New Minimum Wage; New Work Ethics By Emmanuel Onwubiko

The man who is now presiding over kaduna state amidst inter-ethnic and inter-religious turmoils, was once the beloved minister of federal capital territory. 

Although as the Abuja minister who gained notoriety as an Anti-poor bureaucrat, he was also praised in official circles for embarking on some policy implementation that at least on paper, made people to become conscious of not patronizing the many land speculators that flooded the Federal capital territory. 

Nasir El Ruffai who has so far proven to be a terrible choice of a governor in the complex state of kaduna, he was however the public office holder who made the shocking discovery that over 40% of the choice houses in Abuja belong to civil servants in the federal capital.

Ironically, soon after he left office, the national Assembly indicted him of a range of misconducts connected with land redistribution just as he was alleged to have coverted several landed property in Abuja to his cronies and family members. 

The senate also banned him from holding public office for ten years. 

Nasir El Ruffai fought this indictments in court. It would seem that he got a judicial reprieve. 

The kernel of making reference to the Nasir El Ruffai persona is to bring out the larger issue of poor work ethics and corruption amongst the top echelons of the civil and public service cadres who work in the diverse governmental agencies in Abuja. These sets of workers used to earn a national minimum wage ofN18,000 per month which isn’t even enough to pay their transportation costs to their work places. But from this sane segment, you find a greater percentage of them in the directorate cadres owning virtually all the top notch housing assets in the Federal capital territory which are obviously proceeds of frauds. 

It was because of deep-seated corruption and the culture of bribery within the hierarchical structure of the civil service that has totally undermined the economic advancement of Nigeria. Nigeria is obviously a crippled clay giant. 

The diminished work ethics seen in the civil and public service of Nigeria is to be blamed fundamentally for why Nigeria does not work. However, the civil service ought to be the heartbeat of any nation and it is so in many foreign jurisdictions. 

In Britain, civil servants are some of the most respected citizens. 

During my recent visit to the United Kingdom, I picked up a book tittled “Dictatorland:The men who stole Africa”, written by Paul Kenyon, a distinguished British Broadcasting corporation’s correspondent and BAFTA award winning journalist who had travelled all over Africa.

The chapter five of this beautiful book is devoted to the issues of underdevelopment of Nigeria even as he began the chapter five which he subtitled Nigeria with a rich demography of Nigeria, by recollecting the words of Ken Saro Wiwa who stated thus:” I am unfortunate to be a Nigerian. I would rather not be, but I am doing my level best to be one and a good one at that”. 

Recall that Mr. Saro Wiwa was killed by Sani Abacha, the military dictator at one time who had him and a few of his other environmental campaigners killed for opposing the devastation of their oil rich region of the Niger Delta by shell and a plethora of other multinational oil drillers. Due largely to corruption in the civil abd public service the remediation processes that would have addressed the environmental abuses suffered by the Niger Delta region couldn’t be addressed and redressed till date. 

In this chapter five also, the author narrated how the bureaucracy of Abuja works and swims in corruption. 

Those experiences he narrated are very much alive as i write and have even escalated making life in Nigeria to become miserable, brutish, short and uninteresting.

He wrote thus: “In the 1990s, OPL245 was much coveted throughout the oil world, with shell and the Italian supermajor Eni emerging as the two frontrunners. The person who would decide the allocation was the Nigerian oil minister.” 

He also stated that: “In a country where people joke that their leaders are ‘professional fraudsters playing at being politicians’, the oil job was open to abuse like no other. The ministry of Environment, or transport, was happy to skim off the conventional ten cent, but the oil ministry had the potential to catapult its boss into the realms of the fabulously rich. Fees to middlemen alone could amount to tens of millions of dollars, and to the minister himself, hundreds of millions.”

To be very specific, the author stated further that: “Dan Etete was a boisterous cannonball of a man, who ricocheted around social gatherings, glasses of champagne in one hand, silver-tipped cane in the other, recounting tall stories about his shipping business or his connection in government, promising something to everyone and everything to someone. His tailor? Yes, he’d put you in touch. The wine? Always French, he had some properties there. The silk cravat? He knew a little shop in Abuja.” 

He wrote that Etete was a social whirling, an honorary chief always looking for a deal, and precisely the kind of man who, in Nigeria, is destined to enter the political arena. \

Revealing that Etete took a seat in the senate, representing an area right in the heart of the oil producing delta, and soon began to attract the attention of the military chiefs who ran Nigeria, not just for his giant white checked suits, but for his eagerness to take part in illicit schemes, and to keep his nose out of other people’s. 

“When the big job finally came his way in 1991, it was the gift of military dictator General Sani. Dan Etete was to become oil minister.

The author narrated that an application for OPL245 landed on Etete’s desk at the oil ministry in Abuja sometime in April 1998, from a small start -up company no one had ever heard of. It was called Malabu, incorporated just days before specifically for the purpose. Malabu had no employees, no capital, no offices, just the names of three company directors on a sheet of paper. Its bid for what promised to be Nigeria’s richest oilfield was just $20 million. It was like trying to buy a Rolls Royce for the price of a hubcap”.

