Anas Sani Anka
The National Leadership of The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has issued a Letter of Threat to the Zamfara state government dated 19th September 2022 over Non-implementation of N30,000 Minimum Wage to the state civil servants.
In the letter, the Labour Union threatened to shut-down the state if the state government failed to act by implementing the Minimum Wage within twenty one days ultimatum.
Since when the letter was of threat by the NLC was released, stakeholders believed there are more to be expected in terms of the possible face-off between the Labour union and the Zamfara state government especially with the level of economic crises facing states coupled with the social insecurity ravaging the state.
One of the key stakeholders that raised alarm over the development is the Concerned Citizens for Social Justice a Non-governmental organization who crafted a long essay arguing on the economic strengths of the state to deliver to the threat of the Nigerian Labour Congress.
They have presented key economic indicators that are visible to determine the strengths of the state government to meet up with the demands of the labour union. They argued:
“Our economy is weak enough to handle the demand for the payment of N30,000 Minimum Wage and despite the fact that the new Minimum Wage is a law there are exceptional circumstances which required a holistic review before a final stand is taken”.
“We believed the infraction is caused by the inability of the two actors to come together with genuine mind and address the lingering infractions related to the payment of the Minimum Wage” the Civil Society argued.
Going further, they argued: “Zamfara is the only state that is earning in between N2billion and below per month from the Federation Account as “Monthly Cash Allocation” and this allocation the state is receiving from the Federation Account suffered heavy hammer of on-the-spot-deduction which is within the average of between N400-600m per month as a result of the various Court Orders and agreements entered into by the successive governments”.
The group argued that, “ In 2021 alone Zamfara state government expended the sum of N27.1b in debt servicing and 90% of this debt was secured by the past administrations”.
They have also raised in their submission that: “The state government is battling with over (75) Court cases bordering on the claims by the contractors whose claims are also due for payment even before the coming of the present government”.
They argued further that on record “the state has also entered into the “Out-of-Court” arrangement with over twenty contractors who have Pending Claims as far back as 2010 and relief of commitment has commenced to settling their liabilities out of the court by the present government”.
Another interesting part of their submission is the revelation by the Malam Wakkala Transition Committee of 2019 where it mentioned the Committee reported that “the administration has inherited a liability including claims by the contractors worth over N240b Naira from the successive administrations.
Theseliabilities had to be settled as pointed earlier since some contractors had already headed to court to file some actions against the state government”.
Another area of concern by the members of the Civil Society Organizations and public is the low level of Internally Generated Revenue(IGR) earnings. They argued that, “Since 2010 the IGR earnings of Zamfara state hardly goes beyond N3billion annually.
Unfortunately for us, Zamfara has over (70) revenue generating agencies but for the past three and a half years precisely from June 2019 to date the performance of these agencies in terms of remittance to the state is as low as half a billion Naira”.
“The only defendable source of revenue accrued to the state is the “Pay-as-You-Earn”. The fact is that it is not because revenue is not being paid but because of alleged corruption and unwanted leakages” the group added.
Talking about the “heavy workforce, the Civil Society Organization argued that “it has become a clear source of worry that Zamfara a state with (14) local governments has a workforce of over sixty thousand Civil servants put together”. The number is heavier than that of Kano and Kaduna respectively,who are by far populous in terms of number of local governments and workforce.
The organization went further to extend their analysis by saying “based on the analysis we have made, the current government took over with a monthly salary liability of N1.4billion Naira and a corresponding monthly pension liability of N106 million Naira.
But just few weeks back, the Deputy Accountant General of the State announced that in (35) months, the state government was able to pay Gross Salary of N71billion and if one divides N71billion by (36) it means the state is spending on the average a total of N1.9b for the payment of monthly salary”.
The DAG announced also that, the state has spent the sum of N6billion in the payment of Monthly Pension to state civil servants and again when one divides N6billion by (36) it means the state is spending on the average the sum of N166billion for the payment of the Monthly Pension.
The proportionate increase in both salary Payroll and that of the Monthly Pension has really raised a big question to answer according to the Civil Society Organization. “We understand that typically the Labour force for Zamfara is not really justifiable looking at the other side of the argument that, the figure of the entire political appointees in Zamfara is not up to (3,000)”.
Recently or precisely by January 2021 an Audit was made into the Payroll of the Zamfara Hospital Service Management Board and it was discovered that salaries of senior medical doctors on transfer to other federal health facilities, medical staff whose contracts had expired, staff without medical qualifications were still running head-on in the Payroll of the state.
In that particular Audit made close to N25,000,000.00 were saved in an establishment of the state that is receiving a Monthly Grant of about N255,000,000.00 for payment Monthly Salary to the state Civil servants”.
They argued further that, “the labour need to be reminded that, the social insecurity ravaging the state has now paralyzed the entire economic activities of the state. Currently however, the state has applied security measures and enforced the “Doctrine of Self Defense” and on record, the security situation of the state cannot resist the idea of state shut-down because a salt will surely be added into the injury”.
“It will interest the labour Union to note that what the state government is expending to augment the security operation including Procurement of operational vehicles as well as payment of allowances is such a heavy amount that is enough to resolve the Minimum Wage issue and also do other sensitive things for the development of the state” the group added.
WHAT LABOUR UNION AND ZAMFARA STATE GOVERNMENT NEED TO DO AS LONG TERM MEASURES.
The Labour Union and Zamfara state government need to come together to passion out ways to enhance the challenges of stagnating condition of resources and reduce the unnecessary burden on the government especially from the perspective of human resources that are not needed by the state.
The Labour union and state government need to sustain the matching line to ensure that payment of salary is sustained on monthly basis without any break. The concern of everyone is to make sure that, Zamfara does not fall into the list of those other states that cannot afford/sustain the payment of monthly salary. Similar spirit goes to the payment of Monthly Pension as well as release of the Monthly Standing Order for the payment of gratuity.
The labour union and state government should work hard to block leakages from the intrusion of ghost workers and also padding of salary figures by some unpatriotic state civil servants.
The Labour Union and Zamfara state government need to work toward checkmating corruption among the revenue generating agencies in order to ensure that all revenues due for the state are remitted to the state consolidated revenue account.
Labour union shall watch carefully on the extent of the debt being incurred for the state and the purpose it is meant for because its members are being used in preparing the schedule and securing of the loan.
THE FLAT AGREEMENT AND DECEMBER 2022 DATELINE
In consideration of the development the Chairman of the committee on the implementation of the N30,000 Minimum Wage in Zamfara Former Minister of Finance Ambassador Bashir Yuguda has championed a Tri-partite Meeting between the state government and labour union so that the threat of shut-down can be stand-down.
Yuguda at a meeting held at the office of the Deputy Governor on Tuesday said the state government is very much willing to implement the Minimum Wage but pointed that the economic condition of the state caused the delay.
He assured that based on the agreement he has reached with the state as Committee chairman, the Minimum Wage will be implemented by November 2022.
The State Deputy Governor has also assured that the commitment of the government as contained in the Memorandum of Action signed between the parties on Tuesday.
The Labour Union on their own part had expressed hope that the commitment of the state government be fulfilled at the moment agreed so that the hope and confidence of the State Civil Servants be fulfilled.