Press zooms in on planned minimum wage review, others

The report that the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission has initiated process for the review of the National Minimum…

The report that the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission has initiated process for the review of the National Minimum Wage and the N4.71 billion debt by international and bilateral power consumers are some of the leading stories in Nigerian newspapers on Monday.The Punch reports that the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission says it has initiated process for the review of the National Minimum Wage.

NSIWC’s Head of Public Affairs, Mr Emmanuel Njoku, said this in a statement on Sunday in Abuja.

Njoku said as part of the process to review the  minimum wage, which would be due in 2024, the commission had held series of meetings and trainings towards a nationwide monitoring of the Minimum Wage Act 2019.

He said the monitoring billed to begin on Jan. 23, would help ascertain the compliance level of public and private employers and organisations.

According to him, the monitoring team will among other things inquire if employers keep adequate records of wage and conditions of service of employees.

 “The exercise will enlighten the public and private employers and organisations on the economic benefits in adhering to the payment of the National Minimum Wage.

“It will also help in obtaining baseline data on remuneration policies and practices of private sector organisations in order to enrich the commission’s data bank on staff compensation.

“The monitoring exercise will cover the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory,” he said.

Njoku said the monitoring team for the exercise would be drawn from key stakeholders including the Ministry of Labour and Employment, and Ministry of Finance and National Planning.

Other stakeholders, according to him, are Head of Service of the Federation, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Budget Office of the Federation and National Bureau of Statistics.

The newspaper says that the International and bilateral power consumers that get supply from Nigeria owe the country about N4.71bn, figures obtained on Sunday from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission showed.

It was gathered that the 10 international, bilateral and special power consumers of Nigeria failed to remit the sum within a period of six months, though efforts had been ongoing to get the debts settled.

The NERC revealed this in its first and second quarter reports of 2022, as it named the debtors to include Odukpani-CEET, Paras-SBEE, Ajaokuta Steel, and Mainstream/Inner Galaxy.

Others include Mainstream/KAM Industries, Mainstream/KAM Integrated, KAM Steel Shagamu, NDPHC/Sunflag, North South/OAU, and Mainstream/Adefolorunsho Ventures.

  The commission pointed out that the indebtedness by the power firms were to the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company Plc and the power Market Operator.

It stated that in the first quarter, moribund Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited failed to pay N0.45bn, while Odukpani-CEET did not remit $3.42m.

In the section on remittance by special and international customers, the commission stated that its summary indicated that “no payment was made by the special customer – Ajaokuta Steel Co. Ltd and the host community, in respect of the N0.38bn and N0.07bn market invoices issued by NBET and MO respectively in 2022/Q1.”

It added, “In the same period, bilateral customers, Paras-SBEE, Transcorp-SBEE, and Mainstream NIGERLEC received invoices of $2.72m, $2.74m and $4.61m from the MO and each remitted $2.72m (100 per cent), $2.74m (100 per cent), and $4.52m (98 per cent) respectively.

The Guardian reports that the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to promptly cut their “outrageous National Assembly budget of N228.1 billion, including the N30.17 billion severance payments and inauguration costs for members (the highest ever).”

It urged the national legislature to propose a fresh budget that would reflect current economic realities and retrogressive economic measures.

The group advised the duo to act within seven days of receipt and/or publication of the document or face legal action.

The National Assembly had increased its 2023 budget from N169 billion proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari to N228.1 billion. The approved budget shows an increase of about N59.1 billion. The country’s budget of N21.83 trillion is based on a N10.49 trillion revenue and a N11.34 trillion deficit.

In the letter dated January 14, 2023 and signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation observed: “It is a grave violation of public trust and constitutional oath of office for members of the National Assembly to increase their own budget at a time when some 133 million Nigerians are living in poverty.

“Cutting the National Assembly budget would reduce the growing budget deficit, address unsustainable debt burden and serve public interest.”

According to SERAP, increasing its own (National Assembly) budget, the legislature has “unjustifiably and disproportionately reduced the budget for UBEC (Universal Basic Education Commission).”

This, the rights group said, was a travesty, especially given that Nigeria currently has over 20 million out-of-school children and half of all poor people in the country being children.

The question of pushing African countries, especially Nigeria, to borrow more money to finance energy transition amidst distressed economic indexes and continued romance with fossil fuels subsidy was raised yesterday, as global leaders weigh challenges in energy transition.

The newspaper says that what becomes of the current 37 billion barrels of crude oil reserves and 206 trillion standard cubic feet of gas in Nigeria and those of other African countries and economic planning that still prioritises these resources also created serious concerns for energy and economic experts visa vis rising population and poverty.

At the 13th Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which ended yesterday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Nations and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) were specifically worried about the plight of Africa as they seek a balance between asking Africa to borrow money to transit to cleaner energy with the rest of the world or continue to use their existing resources.

By May this year, Nigeria’s debt is projected at N77 trillion ($171.2 billion). Reportedly, public debt has doubled in Africa since 2010, standing at 65 per cent of Gross Domestic Product in 2022. It was only 32.7 per cent in 2010.

This is coming at a time when the cost of borrowing is rapidly increasing as rising interest rates cause more complications for many African countries that are unable to issue Eurobonds, while refinancing costs have doubled with an average increase of 600 basis points and up to 1800 basis points in others.

The Overseas Development Institute had noted that $140 billion of Eurobonds and an average maturity of 10 years, meant that refinancing costs of 600 basis or six per cent would see interest costs amount to $8.4 billion yearly or $84 billion in total over the life of the bonds. This represents 0.3 per cent of Africa’s yearly GDP and, given that Eurobonds average 30 per cent of total debt, the overall cost of increased debt servicing will be a painful one per cent of GDP each year, the think tank noted.

While the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had said the Nigerian government may spend nearly 100 per cent of its revenue on debt servicing alone by 2026, Nigeria is pitching an Energy Transition Plan of $1.9 trillion and Renewable Energy Road Map of 1.22 trillion. At the same the country is spending about $15.7 billion on subsidies for premium motor spirit.

Indeed, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres said energy transition investment must triple to $4 trillion a year despite the global energy crisis exacerbated by COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine.

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