Dan Etete he recalled had numerous options, and might have wished to discount Malabu and its three aspirant directors without so much as an interview. But Etete knew something about the company no one else did. Within a matter of days, he had chosen Malabu for ownership of OPL245. 

As can be attested to, the above celebrated or is it notorious story is still trending as i write. The matter has escalated to a level that the international police has been asked to pick up some of the suspects connected with the Malabu deal. The matter which started due to bureaucratic corruption in Abuja has seen many companies quized and litigated against in UK; France and Italy.

The bureaucratic corruption and bribery mentioned above are very much in widespread practice but amongst those supporting All Progressives Congress. 

It used to be Peoples Democratic party for the last 19 years until 2015 when Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress came on board after winning the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan who handed over without any fight. 

Corruption and bribery in Nigeria is turn by turn. 

As yours faithfully was picking up this book from the bookshelf somewhere in central London last week, the news from Nigeria emerged that the Federal government has Okayed the new minimum wage for all workers.

Relatively speaking, this is good news, but at the same time, it would seem that not much will change if the decadent work ethics of the public and civil servant do not change.

Nothing may change with the enforcement of the new minimum wage if widespread corruption, bribery and bottlenecks slowing down governance in Nigeria are not defeated. 

Nothing may change if the retinue of challatans recruited as special assistants by political office holders and these office holders who consume over 70% of annual budgets on salaries and allowances are not made subject to the application of the new national minimum wage.  

As I go through this book aforementioned, and reflects deeply about the numerous cash gulping political office holders in Nigeria, my mind raced through the essence of Nigeria enthroning a new work ethics by all civil and public servants. 

I say the above because, if you go through the gamut of the debates around the issues of the necessity or otherwise of a new national minimum wage, not one person has argued for a new work ethics. 

All that we have heard is contestation for cash and preservation of status quo. 

The governors who opposed the new minimum wage are mostly indicted of extensive theft of public fund. For them it is about having the biggest bite of the national cake and not about public good. 

The Unions demanding wage increase aren’t worried about productivity but to preserve the privileges of their tiny working class that aren’t more than five percent of the population but not about how to robustly improve the work ethics so the governmental policies and projects impacts the living conditions of the citizens most of whom are poor and unemployed or underemployed.   

For instance, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) had condemned the opposition of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the existence of improved minimum wage across the world. ITUC alleged that International Monetary Fund (IMF) has continue to promote the unfounded claim that higher minimum wages prompt job cuts and hurt workers, putting at risk economic growth.

An article published in the IMF’s F&D magazine and shared on the IMF’s Facebook page claims, “an overly generous wage may prompt employers to cut jobs”. 

But the General Secretary of ITUC, Sharan Burrow thinks otherwise. 

She submitted: “It is disheartening to see that the IMF continues to ignore a large body of evidence on the benefits of minimum wages, for working people and the economy as a whole.  If the IMF is serious about addressing inequality, it should abandon policy advice and loan conditions that have failed to generate economic growth. 

The economic evidence they claim is simply not there. Also absent is an acknowledgement that IMF interventions including attacks on minimum wages have deepened economic and social crises not alleviated them.”

ITUC insisted that the article “Does a Minimum Wage Help Workers?” billed by the IMF as a ‘Back to Basics explainer’, is based on selective evidence that highlights the bias of the authors. 

ITUC maintained that the article recognizes that most empirical studies find a positive or at most a very small negative relationship between minimum wages and employment levels. 

“Despite that admission, the IMF economists base their recommendations on the assumption that higher minimum wages reduce employment levels. 

This ignores the larger body of evidence, which shows the positive effects of minimum wages on productivity, employment, reduced informality and overall economic growth.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on its own seems to have sounded positive when it said the proposed increase in minimum wage for Nigerian workers would stimulate output growth in the economy.

Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor, made this known in a communiqué published at the end of the 264th meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria in Abuja.

The communiqué read: “The MPC welcomed the moderation in inflation in October, reflecting declining food prices. The Committee believes that given the negative output gap, the proposed increase in the national minimum wage would stimulate output growth due to prolonged weak aggregate demand arising from salary arrears and contractor debt.

“Consequently, its impact on the aggregate price level would be largely muted, given that the monetary aggregates have largely underperformed in fiscal 2018. In addition, the prevailing stability in the foreign exchange market would continue to moderate pressures on the domestic price level.

It would seem that there is not yet a national debate on two key issues related to the soon to be implemented National minimum wage namely the necessity for a new work ethics and the urgency of the now to cut down significantly on the costs of governance. 

It doesn’t make sense that Nigeria spends over 70 % paying salaries and spend very little on infrastructure and human capital development. The nation will not make any progress if we continue to upgrade salaries but fails to upgrade the general standards of living of the nearly 98 % of non public sectorised workforce. The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation commission needs to be inaugurated to watch over these abuses of privileges by the political class who pay themselves huge unbudgeted wages.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)  and blogs,, 


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