YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – In Nigeria, Catholic leaders are ratcheting up their criticism of the widening economic disparities in the country.

Drawing a parallel to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Father George Ehusani raised alarm bells, warning of an “imminent revolt” should the authorities continue to practice what he called “economic apartheid.”

The priest of Lokoja Parish in Abuja was speaking against the backdrop of ongoing negotiations over the minimum wage, where the Federal government insists on capping it at 62,000 naira ($42) per month, while organized labor advocates for an increase to nearly four times that amount.

Ehusani has issued a stern warning: If labor demands are not met, a revolt may be imminent.

“More than 60 years after independence, we are still running an apartheid society. This time it’s not racial apartheid, it’s economic apartheid,” the Nigerian priest said at a June 9 homily.

“We are running an apartheid society of people of conspicuous consumption, flying in private jets around at government expense, people who are riding four, five, six, seven SUVs with pilot vehicles chasing the poor out of the road, and the same people are debating and discussing what the poor should earn,” he said.

Such inequalities, the priest asserted, could lead to an uprising, the same way George Orwell’s animals rebelled against their human farmer in the hope of creating a society in which all animals could be free, equal and happy.

“Nigerian society is like the Animal Farm, a society where we have conspicuously rich people, people who are living in conspicuous consumption and others who are in deplorable, dehumanizing poverty,” the priest said

Ehusani also serves as the Executive Director and Lead Faculty of the Lux Terra Leadership Foundation that deals with leadership training.

He said it was fundamentally unfair to have some Nigerians earning as high as 1 million Nigerian naira a month ($665.00) while others earn just about 60,000 Nigerian naira ($40.00).

The priest described such income disparities as a “crime against humanity”.

“How can they go to sleep in good conscience every day? How can they go to sleep in good conscience and come out to sit down in a boardroom to discuss paying 60,000 naira to the poorest of workers?” Ehusani said.

“How wicked! You give 60,000 naira to a poor worker who may have a family of two or three or four, for his feeding, for his accommodation, for his house rent, for his medical care, for his children’s school fees… How wicked! How blind! How can we do that? And we think that God will bless our country?” the priest said.

Father Ejike Mbaka, founder and director of Adoration Ministries in Enugu and parish priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Emene, suggested that government officials earn the same minimum wage they are prescribing for others.

“If we decide to give labor N60, 000 or N62, 000, why not generalize it to the house of assembly members, senatorial members, house of representative members, and governors?” Mbaka said on June 10.

“All of them are civil servants. So, are the others slaves? I cannot imagine why somebody can amass billions and billions as a sitting allowance, wardrobe allowance, newspaper allowance, vehicle allowance and what they call suffering allowance,” the priest said.“The people that should have such allowances should be the poor masses in the villages,” he asserted.

“As teachers, how much are they being paid? Our nurses and doctors, how much are they being paid? Let us be realistic, our civil servants that wake from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. They wake up early and return late. How much are they being paid. And look at the level of inflation in the country,” continued Mbaka.

Bishop Anselm Pendo Lawani, from Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Ilorin, highlighted the stark wage gap and its impact on low-income earners.

During a press conference commemorating Nigeria’s Democracy Day on June 11, he expressed deep concern that despite the country’s wealth, the majority of its citizens continue to suffer from poverty — a situation he finds both unfortunate and paradoxical.

He said many Nigerians “are living in squalor and slums, unable to have three square meals a day.”

He said this has been worsened by the “incessant increase in the pump price of petrol, occasioned by the subsidy removal from petroleum products last year.”

In comments to Crux, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto Diocese said, “Today, things are hard- really very hard in Nigeria. I see it on the faces of our people every day.”

“We are in one of the most difficult phases of our national life,” he said, but expressed optimism that the country would eventually heal “from the scars of hunger and destitution.”

Lawani, appealed to the government to pay Nigerian workers a living wage and introduce tax breaks and tariff exemptions in order to encourage investment and support local businesses.

Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has said his government will only approve an amount that can be afforded.