Minimum wage: Utomi seeks stakeholders’ summit on reconstructing economy

A political economist, Prof. Pat Utomi, has called for the convocation of a stakeholders’ summit to discuss the country’s economy and suggest ways to reconstruct it.

He made the call while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, on Monday in Lagos.

Utomi was reacting to the May 15 tripartite committee meeting on the new minimum wage, where organised labour pulled out, following disagreements that ensued.

The political economist said that the problem was that the Nigerian economy was being mismanaged.

According to him, the tripartite committee on the new minimum wage does not understand what it is dealing with.

“So, labour is looking at price inflation, naturally, they take the traditional approach of – inflation has gone this way; it has gone by 100 per cent.

“Therefore, for workers to catch up, they need to go up in similar proportions at the very least, but what we are dealing with is so much more complex.

“The truth is that most things are dysfunctional; what we need is an understanding of a national emergency, in which all stakeholders will really come together to say, ‘how do we reconstruct Nigeria,’” he said.

Utomi said that the major economic challenge of the country was productivity.

According to him, Nigeria is not producing, economic managers are not creating conditions for production, and workers are developing an entitlement mentality.

“So, if we had a seriousness of leadership, what would have happened is like how nations react during war.

“You have a national strategy and everybody will want to key into this emergency war cabinet approach, then massive mobilisation to win the war.

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“It means, for example, that we know that in agriculture, for certain legumes, in three months you can produce so much food, mobilise half of every village into farm protection army, since one of the big problems with why people are not farming is supposed to be insecurity.

“Take another quarter, who are interested in massive agricultural investment or support and give every young person almost like Operation Feed the Nation of Obasanjo’s time.

“Charge everybody within four months, and run this output from agriculture; mobilise volunteers, and then as we improve productivity, we will agree on certain parameters within labour, private sector, and government.

“I have always favoured the German system, where labour is actually represented on the boards of management of companies, and therefore, have an understanding of the production needs and responsibly ask for living wage, salary levels and things like that,” he said.

NAN recalls that the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, on May 1, proposed N615,000 minimum wage for workers.

NLC President, Mr Joe Ajaero and TUC President, Mr Festus Osifo, had said that the N615,000 minimum wage proposal reflected the current economic situation.

However, on May 15, during the tripartite committee negotiations on the new minimum wage, the labour unions pulled out , following disagreements with proposals from the government and employers representatives.

Representatives of both NLC and TUC had faulted the figures put forward by government and the Organised Private Sector, saying both figures fell short of a living wage for workers.

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