‘My monthly pay won’t buy a bag of rice’

Home US & World ‘My monthly pay won’t buy a bag of rice’
‘My monthly pay won’t buy a bag of rice’

As an indefinite general strike begins in Nigeria, one worker tells the BBC that it’s impossible to survive on what the government is proposing as a minimum wage as it is not enough to buy a bag of rice.

Security guard Mallam Magaji Garba says he needs 50kg of rice, which costs 75,000 naira ($56; £44), to feed his family each month, before taking other expenses into account.

The minimum wage is currently 30,000 naira, which the government is offering to double.

Nigeria’s unions under the umbrella of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress are demanding it be raised to 494,000 naira, which they say reflects the current economic realities.

Nigerian information minister says accepting the union demands would cripple the economy and lead to job losses because business would not be able to pay their workers and so have to close.

The walkout has caused disruption at the country’s busiest airport, Murtala Muhammed International in Lagos, with passengers saying they have been left stranded outside the domestic terminal.

Workers in health, banking, aviation and other major sectors are expected to stay away from work, a move that will cripple the West African country’s economy.

Mr Magaji, who works for the education ministry in the northern city of Kano, says he and his family of 14 are struggling to survive.

“I am calling on the government to consider us and increase the minimum wage so that we can live and eat decently.

“It’s not fair that we have top government officials earning millions monthly and the smallest workers earn so little and finding it difficult to feed.”

The 59-year-old said he sometimes has to walk to work as he cannot afford to pay for transport.

Nigerians have been hit by a double whammy of the removal of a fuel subsidy and a collapse in the value of the naira since President Bola Tinubu took office a year ago.

Mr Tinubu says the measures are necessary to reform the economy so it works better in the long term but in the short term, inflation has risen to nearly 34%.

The government has ended the policy of pegging the value of the naira to the US dollar, allowing it to dramatically depreciate. Whereas 10,000 naira would have bought $22 last May, it will now only purchase $6.80.

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