Schools, other businesses will shut if  FG pays N494,000 Wage – Presidency

Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Media Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale speaks with Femi Akande on TVC’s Politics on Sunday programme, where he talked about minimum wage, Federal Government performance, among other issues. Chibuzor Alli brings excerpts

The Federal Government has told labour what they can afford and labour is saying that it is still not enough. Is it the Federal Government being adamant or labour is unrealistic with his demands?

For me, I think the starting point is to recognise that His Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu would love to have a minimum wage in this country which is even up to N1 million per month for every Nigerian. His administration does have the highest regard for our people and we believe they do deserve the best. But we also recognise that there are economic realities and fundamentals within the country right now that do not support what the organised labor movement is advocating for and I want to be very clear this evening about what the consequences would be if organised labour got its way right. Right now there is this notion out there that the minimum wage conversation in the country is simply almost a conversation between a Federal, you know executive administration and organised labour about a new minimum wage for the Federal Civil service. That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about a new national minimum wage for every Nigerian citizen both within the formal economy as well as the informal economy. This has ramifications. Essentially we are moving from the current minimum wage where it is to if labour got its way as something worth N500,000 per month. You are looking at almost 20 times, right? So, the impact that would now have on the citizens of the country is not that we are not talking about government now we are talking about our people. I want to be practical about this if you are thinking of the mom-and-pop shop that is dealing in chinchin and bakery and these kinds of goods and services, the idea that you are going to mandate them to 20 times whatever it is, they are paying their staff within that small business. You know that you are essentially mandating the closure of that business and you are indirectly sacking an entire set of people who have families because that business is closing because they cannot live up to the minimum wage that organised labour is asking for. Aside from mass job loss across sectors across our nation at a time when we are looking for new job opportunities for the teeming youth population in the country, You are also talking about private schools for example where you are now going to be mandating for it not just teachers but janitors, cooks and the like a 20 times increase in the wages they will have to pay. What this mean is that if those schools don’t just close or if they don’t have to go into a mass retrenchment exercise. What it will also mean is for the Nigerian citizen right now who is currently grappling with what we all agree is an unsustainably low minimum wage as it is today. He or she is now going to be grappling with school fees that are ten times what they presently are today not to talk of the price of food items and prices of so many other goods and commodities that our people even if they are struggling can kind of try and afford but it will now become unsustainable. So these are what I think, are some of the real pragmatic assessments that need to be made public so that everyone understands that this is not just a matter of the government not wanting to budge or the government wanting to maintain as much of its revenues as possible No, we are talking about an existential issue to the Nigerian economy and it should be treated as such.

The Tripartite committees are negotiating with labour on behalf of the president and the government. Would the President be willing to shift grounds?

We have never had a more pragmatic President who recognises the very minute and acute challenges that our people face. This is a president who when he was governor went to the level of paying NECO fees for indigent families in Lagos State. I mean that is the level of attention to detail that he pays to issues confronting his constituency. The nation is his Constituency and he’s no less concerned if not even more so given the wide raft of responsibilities. So he is a man of empathy. He is going to do what is right but he’s also going to ensure that he does his very best for Nigerian families irrespective of which part of the country they come from and what sector they operate in. He is also going to ensure that there is not a mass retrenchment as a result of any kind of move by organised labour to try and push the government to a threshold of agreeing to something that is in effect unachievable and unsustainable.

This is coming at a time when the administration is basking in the euphoria of that one year in office of celebration. What are those things in actuality that Nigerians can see and touch and say indeed one year is what the time?

Femi, I don’t know that it’s basking in euphoria so much as it is just a recognition of the very hard work that has gone into making the country over the long term a better place to live for all of our people. And that is why we have had I think very muted celebrations on the part of his excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu instead of the pomp and pageantry. He is been out commissioning projects that will have a direct impact on people’s lives from Lagos to Abuja. And of course, we have seen commissioning all across the country within the states as well. On top of that, we saw the president for example communicate very clearly about what his administration has done. Through of course the Federal Executive Council members, the honorable ministers have given their scorecard as to what has been achieved but I would like to touch on just a few things, right?

But will we see a cabinet reshuffle soon because the president at the Inauguration of the new ministers said that he is going to let go of non-performing ministers? Nigerians have been waiting to see that happen. How soon will this be?

The president is not a man who is driven by Television commentary and he’s not driven by just sheer emotion. He is driven by a pragmatic assessment of facts and figures concerning the performance of the members of his cabinet and he is going to take decisions accordingly. He is not going to rush to meet up with any kind of deadline set by public commentators. He is going to do it in his own time but he is been very clear with all members of the cabinet as well as most recently in a meeting that any cabinet minister, irrespective of how well they know him personally If they are failing Nigerians in terms of bad performance or poor service delivery, he will sack them without thinking twice.

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