Lai Mohammed’s Big Reveal on El Zakzaky Invites Pressure on Minimum Wage

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Politics and Policy

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, turned heads today. Again.

His outlandish claim that the Federal Government spends nearly $10,000 dollars monthly to feed El Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria who has been in detention nearing three years, caught fire on social media. Even Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi seemed stunned by the staggering amount, muttering something like “detain me too”. If that was genuine shock or surprise, he is not alone you can be sure.

As has been severally pointed out, it does not appear a true statement by the Minister. El Zakzaky is detained with his wife but uUnless some of the Shiite leader’s sons (three of whom were allegedly killed by Nigerian soldiers in the 2015 massacre) or kindred are also co-detainees at the moment, spending N3.5 million to feed him every month is either testimony to El Zakzaky’s miraculous digestive system or a pointer to massive corruption in an Abuja kitchen with a pipe to Aso Rock.

It would be unfortunate that the Minister exaggerates on such a subject in an attempt to paint the Government as gaining nothing by still keeping El Zakzaky within its bars. But should it be the case that there is any truth to the estimate, it goes to show how much wasteful expenditures are allowed within the Buhari administration, contrary to the promises made at the inception towards plugging leakages and loopholes. While the majority of Nigerians have had to grind through a recession over the last three years, some staffers acting for the government appear to be getting ridiculously fat from the detention of one man whose bail courts have severally approved.

Having received the report from the Amma Pepple Minimum Wage Committee before Lai Mohammed’s big reveal, the Buhari administration puts itself under more pressure. If majority of labour unionists and Nigerians in general think it is a farce that El Zakzaky consumes N3.5 million worth of food in a month all by himself, they will be emboldened to channel more energy into getting the government to realise their demands of a N30,000 minimum wage, a figure the government – not without good reasons – has deemed unrealistic for future fiscal stability.

The Buhari administration has contrived various legal arguments for keeping El Zakzaky this long. How does it justify that it costs the equivalent of six times the minimum wage to feed him for a day?

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