Pay Workers Higher Salaries By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde


This article proffers that paying workers a minimum and living wage is the best way to stimulate economic growth, eradicate poverty and revive our industries. To find the new minimum wage, wasteful pathways of government expenditure should be stopped while labour concedes that payrolls be cleansed of redundant, lazy and incompetent workers. Millions of additional jobs are needed in schools, hospitals, military and law enforcement. A minimum wage of N100,000 - N120,000 is suggested.


Citizens of nations are enriched through the services they offer. Whether as contractors or public servants, they are the conduits through which the wealth of the nation is distributed. Of all the channels, the worker is the closest to the generality of the people. He spends his earnings on the necessaries of life, from the products of PZ to the daddawa of the housewife. Within two weeks, the wage he earned is distributed in the society, supporting productivity and spurring growth of industries of Lagos to the households of Baga.

You may liken the worker to the heart and equate money with oxygen. No matter the amount of oxygen captured by the lungs, it cannot be transported to the cells of the body without sending it to the heart first, which then pumps it to every organ, tissue and cell of the body. If the pump is weak, as the worker is today with almost zero liquidity, cells of the body, from brain to feet, become anaemic and paralysed.

To strengthen the worker is to strengthen the heart of the nation. It is the most efficient way of distributing wealth and nothing can spur our local markets and businesses like enriching him with sufficient living wage. To starve him of money is to starve the heart of oxygen and by extension starving the nation. If the worker is poor, the citizens are poor. If the heart stops, the body dies.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the nation is sinking deeper into poverty since the minimum wage started to fall short of the living wage, a gap which increases with every wave of inflation. The worker and ordinary citizens facing starvation are forced to bridge the deficit by illegitimate earnings from public coffers. The ordinary citizen—in the absence of viable businesses—turns to crime, including heinous ones like robbery, banditry and kidnapping. This is what has denied us the “peace and plenty” envisaged by our founding fathers in the independence national anthem.


Economists fancy the idea of elaborate infrastructure projects to stimulate economic growth. Housing and transport are the preferred candidates for the role. They do a bit in the sense that they provide jobs to some labourers and buy off some industrial products, but not as good wages do with their huge turnover of workers and the elaborate coverage of their effect. After all, the wage component of infrastructure project is tiny compared to the billions of Naira that go to overseas bound materials and profits. That is why poverty continues to increase despite the number of flyovers and roads built in the states.

I suggest that governments cut down their ambition on infrastructure. Build moderate roads like the good highways of the 1970s, not today’s multibillion per-kilometre dual carriage roads, unless where necessary. Let it also work on the bad habit of over-invoicing these projects. Taming these ambitions and waste can feed workers’ wages which will trickle down instantly to the rest of the population.


Another pathway of wealth distribution are the direct social interventions promoted by the World Bank especially, a body that has never argued for any increase in wage of the worker. Billions are purportedly disbursed into the bank account of a number of citizens in the name of empowerment and poverty alleviation. This poverty inducing initiatives undermine growth as they encourage corruption, indolence and waste. We are witness to the scandals that wrecked each of these programs since their debut in the early 2000s.

Why would not government take the equalitarian, conventional and natural route of living wages such that every productive citizen gets the fair reward for his labour as a labourer or producer of a product which workers would buy? Government can call off these wasteful initiatives and channel the money to workers and the poverty it craves to wipe off the faces of its citizens will disappear almost instantly.

This idea will not be welcome by the beneficiaries of the largess: the leadership of the distributing—or thieving—agencies and the indolent citizens that receive the cash.

I agree that the needy among the old, the physically challenged and victims of disaster and crises can receive direct cash interventions but it must not be at the expense of the worker whose services are essential in managing the nation from offices, hospitals and schools to the lethal battlefields of Borno, Zamfara and Niger Delta.


Financing living wages will also require a review of wages among public servants. From the salaries, gratuity and pension of governors, ministers, legislators and their profligate privileges, a lot can be axed and distributed to ordinary workers. We citizens are sick of their shameless pillage and outright thievery which make us a laughing stock even among our peers in the developing world.

Peg the salary and privileges of a senator to that of a permanent secretary, and for member of state of federal House to that of a director in the civil service. That will detoxify the public service of the incompetent and glutinous army of parasites that has occupied our leadership stratum. This must be done at the slightest chance for constitutional review. Money saved from this waste can go directly to pockets of workers from where it will instantly flow to the public as they flood our local markets for necessaries.


True, the complaints of too many workers especially at the local government and state levels hold water. However, I will argue here that we need more workers in some areas now, especially in schools, hospitals, police and the military. We will require not less than a million each of the last two, along with the equipment essential to secure our peace. The story of retrenchment may sound distasteful to labour but it must accept to come to

equity with clean hands. No sane person will tolerate a payroll stuffed with ghost workers, children and redundant, lazy or incompetent staff and expect a meaningful pay by government.


Labour is insisting on the ridiculous amount of N470,000 or so as minimum wage. This makes them sound unserious and laughable. Government is offering N60,000, about double of the previous wage. But if we factor in the level of inflation and the strength of government revenue, a figure around N100,000 and above can be a compromise position for the salary of GL 01 worker. That will put a graduate of GL 08 at about N200,000, less than the equivalent of the NYSC allowance we received in 1982 and half of our starting salary as graduate assistants then.

Military, law enforcement agents and graduate judicial officers should start from nothing less than N300,000. And if they are at the war front, they deserve additional, equally handsome allowances.

Some, especially the Governors, will argue that my figure is not reasonable. I will agree that it is too high only if the ongoing waste I condemned in the previous paragraphs would continue. Without discipline and prudence, even the N60,000 minimum wage is beyond the coffers of many states.

Lastly, salary is designed for a worker with one wife and maximum of four children, interspersed in age. The worker responsible for four wives, dozens of children and relatives is a bioproduction machine and social insurance company, a kleptomaniac who even a minimum wage of N470,000 will not prevent from complaint and looting public treasury. Tam!


We need to raise the wages of our workers and restraint government from following the many existing wasteful pathways of expenditure. Workers on their part must prove their mettle by improving the quality of their services and concede to cleansing payrolls of redundant, incompetent ghost and lazy workers by governments. A minimum wage between N100,000 and N120,000 per month is recommended. That is the equivalent of my salary when, fresh from secondary school, I was employed as a primary school teacher in 1978.

By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Kudin Nijeriya

Post a Comment