Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) have been at loggerheads with the government and private sector over a new minimum wage, and negotiations have been deadlocked for over 3 weeks and still counting. Government and Private Sector insistence on paying N60,000 provoked the declaration of an indefinite strike which started on June 3rd 2024 but was suspended on the 4th of June, 2024. The suspension was to last for five days but it does not appear that the labour leadership put in place any plan of action should the government, as usual, fail to meet their demands as many principal leaders proceeded on the trip to the meetings of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Switzerland. This is the second time the labour leadership has suspended action this year and then gone to sleep. The first one was a 2-week ultimatum that was declared following the suspension of a nationwide mass protest on February 28, 2024, and lapsed on March 13, 2024.

Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) statement, June 28, 2025

The strike organised on June 3, 2024, was the most effective strike and widely supported compared to previous strikes since 2016 even though it was not adequately mobilized. The capitalist ruling elite came under pressure as major sectors of the economy were shut down including sea, airport and electricity. Rather than build on the momentum, the labour leaders have again gone to sleep. Unfortunately, this inaction gave the capitalist ruling elite more time to maneuver and recover. The labour leaders could make the case that they were engaged in important meetings at the International Labour Organisation. In that case they could have sent one or two people to Europe instead of a delegation of around 116 so-called ‘workers representatives’. Then the other ‘workers’ representatives’ could have travelled around Nigeria campaigning rather then sitting in Switzerland. Instead, at time when millions upon millions of Nigerians are suffering a massive drop in living standards, the “Generals” left the battle field for too long and did nothing serious to mobilise support for what is likely to be a major struggle

Wages are a very crucial integral aspect of the unfair, exploitative, profiteering capitalist system, the self-serving capitalist ruling elite, government and private sector employers, will continually do everything to condemn Nigerian workers to poverty wage to secure huge profit and profligate lifestyle for themselves. Weak Nigerian capitalism can only function on the basis of low wages, hence, the government and the organized private sector both resist a genuine living wage for workers. Even the N30,000 minimum wage, which ought to have been outdated, has not been implemented by some states. For instance, the Zamfara State government just announced implementation of N30,000 minimum wage structure this month (June 2024) more than five years after it had become law. In line with class struggle, the challenge for the trade union movement is to force the capitalist ruling elite to grant living wage to Nigerians workers and also resist all anti-people policies.

This is urgent. The inflation rate is 33.95%, the rising cost of living is notoriously high as prices change rapidly, and food generally has become unaffordable forcing many people to go hungry. A basket of tomatoes is over N60,000, a bag of beans is over N180,000, a big tuber of yam is over N10,000, a bag of rice is about N80,000, and a crate of egg is N5,000. To feed a family of 4 adequately costs more than N150,000 and this is aside from the ever-increasing cost of education, healthcare, housing, utilities etc.  In the face of this economic hardship, government and the private sector want to condemn workers to an abysmally low N60,000 minimum wage structure. The state governors are advocating a minimum wage structure for workers that is lower than N60,000 the Federal Government is apparently proposing.

Government apologists/representatives and bourgeois commentators have gone on the offensive to argue against living wage since labour leaders abdicated the arena of struggle. They present the argument as if a living wage is not sustainable and will collapse the economy but turn a blind eye to the ever-increasing jumbo wage/allowances and extravagant lifestyle being enjoyed by politicians and top management staff. For instance, the National Assembly spent a whopping N57.6 billion to buy 360 SUV cars (N160,000,000 per SUV Car) in October 2023. This is just an example of extravagance, wastage and corruption being replicated at different levels and strata of government as well as the private sector that contributes negatively to the already bad state of the economy.

The main reason the Nigerian economy is in bad shape with devastating rising cost of living for working people is the fact that the whole economy is based on capitalism and the Nigerian ruling class, given Nigeria’s domination by imperialism, make their money by the massive exploitation of working people, deals with imperialism and looting of the commonwealth.

As a result of this situation working people are made to pay for the economic crises created by the capitalist ruling elite through low wage, payment of higher taxes, subsidy removal, hike in electricity tariff, commercialization of education and healthcare through hike in school fees and healthcare services, lack of basic infrastructure etc.

However, in as much as we fully support higher wage for workers, no amount of wage increment will retain its value in the face of sustained neo-liberal capitalist attacks and the regular crises of capitalism. This is more reason the trade union leaders should fight for better wage and also resist all anti-poor policies.

The mass protest of mostly young people has just forced the Ruto-led government in Kenya to withdraw the IMF/World Bank-inspired tax increment policy aimed at ‘solving’ Kenya’s crisis by cutting living standards. This example shows that it is also possible for Nigerian working people and youth to force the Tinubu-led government to reverse the prices of petroleum products, electricity tariffs, fee hikes in public schools, and all other neo-liberal capitalist policies, policies which would give some immediate respite to most Nigerians.

The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) calls on the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), as the next step in the minimum wage struggle, to declare and this time mobilize widely for a 48-hour general strike and mass protest to demand a minimum wage not less than N200,000 and the reversal of all anti-poor policies (privatization, deregulation, subsidy removal, electricity tariff hike etc.). However, given the recent failures of the NLC and TUC to seriously mobilise, trade unionists and activists must themselves take steps to organise a campaign at grass roots level to both build support for struggle and for the trade unions to have leaders who take their responsibilities seriously.

Amongst the immediate demands should be the call for the inclusion of a demand that the minimum wage must be automatically adjusted in line with the rate of inflation and rising cost of living, minimum wage need not wait for 4 or 5 years before adjustment. This may forestall needless long negotiations and ensure wages do not fall behind the inflationary rate and poverty line. However, we should add that it will require a serious struggle to force the capitalist elite to agree to this and actually implement it as they will try to take back any concessions they have been forced to make.

The slow collapse of the Nigerian economy, and the similar crises in many countries in Africa and beyond, is an illustration of how the unstable capitalist system cannot deliver sustainable long term growth. Elections show the massive unpopularity of governments in Britain, France and Germany amongst others as crises grip the so-called ‘advanced’ countries. This is why the CDWR also calls on the labour movement to seriously begin building a pan-Nigerian democratic and working people’s political party on a socialist programme. This is needed to defeat the self-serving capitalist ruling elite and begin to plan the economy for the benefit of the vast majority.

Chinedu Bosah

National Publicity Secretary

CDWR email: [email protected]