The war of the slaves: Seeking freedom from the Nigerian greedy elites

Tony Abolo

Up till Tuesday (4/06/2024) the Labour Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) stuck to their guns in the ongoing negotiations with the unserious Federal Government in its treatment of the workers welfare.

They insisted that that a little addition to the N60,000 (equivalent to $39) being proposed by the Federal Government negotiators was unacceptable.

Nigerians can only hope that in this crucial battle which should be termed a fight of the serfs and slaves, the down trodden, ill- treated and abused Nigerian public servants against the greedy and rapacious State captors, under the guise of political elites, who pretended to want to be called political leaders that the workers win their oppressors.

The workers as their representatives approached the negotiation table had stated an either or nothing position. It was initially either a N494,000 per worker as minimum wage or nothing.

The figure was not an abstraction. It was well calculated between the inflation reality of today and what can minimally sustain a paid worker in Nigerian of today, given transport, Rental Feeding allowance, school fees, clothing expenses at today’s inflation rates. It was felt that N494,000 was what was passable as adequate for a public servant.

As expected, the Executive was quick to say that if that was to pass, that would impose a N9.5 trillion burden on the economy. The workers were incensed at such a facile argument given the list of unexplainable and insensitive wastes in the system.

The NLC workers representation decided to shut the state; a move the Attorney General said was illegal. The workers would have none of such laughable moves. What was illegal?

It should be the corruption and abuse of privileges of power by the political elite. Yet, the NLC negotiators what was the burden to the economy was not the workers demand but the profligacy and outrageous self-help by the so-called leaders.

Fancy a rumoured N814 billion spent on the old and new national anthem, a 300% pay rise for judges (hush money?), 30 Governors spending N968 billion on refreshments in three months, the President and the Vice President spending N8.64 billion in 3 months in travels.

In addition, N20.1 trillion borrowed from local investors by the Federal Government, N160 million spent on SUVs for legislators amounting to N98 trillion. This figure excludes their salaries and allowances, a N15 trillion awarded to Lagos/Calabar Coastal Road contract with near 3 trillion paid out on the first two phases and N2.4 billion already paid out as compensation and another N7 billion to be paid out on the Coastal road for compensation – The list is a catalogue of wasteful expenditure, for a Country that loves a binge of expenditure, with no savings culture and worse still with no major manufacturing and no productivity industries.

It is bad enough that Total energies just moved a $6 billion investment away from Nigeria to Angola, P&cussons is on its way out and the company that makes “Huggies” for kids and Kimberly Clark Company, have closed shop, all due to the floatation of the Naira, exchange rate and the high cost of doing business in Nigeria.

Some comparisons would exemplify. The actionable case of the Federal Government. The National Assembly budget has risen from N2.2 billion in 1999 to N344.7 in 2024.

American Senators earn $174,000. Ghanaian Senators earn $46500, Nigerian Senators earn $2,1836.85. Where is it heard of that a country’s CBN Governor can be accuse of malfeasance and a court will order a forfeiture of N11.4 billion as in the case of Godwin Emefiele?

Nigeria’s President in 1979 earned N50,000 a year, the Vice President N30,000 a year, the Head of Service N16,000, Ministers N16,000, Senate President N22,000.00. Such was the modesty and prudence years back.

Today, the political class revel in waste, a carefree attitude and with no sense of fiscal responsibility. A final comparison would take the winds out of the sails of Nigerian leaders and politicians.

Gabon pays its workers N376,500 for month. Guinea pays N323,878. Does Nigeria still have any excuses not to accede to the N494,000 demand of the workers?

Agreed that such a payout could induce massive inflation, but then where to start is with the political class climbing down from their high horses and accepting that this is a poor Country. So, the President and everybody in the political class must lead by example.

Governments should cut down on all allowances and salary by at least 70%. Do we need a bicameral legislature? Should Parliamentarians not be on part time as they cannot justify what they earn with the level of work and productivity we get to see.

No one leader should live above their people. If they truly went as representatives of the people, there is no justification for the immoral financial gap between them and the people they claim they represent.

The N100, 000.00 new minimum wage being bandied as a possible compromise may be a starting point. But there must be a hard cast in stone agreement when the next round of negotiations must take place. Besides, the political class must be ready to make the highest exemplary conduct, by commiting “class suicide”, sacrificing in the name of the people by taking a 70% pay cut.

What is prevalent now is unconscionable. It is that, that would assuage the anger in the land, as what is on now is a huge divide between, the over have, the hardly have, and the will never have.

Unless there is a re-alignment, the situation will only be calling for anarchy, a Venezuelan or Zimbabwe riots. Can Nigeria withstand that?

Nigerians know in all these, the organized private sector has not been factored in, even though we hear they are willing to settle for N60,000 as a minimum wage.

But, what about the private, private sector? This one man shop? The one man business? Our parting shot would be to say, this round of negotiations may look a good amount of sabre rattling and muscle flexing.

Instead of getting to this point of a national decay and inflation, why does the NLC not strike over Corruption, Poor Governance, Poor Electricity, Electoral Frauds and Wastages in the system and Contract at all levels of government? It is then NLC will be relevant.

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