Seven weeks after Nasarawa State Government and the organised labour separately debunked BudgIT report, that the state government owned six months’ salary and pensions arrears of it workers, fresh dust was beginning to raise, as the organised labour is threatening industrial action if the state government fails to prioritise workers’ welfare.
The non-profit research firm, had in its 2022 sub-national salary survey reported that Nasarawa was among the 12 on the table of states owing workers’ salaries in Nigeria.
The firm is a civic organisation that applies technology to intersect citizens engagement with institutional improvement to facilitate societal change.
Some members of the public are believed that, the outcome of the survey may not be far from the truth, considering the situations that befall state and local governments workers in the last administration of Senator Umaru Tanko Almakura, where civil servants experienced delay, illegal deduction and percentage payment of salaries.
The Budgit report, which generated concerns from all quarters, pointed to the fact that all is yet to be heard of the true position of workers’ welfare in the state.
Governor Sule, who travelled out of the country when the report was published, received the attention of the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ibrahim Addra and the organised labour in the state, who denied the outcome, saying Nasarawa was erroneously capture.
CPS Addra who cleared the air in a statement issued to newsmen in Lafia, described the report as false, unjust and unfair to the administration of Governor Sule.
He said that the matter of workers’ salaries are not issues that can be concealed or left to some uncertified data, as the state was up to date in payment of salaries in full.
He added, the state government does not own it workers’ a single month salary.
The governor’s media aid further described the report as deliberate to dent the image of the state, as the collection and compilation of data from the field survey was an error committed.
In a press briefing, the Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state, Yusuf Iya, also described the report by BudgIT as untrue.
He said: “The leadership of Nasarawa NLC, hereby, debunk, condemn and describe the report as false, fallacious, concocted and baseless.
“Since the inception of this administration, state and local council workers, as well as retirees, have never been in arrears of even a month. Sule met the local council staff and retirees receiving salaries/wages in percentage, but stopped that practice immediately.”
He added that Sule inherited a salary liability of N720 million and granted approval for the payment.
“Also, Sule approved the implementation of pending promotion, which has been hanging for over 14 years with the implementation of N216 million wage bill till date, and he has never skipped any month.
“Let me further state that the document published as a result of a survey carried out lacks professional input. A qualified survey must present the source of primary and secondary data and the result of the interview conducted,” he said.
The NLC called on Nigerians to disregard the report because it is a gimmick to cause confusion and political disorder in Nasarawa.
BusinessDay sought to know why BudgIT had to name Nasarawa among states owning workers salary for six weeks, in spite claims by the state government and organised labour that the state is not owing a dime.
Sarah Musa, the Project Tracking Officer of BudgIT in charge of Nasarawa State, said, ODK was used for the survey, covering Toto, Karu, Lafia, Nasarawa-Eggon and Akwnaga Local Government Areas as well as the Ministries of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs; Works and Transport; Finance, Budget and Planning, the State High Court; Nasarawa State House of Assembly; of the state; College of Agriculture, Science and Technology, Isa Mustapha Agwai Polytechnic and local council Secretariats.
She said, their survey also capture senior and junior cadre in the selected government MDAs and local government areas of the state.
She said, according to the survey, those affected in the non-payment of salaries, lack of promotions and percentage payment are mostly junior staff, while salaries of all senior staff in the aforementioned MDAs are intact.
Musa however decried the deplorable state of facilities at primary health care center, thereby subjecting masses to suffering.
She added, most senior officers have no issues with their salaries, except for those at the Junior cadre, whose salaries are not paid for two to three months in the state.
From the forgoing, it is believed that the disposition of the organised labour exonerates the state government of any default relating to workers’ welfare. They have gone as far as given a good impression that the present government under governor Sule was clean, and are even mobilizing for his re-election in 2023.
Though an impressive move, many viewed it that the organised labour has compromised the welfare of workers to their personal interest.
But, in what could be liken to a twist in the romance between the state government and the organized labour, gearing towards looming industrial crisis ended when the state government is making move to conduct promotional examination for civil servants from 2017 to date.
The organised labour were emphatical on their stand that, should the state government insisted in subjecting civil servants to written examination, they would be left with no option than to embark on strike.
They also raised the issue of consequential adjustment of salaries of workers on grade level 7 and above, implementation of minimum wage, continue appointment of persons outside the mainstream of civil service as permanent secretaries among other sundry issues, as some of the pending challenges yet to be addressed by the state government.
Like the sleeping dog, nothing would have been heard of the pending issues from the organised labour, if the state government had not come up with the plan of subjecting civil servants to write promotional examination from 2017.
It was gathered that, some civil servants have more than one promotions, waiting to be implemented, and wondered why examination would be conducted on arrears of promotions. The implication is that, any civil servants that did not pass the examination will not be promoted to the next level, which the Labour union observed as a plot to stagnate it members and denied them their privileges.
The Organised Labour in Nasarawa State did made their position known at the one day seminar, organized by the Nasarawa State branch of Association of Senior Civil Servants in Nigeria, help in Lafia.
Notwithstanding, the seminar focused on ways to improve welfare of workers, how to scale up productivity in service and tackling insecurity in the state.
Beyond the focus of the seminar, the organized labour threatened to embark on indefinite strike, if the state government fails to resume negotiation for full implementation of the national minimum wage in particular.
Yusuf Iya, the State NLC Chairman and his Trade Union counterpart, Mohammed Doma also objected the continued appointments of persons outside the core civil service as Permanent Secretaries in the state.
Iya noted that civil servants especially those on grade level 7 and above had ran out of patience due to non-consequential adjustment of their salaries to reflect the approved national minimum wage.
He stated that the Organised Labour would no longer guarantee industrial harmony any time soon if the state government fails to take immediate and realistic steps towards paying maximum attention to workers welfare.
The NLC Chairman however called on the state government to return to the negotiating table to conclude the discussions on the consequential adjustment in respect to the implementation of minimum wage.
Iya also advised the state government to adopt the contributing pension scheme as the current system is causing a lot of hardship to retirees.
The State Chairman, Trade Union Congress, Mohammed Doma, in his submission called on workers in the state to brace up for strike unless the state government commences unconditional implementation of promotion of civil servants which had stagnated over the years.
Doma further, called on the government to withdraw the circular that workers most write and pass promotion examination before they get their outstanding promotions.
The TUC Chairman explained that these promotions were outstanding and workers cannot sit for any examination before they get their outstanding promotions.
“Implement all the outstanding promotions first, then we can be in the same page to obey whatever the government want us to do going forward,” he added.
He then commended Governor Sule’s led-administration for implementing some of the outstanding promotions of workers after more than ten years.
The Chairman, Association of Senior Civil Servants in Nigeria, Haruna Ewa called on the state government to desist from the practice of appointing permanent secretaries and directors based on political considerations.
According to the Chairman, bringing people from outside without the requisite experience to serve as permanent secretaries was one of the factor responsible for low productivity, thereby destroying the service, being the engine room of government.
He also kicked against the extension of the tenure of civil servants beyond the mandatory 35 years of service or 60 years of age.
“This if allowed to continued, would bring about permanent stagnation of civil servants who are working hard to reach the peak of their careers.
Ewa said, the seminar, which is an annual event was to build the capacity of civil servants maximum productivity in service.
He added that the participants over the years are equipped with knowledge on the workings of labour movements and how to relate with the government to ensure a better welfare for workers.
In a paper presentation entitled “preserving the civil service and the imperative of building Nasarawa State: the Role of Labour Unions, a retired permanent secretary in the state, Yaurus Dagusa stressed the need for continuous capacity building for civil service for better service delivery.