Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM


The Naira Shrinks, Our Pockets Empty: Nigerian workers Need a Living Wage Now

The Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress, and all their affiliates have a historic responsibility to rescue Nigeria and lead workers and the poor masses out of the quagmire the Bola Tinubu regime has plunged the country into. Across the length and breadth of Nigeria, the simmering discontent amongst working people threatens to boil over. Workers, battered by inflation and a shrinking Naira, stand on the precipice of despair. For far too long, workers have endured the erosion of their purchasing power, the tightening grip of poverty, and the ever-widening chasm between the haves and the have-nots.

Toba Odumosu, who is the Secretary of the Lagos State chapter of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), wrote this in his personal capacity

Intensifying the disastrous and anti-people policies of the Buhari administration, the Tinubu administration has quickly increased the suffering of the Nigerian people since taking office. Workers who were struggling to recover from the last administration’s parting gifts of fuel and cash shortages have been dealt more vicious attacks in quick succession without respite. The Tinubu administration declared war on the poor and working people on his first day in office. The regime’s “twin evils”—the naira devaluation and petrol subsidy removal – have been a sucker punch to working people. The wages and salaries of workers have eroded in value while the cost of everything from food to transportation skyrockets. The sharp increase in everyday commodities like spaghetti, egg, bread including the price of cement that has tripled within a few weeks means that the average Nigerian is now completely priced out of a decent life and is in survival mode.

Healthcare is no longer accessible to the majority of people with the cost of drugs having more than tripled since the inception of this administration. The average working family is no longer able to afford the astronomically high tuition costs at schools and higher education institutions which compounds the nation’s problem of out-of-school children and youth and puts parents in a difficult position to choose between providing for their children’s basic needs and their education. This only further exacerbates the challenge of insecurity. The naira continues to have a free fall against the dollar. There is an impending plan to double the electricity tariff to attain “cost-reflective” pricing. The weary strength of the impoverished masses is about to face yet another lethal blow. All these accentuate the urgency of the fight for a new and realistic minimum wage.

In the labyrinth of Nigeria’s social and economic challenges, the fight for a new minimum wage emerges as a pivotal battleground for the working class. It is important to delve into the historical context of minimum wage struggles, the hurdles faced in implementation, and the pressing need for a comprehensive strategy to counteract the adverse effects of the anti-people and anti-poor policies of the Tinubu regime.

The fight for a just minimum wage in Nigeria is not a new phenomenon. Labour movements have historically stood as bastions of hope, championing the cause for fair wages and improved working conditions. The struggles of the past have, however, been met with varying degrees of success, often marred by insufficient implementation and non-compliance by state governors. Despite the hard-fought victory that secured a ₦30,000 minimum wage in 2019, the compliance of many state governors remained a major stumbling block. That victory feels hollow today because many governors, as well as many private employers, callously refused to implement it. As of October 2023, according to a report in Punch newspaper, 15 states were yet to implement the minimum wage negotiated in 2019. The failure to adhere to the agreed-upon minimum wage continues to further aggravate the plight of Nigerian workers, especially in the face of economic policies that have significantly eroded the purchasing power of the average citizen.

The fight for a new minimum wage in Nigeria is not just an economic necessity; it’s a fight for the dignity of workers, their survival, and the future of society. Workers have historically gotten the short end of the bargain in minimum wage negotiations, with the negotiated amount being swiftly hollowed out by inflation as a result of reckless monetary and fiscal policies by the government. Today, the 2019 minimum wage of N30,000 is now worth $15, down from its initial $93 in 2019. With inflation soaring and the naira tumbling down a rabbit hole, ₦30,000 now barely covers a week’s groceries. Our fight must be for a living wage!

The ruling class continues to live a lavish lifestyle at the expense of the general populace, while dubiously requesting that Nigerians suffer and endure hardship. Luxury vehicles and extravagant lifestyles funded by taxpayer money are an insult to struggling workers. The delay in payment of the ₦35,000 wage award that was reluctantly agreed to despite the removal of petrol subsidy and the lack of its uniform implementation across the states is a pointer to what would befall the minimum wage that is being negotiated now. This again exposes government’s true character.

