Nigeria government backs 50% hike in minimum wage

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Nigeria's government has agreed to a 50% increase in the minimum wage, a minister said on Tuesday, in a move designed to break a deadlock with unions and avert strike action.

Workers on the minimum wage in Africa's most populous nation currently receive 18 000 naira (just under $50) a month but there have been repeated calls for it to go up.

In November last year, state governors rejected a deal to raise the amount to 30 000 naira, calling it "impracticable" given the amount of federal funding they receive.

Nigerian states receive monthly allocations from the federal government coffers but many states have not paid public sector workers for months, citing the economic downturn.

Labour minister Chris Ngige told reporters after a meeting of the national council of states advisory body that "27 000 monthly has been approved".

The new rate - which parliament will now have to ratify - would be applicable to both the private and public sector, and would be reviewed every five years.

Businesses which employ fewer than 25 people would be exempt, he added.

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"States and organisations that are able to pay more than 27 000 naira could do so. It depends on the financial capacity," he said.

"For example the federal government has resolved that they are not paying workers less than 30 000 naira."

There was no immediate response from unions, who have threatened a wave of strikes unless the minimum wage was increased to 30 000 naira.

High inflation has become a major issue in Nigeria, Africa's leading oil producer where most of the more than 180 million people live in poverty.

Inflation is currently nudging 11.5 percent.

Nigerians go to the polls on February 16 to elect a new president and parliament, with incumbent Muhammadu Buhari under pressure over his handling of the economy.

The country is recovering from recession, with GDP expected to grow by 2.3 percent in 2019, according to the African Development Bank.

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