February 1, 2019

'TBH Nigeria's problems are way beyond #minimumwage issues' — A Twitter user on the new wage bill. Truism or classic Naija holism, we'll leave you to decide.


This newsletter features insight from Temi Ibirogba, Iniye Spiff and Bartholomew Eboseremen with editorial oversight from Wale Lawal.
The Story
Nigeria's House of Representatives has revised the National Council of State's minimum wage increase.

Hold up, what’s a minimum wage?
It’s the lowest amount your Oga is legally allowed to pay you. Think of it as ‘The Floor is Lava’ but for labour markets.

What do you mean by 'revised'?
When the NCS initially proposed the draft bill on 22 January 2019, it specified a new two-tier minimum wage policy of N27,000 for state and private sector workers and N30,000 for federal workers. While it would not have been the first time Nigeria has had such a policy (See Obasanjo administration, 2000), the House of Representatives turned down that bill. Instead, on Tuesday, the HoR endorsed N30,000 as the minimum wage for both state/private sector and federal workers. 

This is great news then!
It could be. But a minimum wage increase doesn’t fix the labour market's real issue: compliance. We know for a fact that Nigerian employers have a history of poor minimum wage compliance and a culture of not paying workers.

Go on...
Not only does minimum wage compliance in Nigeria have a bad record, workers don't think the new bill will have a significant impact. Conversations about poverty-reduction policies tend not to include the people those polices are actually intended for. With this in mind, we spent the last couple of days in Lagos, asking random people what their thoughts are about minimum wages.

Why haven’t employers been following the law on minimum wage?
One likely reason is a lack of awareness amongst both employers and employees. For instance, out of our seven respondents in Victoria Island, three did not know that the current minimum wage is N18,000. For workers especially, a lack of awareness makes it difficult to hold employers accountable.

More generally, the people we spoke to believed minimum wage compliance is low in Nigeria as a result of high unemployment and the low value employers attach to non-white collar jobs. According to a security guard at Halogen, one of the biggest security companies in Nigeria, ‘What is security guard? If me I don’t come to work, [employers] know other people will rush it.’

So what is going to make this bill different?
Not much. There’s a N75,000 fine (versus N20,000 currently) for employers who do not obey the bill and an added N10,000 each ensuing day that it is still not obeyed (versus N100 currently). But those are nominal differences as there are still issues around policy enforcement. When asked why he thinks Nigerian employees are not paid the current minimum wage, a Shoprite worker answered, ‘There’s nobody to force [employers] to pay that amount.’ This, of course, begs the bigger question:

Why have businesses been allowed to continue operating despite breaking the law?
To which a man who markets Dangote products in V.I. simply stated: ‘Nigeria is a lawless place, now.’ And a shop assistant at the retail store, Miniso, said that although she gets paid above the minimum wage, the larger issue is with Nigeria’s labour laws in general. She suggested that even for those who have jobs, working conditions are not conducive to workers' health and development. Rather, employees are made to ‘work like a dog.’

Which takes us back to our quote of the week #fullcircle
Concerning labour, Nigeria’s problems are more urgent than a low minimum wage. Policy intervention needs to extend beyond raising the minimum wage to also include enforcement of salary payments and penalties for under-payment, as well as improved working conditions.

The Scandinavian countries are known for hitting highest on the Happiness Index because they have a strong work life balance. Plus, Studies™ have shown that there’s a strong correlation between improved working conditions and productivity. So, here’s to hoping that this new minimum wage law is the first step in a long-term plan for improving the welfare of Nigeria’s labour force.
The Story
Nigerians are worried President Buhari's suspension of Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria might lead to a constitutional crisis.

Before his suspension, Justice Onnoghen was charged with falsely declaring his assets. This already dramatic legal case took an interesting turn when Justice Onnoghen secured an injunction thereby stalling his hearing. It was this move that President Buhari called a ‘disregard for justice’ and provoked the suspension. 

Why's the suspension a big deal?
First of all, read this.

Basically, things have quickly gotten political and with the approaching elections, Nigerians are worried about the suspension's implications on Nigeria's democracy. To protest Justice Onnoghen's suspension, Nigeria's opposition party (PDP) suspended the campaign activities of its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar for 72 hours. Atiku had even called President Buhari's involvement in Justice Onnoghen's suspension an ‘act of dictatorship’.

Predictably, public discourse is stratified. The fact that President Buhari took a hard line by suspending Justice Onnoghen on the basis of corruption seems to impress his supporters. Equally prominent, Buhari's critics insist the fight against corruption must not overrule the sanctity of institutions and have accused the president of gross misconduct. Even internationally, there are concerns: the US Embassy, for instance, has expressed worries that the timing of Justice Onnoghen's suspension might affect the integrity of Nigeria’s elections.

Ultimately, with the rising trend in government-led Internet shutdowns worldwide, there are growing concerns that Justice Onnoghen's suspension along with other tensions in the run up to the elections will have severe implications on free speech in Nigeria.

Summary: What makes #OnnoghenGate controversial
1. It is an election year. Nigeria’s national and state elections are only weeks away and the Chief Justice is the head of the Supreme Court, which means that he presides over potential electoral disputes. A new judge handpicked by the president so close to the elections may not be the best look.

2. The president’s decision to suspend Onnoghen is causing a potential constitutional crisis. The 1999 Constitution only allows the president to 'remove' the CJN on ONE condition (Clue: it involves the Senate). Also, the constitution doesn’t really provide for a 'suspension'. Suspension ≠ Removal.

3. Separation of powers y’all! The Judiciary is supposed to be able to operate independently, without interference from another arm of government.

4. Look, just read this.



2 Presidentz

With the Nigerian elections coming soon, you might be wondering whether a country can end up with two presidents at once. 

It happened briefly in Kenya last year, and now it's happened in Venezuela, where a political and economic crisis has led to opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, declaring himself interim president. Guaidó is currently backed by the US, Canada and more than a dozen Latin American countries. The Venezuelan government, which is led by Nicolás Maduro, has accused the US of illegal interference. Maduro is backed by China and Russia.
A Persistent Threat

According to the UN Refugee agency, escalating attacks by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria have forced 30,000 people out of Nigeria’s northeast into Cameroon. Boko Haram also continues to obstruct the humanitarian efforts of aid workers in the region. Here’s how you can help


More than forty people have been killed and thousands detained, as tens of thousands of people across Sudan have been peacefully protesting against the oppressive rule of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. President al-Bashir has blamed the unrest on 'foreign agents' and rebel groups in the Darfur region. Even though authorities in Sudan have ordered the release of all the detained protesters, experts say the protests are unlikely to end
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