By Zackline Colley, as reported by BBC’s Chris Ewokor
Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu, has announced a six-month increase in the minimum wage as workers are set to commence an indefinite strike. Unions are advocating for a monthly wage raise to $255 (£210) to cope with the significant surge in the cost of living since Mr. Tinubu assumed office in May.
However, the president’s proposed $32 increase only brings the monthly minimum salary to $70. In addition to this, he has pledged to expedite the deployment of affordable gas-powered buses to alleviate the impact of the recent tripling of fuel prices. This surge in prices was triggered by Mr. Tinubu’s removal of a long-standing fuel subsidy that had kept petrol prices low for decades in Africa’s largest economy.
In June, the country also abandoned its currency peg, allowing it to trade freely, resulting in one of the most significant falls in the naira’s history. This has posed challenges for struggling Nigerians, as already high inflation has escalated due to increased import costs.
In a televised national address commemorating the country’s 63rd year of independence from the UK, President Tinubu outlined measures aimed at easing the current economic hardships. He acknowledged the difficulties faced by the nation and emphasized the necessity of enduring these challenges for a better future.
“There is no joy in seeing the people of this nation shoulder burdens that should have been shed years ago,” Mr. Tinubu said. “I wish today’s difficulties did not exist. But we must endure if we are to reach the good side of our future.”
The 71-year-old reiterated that, although reforms would be painful, they would be worthwhile. The government could now channel the billions saved from the fuel subsidy into projects such as the compressed natural gas bus network.
“We now bear the costs of reaching a future in Nigeria where the abundance and fruits of the nation are fairly shared among all, not hoarded by a select and greedy few,” he said. “A Nigeria where hunger, poverty, and hardship are pushed into the shadows of an ever-fading past.”
Despite the president’s address, the main labor unions, namely the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), have affirmed their commitment to the planned indefinite strike from Tuesday. Union leaders argue that the government has failed to address the suffering caused by the removal of the fuel subsidy. The government has appealed for the strike to be suspended to allow more time for negotiations.