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Workers’ Day: Civil servants lament hardship under Buhari govt

As Nigeria joins other nations of the world to mark the 2023 International Workers’ Day on May 1st, some citizens, particularly civil servants, have lamented the economic crisis bedevilling the entire nation since the beginning of the current administration.

Our source reports that the outgoing administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari had witnessed some level of crisis in Africa’s Largest economy, affecting the welfare of workers.

Buhari, who was given the mantle of leadership on May 29, 2015, has battled to solve several economic problems, particularly inflation that imposed unbearable hardship on citizens.

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Recall that for the first time in 25 years, the nation’s economy went into recession in the second quarter of 2016, a year after President Buhari took over power from his predecessor, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

A few months ago, in November 2022, the World Bank revealed that development progress in Nigeria had stagnated since 2015 when Buhari took office as President.

It said, “Nigeria’s development progress has stagnated since 2015. Between 2001 and 2014, Nigeria was a rising growth star in West Africa, with an average growth rate of seven per cent per year, and among the top 15 fastest-growing economies globally.”

The Consumer Price Index, reported by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in March 2023, indicated that Nigeria’s inflation rate accelerated to a new 17-year high of 22.04 per cent.

The unfortunate development came with increasing prices of commodities in the market, worsening the welfare of Nigerian workers.

According to the World Bank, Nigeria has one of the highest inflation rates globally and the seventh highest in sub-Saharan Africa in 2022.

A recent market survey across several major markets in Nigeria revealed that the prices of food items and other essential commodities increased by over 100 percent in the last five years.

This is evident in the price differences observed on all commodities almost on a daily basis, leaving Nigerian workers to spend more than their earnings to get food, shelter, and other important needs.

According to the recent survey, a bag of rice (local or foreign) which was hitherto sold for about N7,000 around 2016, has jumped to as high as N36,000 to N40,000 per 50 kg for some brands.

A sachet of tomato which used to sell for N50 is now being sold for as high as N150 or N200, while a loaf of bread has risen from N250 to N1000, across major cities in the country within the last five to ten years.

Transportation fare is another bone of contention in major cities across the nation.

Latest data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, NBS, published in January 2023 revealed that the average fare paid by commuters for bus journeys within the city per drop increased by nearly 100 per cent in November 2022.

The development has plunged Nigerians, especially low income earners into unbearable hardship.

Some civil servants, who spoke to DAILY POST, called for immediate review of the current minimum wage, stating that the N30,000 minimum wage is no longer workable with the present economic reality.

A lecturer in the faculty of social science, Benue State University, Dr Grace Adejor told DAILY POST that the outgoing administration did not prioritise workers’ welfare.

According to her, “what people earn these days, especially those in the minimum wage category can no longer put food on their table. It is expected that while inflation continues to rise and prices of commodities continue to go up, the wage or salary should also increase in order to balance the situation.

“In fact, anyone earning below N100,000 in this current situation is battling to feed himself, not to talk of feeding his family. The environment is obviously not conducive for civil servants.

“If workers are living fine, they will make better input in whatever they are doing. A teacher who is thinking of what to eat will definitely not teach well. This, in turn, may affect society later.”

Emeraldloaded recalls that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige in March 2023 revealed that the Federal Government had approved a pay rise for civil servants.

Some of the civil servants, last week, confirmed the salary increase.

But the National President of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke told our correspondent that lecturers were excluded from the pay rise.

According to him, the FG deliberately omitted the union from the list to cause confusion.

“It is just deliberate. They did that just to create confusion for us and the next administration”, he said.

The ASUU boss argued that every salary increase in the government service that is not a negotiated structure ought to include every sector, including the police and even the military.

Also speaking, Mary Agene of the Federal Ministry of Health told our correspondent that they have concluded plans to exit the country in search of greener pastures.

According to Mary, a professional nurse, several of her colleagues, who left in 2022, are currently doing well in Europe.

She said, “The system in this country is very bad. Nigeria is a country where you spend more than you earn, the economy is obviously bad and there is nothing the government is doing to at least cushion the effect on us.

“Aside from the money problem, what about the kidnapping, killing and all of that? Are workers safe in Nigeria? No. Everybody is on his or her own.

“Everyday you keep hearing of someone being kidnapped or killed even while on duty. No single protection”.

Another respondent, Garba Idris, a teacher in the Federal Capital Territory, expressed optimism that the next administration would be better.

“No matter what happens, Tinubu’s government can’t be like that of Buhari. It will definitely be better.

“I am hoping that the welfare of workers will change very soon. APC knows that they have already failed us so they will find a way to right their wrongs via the incoming government”, he said.

It could be recalled that Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, had in January 2023, urged the incoming administration of the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to review the current minimum wage of N30,000 presently obtainable in the country.

The Minister was of the opinion that the country’s minimum wage should be reviewed every five years to match the present standard of living in the country.

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