Reimagining Nigeria: Unleashing Economic Justice and Fair Wealth Redistribution

Photo by Safari Consoler 

Whenever I think about this topic, two things come to my mind. First, the monthly minimum wage in Nigeria is still N30,000 (Approx. $40 at N775.50 per $1 – as of June 25th, 2023.) – which is still not paid by all the states. Second, that some state government’s contract staff earn about N7,500 monthly as of 2022 as reported by Thisday. This is really horrendous, even as I acknowledge the fact that there are ongoing talks by the current administration to conduct an upward salary review in the face of high inflation rates and fuel subsidy removal. God in his infinite mercy has distributed wealth how he wants it, giving several countries varying Natural, Human, or other resources. In some countries, he blessed them with mineral resources while blessing some with arable land for cultivation. That is to say, God is the ultimate distributor of wealth. As humans, we then have the mandate to redistribute the resources that God has given to each nation or society in a just and fair manner in order to ensure no one is hungry or beggared. This is why most of the religions we practice teach fair redistribution of wealth. Islam for example has the concept of Zakat as one of its pillars–paying a specific percentage of your wealth to aid those in penury or in need to avoid hunger in the land.

Having said that, if we look at Nigeria, we might want to ask ourselves if we have we established economic justice and fairly redistributed the nation’s wealth? It wouldn’t take long for one to have an answer to this question. For any society to function appropriately  have less crime and fewer corrupt practices, there has to be economic justice and fair redistribution of wealth. Having a contrary means, the foundation of the society is already flawed, and the peaceful coexistence of its populace will be threatened. Basic human needs should be provided to the populace of societies. What constitutes basic needs can be debated but I agree with the following basic needs related by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in his book ‘For The Good of the Nation’. 

  • Training and education to develop the innate abilities of the individual and to enable him to cater to his well-being independently without becoming a burden on others.
  • A suitable job, profession, or trade, in keeping with his aptitude, ability, ambition, and needs of society so that he and society both benefit from his ability and training.
  • Adequate food and clothing Comfortable housing
  • A generally healthy environment combined with appropriate medical facilities
  • Adequate transport facilities to enable a worker to commute to his place of work without unreasonable discomfort and to convey his product to appropriate markets at a reasonable cost

The above needs are very much consistent with the lowest of the pyramid in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – Physiological Needs which are at least the basic needs a human should be provided with. Again, it wouldn’t take you long to know that Nigeria has failed to provide these needs to its populace. It’s simple. You cannot insist on fighting corruption if you still pay people peanuts as emoluments. You cannot pretend to want to build sustainable institutions if people who are supposed to sanitise and keep the institution running still earn peanuts. For instance, someone who earns 10-40k in a month and works in a government institution would need to pay for his house rent and utility bills, just name them. In fact, a bag of rice is around N30,000 – N40,000 – which someone earning minimum wage can’t afford. 

Tell me how this person, no matter how saintly they seem, would be able to say no to corrupt practices at work. Tell me how, no matter how committed he wants to be to the job, would he be able to work well. What will happen is – that person will neglect his job and take that job as an allowance from the government and then leverage other options to ensure he survives. He will at the end of the day extort his fellow innocent citizens to do the job he was actually hired to do. This is why you have people who will refuse to do their job until you bribe them. We cannot pretend that we want to build a nation with good institutions and stop corruption without availing people of economic justice.

Now you might ask, how the government would get funding to finance an increment in salaries? First, there is a need to justify those who ‘really’ need to be working and let others go—Downsizing and Right-Sizing the workforce. I am not a complete advocate of ‘Pareto Optimality’, but it would surely be an option in this case. Pareto Optimality states that you cannot make anyone better off without making someone else worse off. The reason I would favour this is, if we don’t take this approach, we all would as a matter of fact be worse off altogether. Simply cutting the cost of governance and waste, and shifting it to making employees have a better package will be more beneficial. 

Lay off those not meant to be there and ensure those that are there are in the right team. Secondly, you can now have strict rules around corruption and whosoever is found wanting should face the consequences and not be pardoned. There are so many possibilities for Pareto optimality. For instance, we spend huge sums of money to maintain 469 members of the National Assembly. In 2023 alone, the money allocated as an operational budget amounted to a whooping N228.1 billion – representing 9% of the country’s budget (~N486 million per legislator) and N162 billion was budgeted separately for constituency projects. Albeit having over 133 million people in multidimensional poverty, we spend this enormous amount on very few citizens – drifting far away from anything close to economic justice and fair redistribution of wealth, yet we wonder why corruption, social vices, etc. are almost our middle name.

  1. Okonjo-Iweala, N. (2018). Fighting Corruption is Dangerous – 
  2. The Story Behind the Headlines. London: The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts. 
  3. Sanusi, S. L. (2021). For The Good of The Nation. Lagos: ALFA Books.

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