The NIPC Staff Union has suspended what seemed like an indefinite strike, following negotiations with key stakeholders to halt the industrial action and reopen for business operations.
The suspension of the strike by NIPC Staff Union was announced in a press statement released on Saturday morning by the Commission stating, “after extensive discussions with Union officials over several days, two agreements were signed by all parties”. With all tensions quelled, the Head Office of the NIPC reopened today, 20 July 2020 for normal business activities.
How did we get here?
On Thursday, 9 July, 2020 the entrance to the Commission’s easily recognisable edifice was barricaded and gates shut by Unions members flashing multi-coloured posters with “Yewande Must Go” emblazoned on them. The sparse group of protesters demanded payment of welfare allowances. At the heart of the protest, the Chairman of the NIPC worker’s union, Comrade Yusuf Mustapha cried out for the dismissal of the Executive Secretary/CEO due to “unfair treatment of workers and abuse of public funds”. The alleged imbalanced treatment of staff is ascribed to non-payment of staff welfare allowances since last year; even after approval by the Governing Council of NIPC in October 2018.
According to the Executive Secretary/CEO, Yewande Sadiku, “staff have been enjoying various allowances since 2007, and these allowances were enhanced in 2018 with the introduction of three new packages – Productivity Allowance, Post Service Benefit Scheme and Staff Housing Loan Scheme. A Group Life Insurance Policy was also introduced in 2020.” The non-remittance of allowances was first delayed due to an Exparte Order by the Court, restraining the agency from spending its IGR, and then by the need to get the required clearance from the relevant government agency; a 2007 policy requirement that NIPC only became aware of in late December 2019, she added.
In December 2019, Honourable Justice Anwuri Chikere of the Federal High Court, Abuja granted an interim order barring the Commission from spending its IGR in a suit filed by a member of the Governing Council, Hon. Ali Sani. The suit was struck out on 13 May, 2020 for lack of merit.
The Commission has exponentially increased its budget for staff welfare from N28.4m in 2016 to N500m in 2020, all approved by the Governing Council.
Following Due Process
The National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), the agency saddled with the responsibility of granting remuneration, pension schemes, and other statutory benefits is required to give clearance to all allowances paid by Ministries, Departments and Agencies, where the Act establishing any agency empowers its board to create such allowances. “Public service has rules which are to be followed, sometimes sequentially, and having NSIWC’s sign-off was requisite in paying the said welfare packages. The frosty relations from the union illustrates a miscommunication from both parties, where some staff felt their needs were not prioritised”, said a staff who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A Way Forward
After intensive and extensive deliberations of all contentious issues, two agreements were signed on Friday, 17 July with representatives from NIPC’s coordinating ministry, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, NIPC Governing Council and Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria. The 12-point agreement signed by all representatives present contained detailed resolution on each grouse.
It was agreed that payments to staff of the allowances that caused the agitation will commence after clearance from NSIWC. The Procurement Commission is expected to complete its inspection during the week and present their recommendations to their Board before the end of next month.
Commenting on the resolved crisis, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, William Alo said, “we are happy that the grievances between parties have been put aside, and everyone can continue ensuring the economic prosperity of the country.” He, however, urged the NSIWC to speedily work with the NIPC to ensure the necessary paperwork is completed and staff receive their funds.
The last time NIPC Staff Union embarked on industrial strike action was in May 2015, over accusations of the-then Executive Secretary, Saratu Altine Umar contravening the NIPC Act and abusing public office. She was relieved of her role on 18 May, 2015 by President Goodluck Jonathan.