In response to President Bola Tinubu’s directive for the National Economic Council (NEC) to devise palliative measures and review the minimum wage to alleviate the impact of subsidy removal on Nigerians, economists have emphasized the importance of including non-civil servants in these measures.
They assert that the palliative measures should cater to all segments of society, not just civil servants, despite the direct impact of minimum wage review on workers.
The NEC, led by Vice President Kashim Shettima, consists of state governors and other members.
In an interview, Professor Akpan Ekpo, an economist and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Uyo, highlighted that only about 10 to 15 percent of Nigeria’s working population are civil servants. Therefore, it is also crucial to address the needs of those in the informal sector.
He stated, “There is a large informal sector where pay is lower than the minimum wage, and they are Nigerians, so what can be done to assist them? You can transfer money to their accounts until things stabilize because prices will rise when you increase the minimum wage.
Conduct a thorough analysis and ensure that those with bank accounts receive monthly transfers for a while, as inflation will increase beyond the impact of oil subsidy removal. Alongside this, address the issue of insecurity so that farmers can work on their farms, leading to increased food production and lower prices. Additionally, provide affordable mass transportation.”
Ekpo also mentioned that the government should have taken a proactive approach to subsidy removal and negotiated palliative measures with stakeholders beforehand. He called on private sector employers to review their employees’ wages and consider additional benefits to mitigate the effects on their workforce.
Dr. Muda Yusuf, the Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise and former Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, emphasized the need for government investment in subsidized mass transit.
He suggested that the government collaborate with the food industry to regulate food prices to reduce inflation’s impact.
Yusuf added, “One solution is to provide more public transportation that can be subsidized because not all subsidies are bad. Imagine if the number of BRT buses in Lagos is doubled and their prices are kept at the level before subsidy removal. Low-income earners can take advantage of this, and similar measures should be implemented in other states, giving people more financial means to improve their situations.”
He further recommended that the government engage with private sector employers to explore the possibility of remote work, as some state governments have already adopted, and for employers to consider providing staff buses for their workers.