For quite a while, the Nigerian Labour Unions have now taken up the Federal Government on how to improve the salary scale of workers in the country. Till now, there seems to be no headway over the issue. Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Barr. Joseph Bamigboye however speaks with our JUDICIARY CORRESPONDENT, KAYODE ADEOTI on the issue among others. Excerpts:
The government, private bodies, labour unions are yet to arrive at a certain amount for new minimum wage, what do you consider as the way out?
The years of military rule has tailored and orientated our minds towards unitary system otherwise, minimum wage supposed to be decentralised in a true Federalism. That’s why people are talking about fiscal federalism, that is, State, Federal and other agencies, departments, ministries must cut their cloth not according to their sizes but according to their cloth. The idea of minimum wage is a fall out of military rule mentality. We’re in a situation where N18,000 is no longer realistic. I understand that the labour union is proposing N30,000, private N24,000 and state N20,000. Now state government said it will pay N24,000. The N18,000 has been with us for a long time, after these years, what could be added to the money, having regards to the exchange rate, is just N2000. There is a difference between a minimum wage and a barely existing wage. Government should pay people meaningful living wage. Though there is nothing you give workers that will be enough but having regards to the inflation rate, exchange rate and the situation of things in the country, N25,000 may not be realistic. But we need to be careful so that we don’t escalate prices unnecessarily and at the end, the minimum wage becomes meaningless, maybe we should stay at the minimum wage of N25,000 so that we don’t worsen things for the civil servants and the masses who are always at the receiving end.
There have been complaints about the operations of our anti-graft agencies in Nigeria, what is your perception…?
To a large extent, I think they’ve tried. At least anti-corruption fight is now at the front burner of government’s policy. We have left the stage in which president will come on air to say stealing is not corruption. We have left Egypt though we are not at the promise land yet. We now know that corruption is bad, gratification, nepotism, tribalism are corruption. The frontier is now extended and it’s constantly at the front burner. It is now in our consciousness.
Ever since the preparation for the 2019 general elections began, the key players of the political game across the country have been hammering on restructuring our system, what exactly do you think they are driving at?
Restructuring has taken so many colourations that one will not know what it exactly means. Some are talking of fiscal independence, some have said that the idea of going to Abuja for our money should stop as it was in the days of regionalism. Let each state generate their money and return percentage to the Federal. Some are saying their own restructuring is in terms of devolution of duties, that the Federal Government should hands-off controls on schools, security apparatus that security after all it is local. The argument is how can the governor be the chief security officer without the security operatives under his control? But there are senses in it, some are saying it will be abused, maybe initially it could be, but after some time, we will get it right. We can work it out in which power will not be abused. To a large extent, I will support state police.