It should be clear to workers now that there is no salvation in the bourgeois political parties and their ruinous policies that continue to plunge hard working people into poverty. In spite of the suffering that its policies have caused, the government is determined to extract more taxes from those it has impoverished and to absolve itself of any responsibility to finance social services like healthcare and education by reducing budgetary allocation and privatizing them.

But despair is not an option. The fight for a living wage is not just about economics; it’s about reclaiming the dignity of Labour, the agency of workers, and the rightful place of the working people in Nigeria. True freedom cannot be achieved unless working people are liberated from the shackles of poverty and exploitation by the ruling class.


To confront the challenges ahead, the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress must focus on rebuilding the labour movement as a vibrant one based on the working people’s ideology and principles that centre on the interest of the poor masses and workers. The strength of the labour movement lies in solidarity, and a united front built on clear objectives is pivotal in achieving meaningful change. Labour leaders must resolve internal divisions and unite under a common banner of determined struggle. The Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and all their affiliates must enthrone rank-and-file worker leadership, open communication and democratic decision-making to rebuild trust and mobilize the masses for genuine struggle. Solidarity is our strength. Labour must unite with all segments and relevant layers of society (peasants, artisans, farmers, unemployed) and step up to lead the fight for a living wage, an end to mass suffering, and a better future for all Nigerians.

Labour must raise awareness and unite the public against the anti-poor policies of the Tinubu regime. Through frequent symposiums, programs, and campaigns, labour centres and trade unions must sharpen the consciousness and perspective of their members and become the conduit for the expression of the popular will of the people. For a wage regime that keeps pace with the cost of living, we need a strong, united, and fearless labour movement that truly represents the interests of Nigerian workers. This means opposing a minimum wage fixed at 5 years interval and demanding one that keeps in step with the real cost of living. The fact that Labour has more than once increased the minimum wage figure it is now demanding shows that the wage cannot be fixed for years in this time of rapid inflation. Lessons from the past experiences show that labour leadership must be prepared to organise a series of mass actions including strikes and protests to force the government at all levels to grant a reasonable minimum wage and to implement it without retrenchment.

Beyond a new minimum wage, labour must lead the struggle against all anti-poor policies including attacks on the living standards of the vast majority and to reclaim Nigeria for its people. The Labour movement must revive itself and find the strength to fearlessly represent the interest of all working Class and poor Nigerians.


However, the struggle to secure a living wage and prosperity for all Nigerians requires more than just protests and strikes. While the labour movement can exert pressure from within, there is a growing need to consider political options that align with the broad interests of the working class. Labour must mobilize for a viable political alternative as a means to dismantle systemic issues that perpetuate the suffering of the poor and the masses.

Nigeria needs a seismic shift in power. The current political system rewards the wealthy elite at the expense of the poor and working class. The deliberate commercialization of politics in Nigeria puts the odds in the favour of the rich and powerful. It is time to consider alternative political platforms that prioritize the needs and wellbeing of the common people. In this vein, the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress must begin the struggle to truly reclaim the Labour Party (LP) as a platform to represent the interest of the working people, youth and poor masses by ridding it of pro-capitalist elements and pro-capitalist program, completely ending the monetisation of its internal elections and encouraging workers and ordinary people to join the party. And if the LP proves irredeemable, then we must commence the process of founding and building a genuine mass political party of the workings class and poor.

The time for action is now. Let us join hands to demand a future where hard work is rewarded with a decent life, where the sweat of our brows translates to hope, not despair. The fight for a living wage in Nigeria is not a battle for just fair wages; it must be a call for systemic change. Labour must rise up to lead a mass movement to rescue Nigeria and fight for an equitable and just economic system that would liberate the youth, unemployed and downtrodden from misery imposed by the ruling elite and thereby use the collective wealth of the society to guarantee them a decent quality of life. That system is socialism.