The presidential candidates of African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore, and Young Progressives Party (YPP), Kingsley Moghalu, went head-to-head over what a suitable minimum wage for Nigeria’s workers should be.
Both candidates appeared on a breakfast TV show on the Lagos based TV Continental to discuss the recent announcement by the government to increase the minimum wage from N18,000 to N24,000.
The YPP candidate agreed that the current minimum wage should be improved.
“The minimum wage is not something to take a populist approach to; we should improve the minimum wage. A minimum wage of N18,000 is absolute nonsense. The Nigerian workers are getting ripped off,” he said.
He however dismissed Sowore’s plan to pay N100,000 to workers as well as corps members if he wins next year’s elections. Moghalu said he “will subject that to proper study so that my decision is informed and sustainable. I will not give a figure yet because we need to research.”
He said as an economist, he would “not just to make promises that are not backed up with proper research and that is what creates the problem in the economy.”
The AAC candidate blasted Moghalu, saying that “if he hasn’t researched by now what the minimum wage should be, it shows that Kingsley is not prepared to rule Nigeria. We have done our research; it is out there on the internet.”
He likened Moghalu to Buhari, saying both men were unfit for the presidency.
What is Sowore on about?
The N100,000 minimum wage is Sowore’s big idea.
“N100,000 is what we plan to provide for Federal Civil Servants in the country and for Youth Corps members (NYSC), we have planned to pay the same amount. Every Youth Corps member would get the same amount as government worker,” Sowore said in an August press conference.
He said in his campaign manifesto that increasing salaries to N100,000 will increase the wage bill of the federal government by N490 billion annually. The current wage bill is estimated to be N1.64 trillion, and so if Sowore carries out his plan (and if his maths is accurate), then the country’s wage bill would increase by another 30 percent to N2.13 trillion. And that is even before wages for corps members are added.
So, in essence, what Sowore is proposing is for the FG to spend over 25% of the country’s annual budget paying the less than 1 million people in the civil service.
That’s a populist argument for sure.