The main cause of the Kaduna State Labour unrest and war of attrition with Governor Nasir el-Rufai is that the state is overburdened with over 100,000 workforce and a wage bill that has become unsustainable.
The governor recently sacked 4,000 local council workers and served notice that more staff cuts, including his political appointees, were on the way. The Kaduna State Government, in an official statement, said that revenues from the Federal Government had been dwindling since the middle of 2020.The little that comes in goes to workers’ salaries, leaving other government services such as healthcare, education and social amenities to suffer.
“The government is an institution,” the statement said, “not to minister solely to the interests of the persons employed to help deliver mandate. Therefore, the state government has no choice but to shed some weight and reduce the size of the public service”.
This action drew the ire of the national body of Organised Labour led by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba. The cat-and-mouse game that ensued is being addressed at several levels. The interesting thing was that the governors of the All Progressive Congress, APC, states advised el-Rufai to embrace dialogue when he, in his usual dramatic way, declared Wabba wanted and sacked all workers who joined the strike. It is unconstitutional to unilaterally sack civil servants because such matters are guided by the law which el-Rufai did not bother with.
All state governors should regard the labour unrest in Kaduna State as a warning signal of things coming their own way. All of them are in the same fix as el-Rufai. The difference is that while the Kaduna helmsman believes in fighting his way through his problems, other governors approach the same problem in different ways.
Some would rather keep their bloated workforces without paying salaries and pensions. The days ahead look even bleaker because the dwindling revenue syndrome and runaway inflation stare us in the face. It will get worse now that subsidy on petrol is to be withdrawn with the prospects of N380 per litre pump price, or more.
The federal and state governments will find it more difficult to pay salaries and perform other governance obligations. The governors should heed their advice to el-Rufai, invite the Labour in their states and lay the cards on the table to reach amicable solutions for the survival of governance.
What we are going through is a consequence of the failure of our political leaders at all levels to slash the cost of governance, particularly the cost of maintaining political office-holders. Also, calls for restructuring have so far fallen on dear ears.
We must now face the consequences of failure to do the right thing.