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RMAFC’s 114% hike in public officials’ pay triggers anger in the Labour, civil society camp

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The announcement of a 114 percent hike in salaries for public office holders by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has triggered discontent and anger in the camps of both the labor unions and civil society groups in the country.

The RMAFC review would raise the president’s monthly emoluments from N3.515 million to N8.013 million, while the Vice President, governors, and lawmakers would follow the same trajectory.

The RMAFC explained its decision to increase elected public officers’ wages to the fact that their emoluments have not been raised since 2007.

The increase is coming in the wake of the recent removal of fuel subsidies by the government of President Bola Tinubu and the ongoing negotiation by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) for an increase in civil servants’ pay.

The labor union has proposed a N200,000 minimum wage for public sector workers, but some economists have recommended around N60,000 against the current pay of N30,000.

In his response to the RMAFC announcement, the immediate past General Secretary of the NLC, Peter Ozo-Eson, dismissed the argument of 17 years of non-revision of elected public officers’ pay, noting that in 2007, the wages of the elected public officials were already among the highest in the world, which distorted the Nigerian wage structure.

He noted that the RMAFC, National Income Wages and Salaries Commission (NIWSC), and Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) have been made non-effective by the distortions, saying: “There is complete dissociation between what the RMAFC does for the so-called public officers and what the other income determination mechanisms do either through the national salaries and income wage commission or what the collective bargaining does for the rest of the public sector and the private sector.”

He held that the widening gap between what is paid to elected public servants and what is paid to civil servants has been responsible for the clamor for wage increases in the country.

While lampooning the kleptocratic nature of some Nigerian elected public officers, Ozo-Eson submitted that studies have shown that, at the level of international comparison, what is being paid to the Nigerian public officers outstrips what is paid to many other countries’ officials.

Given the harsh economic policies this government has introduced that have eroded the pay of workers significantly, raising workers’ pay was a chance to bridge the gap between elected officers and other workers in the country.

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“The situation we had was that the remunerations of elected officers were set higher than the prevailing wage structure relative to the rest of the economy. Even if we had had reviews of the minimum wage twice or more within the period, it is still far short of what those levels are, and that is what has been responsible for the continued clamor that we need to bring the salary structure into line with what is realistic.”

Proffering solutions to the intractable wage structure question, he urged the government, at all levels, labor unions, and employer bodies to develop a just and sustainable system.

“I think what needs to be done is to sit down and do a proper alignment of what the compensation for the whole economy should look like. Doing a percentage review when there is a completely misaligned structure will not address the problem. We will continue to have a situation in which elected public officers’ pay will continue to be out of alignment with the rest of the economy, and that will continue to act as a catalyst for unstable remuneration demands in the rest of the economy.”

Also, Assistant General Secretary of the NLC, Chris Onyeka, said the move was a gang-up and the height of deceit by the government against Nigerian workers.

“Looking at the base, they are increasing by 114 percent against their humongous salaries and 30,000 for civil servants. 114 percent of their base will run into millions, and if you increase the N30,000 minimum wage by 114 percent, it will increase to N65,000. That is why we are asking for an increment in quadruples. If we want to make something tangible for ourselves, the minimum wage should be around N250,000, which is about $300 monthly.

“What is $300 compared to the cost of living? We are talking about what will take Nigerian workers home. We must reduce the cost of governance to free resources.

“Governors do not need their salaries to be increased for now because they do not touch their salaries.”

First Deputy President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Tommy Okon, said the government has set a template for their negotiations and discussions for increased allowances. He said the government has set a standard, and they will follow suit.

He said by Monday when the Presidential Proposal Steering Committee would meet, labor would also review their demands and table them according to what had been submitted.

Okon, who is also the National President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), said there should be no cause for alarm or outrage, but for them to follow accordingly.

He said when the time comes for negotiations for the review of the national minimum wage, they’ll also follow suit as the government has set the template.

An economist and Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE) and former Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Indusstry, Muda Yusuf, said the government needed to look at the mood of the nation, especially what the citizens are currently going through, before making such an announcement.

He said the message Nigerians needed now was that of sacrifice.

According to him, the need to accelerate efforts on palliatives was paramount, not just for salary earners but for all Nigerians: “Something that will affect everyone, which by now the government should be announcing. Even if it has not crystallized, at least people know that something specific is on the way.”

A public affairs analyst, Jide Ojo, who said the timing for the release was insensitive, said Nigerians needed to be dispassionate about it, as the move for increment was earlier announced two years ago.

He, however, said that the action would evoke emotion from labor to protest and could make labor unions dig deep for increased allowances.

“Backdating it to January 1, 2023, is insensitive. Given the very harsh economic realities, particularly for presidents, vice presidents, and governors, Theirs should have been suspended, while that of the judicial officials should be implemented. It is a very dicey one because of political appointees’ aides, who are also positively affected by it.

“A 114 percent increment seems huge, but given the devaluation of the naira, it tends to be insignificant. What the nation needs now is affordable consumable products, affordable transportation, housing, Medicare, and education.

“With the high inflation, purchasing power has been eroded. If taken to January 2024, by then the issue of subsidy would have been resolved and the workers palliative would have also been resolved, then there can be justification to earn a bit more,” he said.

(omayowa@globalfinancialdigest.com; Newsroom: +234 8033 964 138)

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