By Victor Ahiuma-Young, reporting from Geneva, Switzerland
INDICATIONS have emerged of a looming industrial unrest in the Ministry of Defence, MoD, Education, and others following workers’ restiveness over unpaid salaries and other benefits including promotion arrears, totaling N290 billion.
Secretary-General of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, Mr. Bashir Lawal, told journalists at the ongoing 106th session of the International Labour Conference, ILC, in Geneva, Switzerland, that labour leaders could no longer calm the workers’ restiveness.
He contended that the situation in the ministries, especially Defence and Education, was getting out of control, lamenting that the N10 billion released by the government was grossly inadequate, judging from the fact that the total indebtedness was N290 billion.
According to him: “If you look at the entire problem, you will agree with me that government is not sincere with the workers. This indebtedness dates back to 2007, and you want to imagine that workers who are working are being promoted as at when due but government is refusing to pay them their promotion arrears. Somebody that has been promoted from level 8 to 9, from 9 to 10, from 10 to 12 and so on, is still earning level 8 salary because the employer, which is the Federal Government, has refused to do the right thing.
“So, this has brought the arrears to N290 billion. And the insincerity of the Federal Government was demonstrated in the first instance, when the Federal Government gave out the bailout funds to states totaling about N734 billion, the Federal Government took 52.2 percent of the amount as a result of the revenue sharing formula. Then, the states took their shares.
“The Federal Government is asking the states to use their share to pay arrears of workers’ salaries. But the Federal Government took its share and diverted it to other uses without using it to pay salaries. That is the height of insincerity. So, now the Federal Government has accepted that there is a problem. As I speak with you, the situation is very tense. Workers are very restive and no labour leader can guarantee that the situation will not get out of hand.
“We are just trying to manage the situation, knowing some of the other challenges facing the country. Now we have come together, including the National Assembly on the issue of this N290billion, the National Assembly has offered a window that we should utilise what is currently in the budget.”
What is in the budget is N30billion and so the two sides would then meet and look at the possibility of packaging a sort of loan or bond to be able to sort this out. So, this N10billion released by the government is just in the interim, to just start doing something. The N30billion in the budget is not what is readily available because of the process involved before it can be accessed.”