Nigeria: Token salary increase unlikely to satisfy union demands 


Published on Monday 6 May 2024 Back to articles

Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) leader Joe Ajaero

On 1 May the government made some small concessions to the Nigerian Labour Congress’ (NLC) demand for a much higher national minimum wage but only offered a token increase which covers just a fraction of government workers. It would mainly benefit workers in the security and paramilitary agencies.  The government announced that it was increasing salaries by 25%-35% for certain categories of government workers and backdated the implementation date to January. Tinubu’s spokesman, Bayo Onanuga, said on 4 May that the increase will not apply to all government workers and is different from the minimum wage demand currently still being negotiated with the trade unions. 

On 1 May the NLC president, Joe Ajaero, dismissed the government announcement and described the move as mischievous. He disclosed that the existing monthly minimum wage law which set it at ₦18,000 (US$13) expired on 18 April but that Abuja is yet to agree on a new rate which has to be legislated. The eventual agreement must be sent to the National Assembly and passed into law before it can be implemented so the government’s unilateral move to announce a new minimum wage cannot therefore be legally binding. 

Ajaero insisted that the demand for ₦615,000 (US$437) per month as the new minimum wage is based on the current cost of living which has risen steeply since Tinubu was inaugurated. The government and trade unions are yet to settle on the new rate, but Vice President Shettima said that once agreed, it would take effect from 1 May. 

This concession to backdate it has helped curb planned demonstrations by the NLC and other unions to protest about the lack of an agreement. It also reduces the pressure on the negotiating team because they can now take their time to reach a fair deal for both the government and the civil servants without a specific timeline set for them to reach an agreement on the new wage. 

There is, however, an expectation that, because Tinubu missed 1 May to announce the new minimum wage, he will want to do so on 29 May which marks his first anniversary in office. Early signals suggest that he wants to use the date to showcase the gains his tough policies have made in the last year and give workers something to smile about on a day seen as crucial to his political perception. An agreement is therefore likely to be reached before 29 May because both sides want it to happen.

This excerpt is taken from our Nigeria Politics & Security weekly intelligence report. Click here to receive a free sample copy. Contact for subscription details.

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