wings of a five-day reprieve.

On the other hand, the eyes of the military are also red. Understandably though. But concerned citizens have urged the military to carry out a thorough inquest into the killings in Abia to avoid shedding innocent blood or what is called collateral damage. What a desperate, yet sobering, moment in Nigeria!

“Every day, the government complains about not having money, but its actions and inactions are causing the country financial harm on a consistent basis.”

FG pressing calculator amid Labour’s wretchedness

Last Monday, President Bola Tinubu directed the Minister of Finance, Wale Edun, to bring out his calculator to determine the fate of the Nigerian workers.

You know, the government is always smart when it comes to meeting the needs of the citizens; it is at that point that you will hear the cost implications of an additional expenditure.

But when the government wants to embark on projects where its heart is, it does it with the speed of lightning.

While the strike by organised labour was halfway, the President directed Edun to reach out to his calculator and work out the “cost implications for a new minimum wage.”

Truth be told, the Federal Government may not be able to comfortably pay the N494,000 being requested by Labour, but Organised Labour is not also oblivious to that. But the government can pay N100,000, at least!

Read also: Minimum wage: Our 494k demand is not fixated – TUC president

Since the new round of gymnastics between the NLC and the Federal Government began recently, there have been many arguments bordering on the propriety or otherwise of the Labour Party’s demand and also the Federal Government’s haggling.

While some Nigerians believe that the current economic realities in the country have made it necessary for the government to pay workers a living wage as demanded by Organised Labour, some others argue that bogus packages could worsen the rate of inflation and engender other unintended economic miasma.

Neither of the arguments is out of place. But the truth is that the government must not be bandying the excuse that higher pay could lead to inflation.

That argument is oppressive and tries to create the impression that the government is unfeeling.

As stated by Labour, it does not make any common sense (apologies to Ben Bruce) for elected public office holders to be living like kings and queens on the commonwealth whereas they pay the civil servants (the goose that lays the golden egg) peanuts.

It also goes against the law of equity that while politicians dip their fingers into the government to their satisfaction, the same politicians begin to press the calculator whenever it comes to the wages of those who toil day and night to create wealth.

It is the failure of the government to take proper actions that could grow the economy; here, that is the major problem.

Read also: Minimum Wage: Tinubu meets FG team as committee shelves talks, embarks on consultations

Every day, the government complains about not having money, but its actions and inactions are causing the country financial harm on a consistent basis.

The high level of stealing that is allegedly going on, the inability of the government to stamp out those killer elements terrorising farmers for the reason the country has been plunged into a food crisis, the free mining of mineral deposits by non-state actors despite the government’s threats, the bureaucracies that are put in the way of businesses at various government agencies and ministries, and the suffocating oversight duties of lawmakers—these and many more have continued to deny Nigeria the wealth that should be deployed for the greater good of all.

The Labour Party is crying that while the Federal Government is singing the “Nigeria is poor” tune, it is at the same time cruising at the highest level of enjoyment.

While it preaches the need for belt-tightening, its waist has grown so big and massive that the belt can no longer fit it. The ostentatious lifestyle of Abuja does not synchronise with the high level of poverty and suffering that workers are wallowing in.

Come to think of it, the N60,000 minimum wage that the government is proposing is not up to 60 dollars at the current exchange rate of N1,5000.

That amount of money is not enough to feed one person in today’s Nigeria in one month, let alone other expenses.

In the last few days, a lot of charts and tables have been inundating the social media space, conveying the salaries of the Nigerian federal legislators. In some circumstances, that could have set off civil unrest, but in Nigeria, the people are peace-loving. All they want is equity and the application of the principle of “live and let live.”

While the government preaches moderation, it is loud in its lifestyle. While it urges the citizens to tighten their belts and make sacrifices for a better tomorrow, it is embarking on projects whose real motives are opaque.

The anger of Labour seems to burn hot after obtaining the alleged salary scale of the 469 lawmakers at the National Assembly and other emoluments.

Although Labour has since scaled down its demand from N600,000 to N474,000, its leadership has pointedly told the central government to just pay a living wage considering the economic realities in the country.

What may have even riled the leadership of the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) more was the claim by the National Assembly that the strike “would have severe repercussions on the populace and economy.”

The mediation by the leadership of the National Assembly could not yield any fruit. The reason is obvious.

The Organised Labour, which had obtained what was claimed to be the bogus earnings and emoluments of senators and House of Representatives’ members, were more or less casting mischievous glances at the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and the Speaker of the House, Tajudeen Abbas, at the meeting, wondering what moral high stool they had to tell Labour not to continue in its demand of a living wage.

It was not surprising, therefore, that the meeting that lasted for hours last Sunday could not get the Labour Party to back down.

Read also: Killing of soldiers: Army threatens retaliatory attack on perpetrators in Abia

Abia killing: Let only the ‘real’ perpetrators face the music

The killing last Thursday of five soldiers somewhere in Obikabia, Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State, was condemnable. Reports had it that it was carried out by gunmen.

The Nigerian military has vowed to leave no stone unturned in the search for those who carried out the atrocious deed.

President Bola Tinubu, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, has also said that vengeance must be visited on the perpetrators. Everyone is on the same page: those who drew the innocent soldiers’ blood must pay with their own lives.

But Nigerians are against any action that could affect innocent indigenes and residents of the community where the killing took place.

This is where the need for a thorough investigation and the use of technology should come in to track down the killers and take them out of society without leaving a scratch on the community.

Some sections of the media reported a few days ago that innocent youths were being arrested in Aba. Such alleged indiscriminate arrests cannot be the way to track down the killers.

Certain schools of thought hold that the killing may not have been carried out by those alleged to have done it. It may have been sponsored from outside the state to distract the state government, which is already focused and receiving commendations for being on the right governance track.

The steps already taken by Governor Alex Otti are salutary. Not only that, he placed a $25 million bounty on the killers, but he has since visited the widows of the fallen soldiers, where he pledged to provide scholarships up to university level for all the children of the Army personnel killed.

Above all, all eyes are on the military to deploy hi-tech in the vaunted “overwhelming military pressure on the group to ensure their total defeat.”