Abuja, June 19, 2015 (NAN) A cross-section of Nigerians has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to harmonise the salaries of Federal civil servants in ministries and agencies as part of measures to ensure equity in the public service.
A nation-wide survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has revealed that most of the respondents, including the civil servants, believe that the disparity in the salaries of public servants in different ministries and agencies has impacted negatively on the morale of some workers who feel short-changed by the arrangement.
The respondents also called for the periodic review of salaries and wages, as well as judicious utilisation of public funds to provide social amenities.
Alhaji Ahmed Usman, Gombe State Head of Service, called for harmonisation of the basic salary, to be differentiated by only the allowances.
“I want to see harmony of income because the volume of work is the same, to be differentiated by allowances.
“Allowance, in this perspective, is understandable; if you are in Abuja, which is a very high density area, certain allowances should be peculiar to you.
“All aggregate of things that take your income have to be provided and made affordable to discourage going for extra resources to satisfy those needs,’’ he said.
He also called for the periodic review of salaries and wages, to reflect the prevailing economic realities in the country.
Malam Mohammed Adamu, Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Gombe State chapter, also expressed similar sentiments, noting that the salary structure of civil servants should be the same with the only differences in allowances, depending on the profession.
Hajiya Maimunatu Musa, a civil servant in the state, also said that harmonisation of salaries has the capacity to boost morale and curb corruption in the public service.
In Yola, Mr Kissinger Bukar, a civil servant, called on the National Assembly to review the minimum wage in line with the current economic realities.
He said that the current N18, 000 minimum wage, which was introduced in 2010, was implemented at the time the exchange rate of the naira was more stable than now.
Mrs Aisha Aliyu, another civil servant in the state, said that the N18,000 minimum wage needed to be improved otherwise corruption in the public service would continue.
According to her, a living wage will enable workers to save a reasonable part of their earnings for the rainy day.
Mr Zareh Baba, the Secretary General of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Adamawa chapter, said that since all categories of public servants bought essential commodities at the same markets, it would be fair if their wages were harmonised.
Mr Gabriel Unenda, an economist, however, said that though the current wage was not realistic considering the economic situation in the country, it would be unwise to increase wages when the debt profile of the country was very high.
In Maiduguri, Alhaji Bulama Abiso, the Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state, said the salary disparity between some public agencies and others was unjustifiable.
He suggested a substantial upward review of the salaries to arrive at a realistic minimum wage that could sustain the average worker.
“The National Salary and Wages Commission has failed in its responsibility of ensuring full implementation of a fair salary structure in the country.
“Instead, it has relegated most of its responsibilities to various trade unions and the Nigeria Labour Congress,’’ Abiso said.
Alhaji Ali Grema, the Chairman, Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the state, said that the disparity in the salaries of public servants had made some agencies and establishments more lucrative than others, thereby encouraging corruption among job-seekers.
He said the government must give equal priority to all public agencies and institutions, encourage productivity, ensure equity and recognise handwork.
Grema explained that public establishments such as NNPC, Corporate Affairs Commission, CBN, PTDF were made to look more attractive than others because of wage differentials.
Alhaji Yahaya Imam, the Director of the National Orientation Agency in the state, said an upward review of the entitlements of workers to close the existing gap with their contemporaries, was necessary
“Generally, as a way out of the continued agitations, we suggest that Federal workers in all MDAs be placed on the same basic salaries,“ he said
According to him, variation should be allowed only in allowances of those with special skills such as pilots and doctors.
Civil servants in Yobe have also decried the staggering disparity in the salaries of Federal Government agencies.
Alhaji Manu Babale, the State Chairman, Agricultural and Allied Employees Union of Nigeria, observed that the disparities in the state salaries of local, state and Federal governments, as well as employees of NNPC and CBN, were outrageous and promoting corruption in the system.
“The reason attributed for the disparity in salaries is said to be the risk associated with the nature of work but, l want to assure you that there is no work in Nigeria without risk,’’ he said.
Nasiru Ahmed a federal civil servant in the state, however, said the National Salary and Wages Commission has failed to address the disparity between the take home pay of CBN and NNPC workers against their counterparts in other agencies under the same federal public service.
In Bauchi State, Malam Bashir Idris, a civil servant, described the N18,000 minimum, as “embarrassing and disappointing“, considering the resources at the disposal of the country.
In Kaduna, a cross-section of the civil servants, economists and the organised labour, frowned at the disparity in the salaries of public servants.
The workers called for the harmonisation of salaries, saying that not only was the disparity “huge“ and “unjustifiable“, it was the reason for the sharp practices among workers.
Malam Hamisu Abubakar of the National Orientation Agency in Zaria, argued that a review in the minimum wage through the harmonisation of public service salary would reduce corruption in public service.
“Remember, N18,000 which is equivalent to $100 cannot provide a person with three square meals a day for 30 days and this violates International Labour Organisation Law of which Nigeria is a signatory,“ Abubakar said.
Also contributing, Malam Auwal Abdullahi of National Population Commission in Kaduna, said that the review of the minimum wage was critical to national growth and development.
He described the N18,000 minimum wage as “a path to corruption, stealing, looting and serious misconduct”.
Malam Ahmed Rufa’i, an economists, supported a review of the minimum wage but said professionals in “risky jobs” needed to earn a little more.
“There are some categories of work with high risk that needed to be considered. However, this does not mean that their salaries be five or ten times higher than other workers on the same rank in other organisations,” he advised.
Rufa’i stressed the need for periodic review of salaries and wages to curb corruption in public service.
In Kano, Malam Muhammad Sanusi, a civil servant at the state Ministry for Agriculture, noted that the present minimum wage paid to workers was unrealistic and grossly inadequate.
“The N18, 000 minimum wage is a hoax as it is not enough to sustain workers.
“There must be a review of the minimum wage act to reflect the current economic realities in the country.
In Edo State, a former lawmaker, Chief Akpodiogaga Emeyese, however, described the present N18, 000 minimum wage as unrealistic.
Emeyese said that a realistic minimum wage should take into account the capacity and ability of the average worker and should be able to meet the basic and immediate needs of the worker.
He said that minimum wage could be said to be realistic when it could meet such basic needs as shelter, feeding, clothing and education for the worker and his family.
According to him, the National Salary and Wages Commission has not lived up to the expectation of Nigerians because it has failed to persuade the Federal Government to enforce workers minimum wages across board.
Mr Dan Otakpo, the Secretary of the Nigerian Civil Service Union, in Rivers, described the N18, 000 National Minimum Wage as unrealistic as it lacked purchasing value that would enable workers to meet their needs.
He said: “No civil servant is employed to be paid on hourly basis; the salary disparity is an injustice to those paid lower than their colleagues in the same system.“
Mr Philip Siri, Director Planning, Research and Statistics in the Rivers State Ministry of Sports, however, said that the N18, 000 NMW was realistic in implementation but skewed economically.
Siri said the current minimum wage was ideal but had not favoured “the larger number of civil servants“.
“The 8th National Assembly should review the national minimum wage to accommodate better monthly pay for the civil servants because the challenge is mismanagement and not lack of funds,’’ he said.
Siri said that wage disparity is necessary because of the hazardous nature of some jobs.
He said that the difference in wages should not be much so that colleagues on the same grade would not undermine one another.
In Delta, Dr. Stanley Umene, a private management consultant, also called for a periodic review of salaries and wages of Nigerian workers in view of the harsh economic realities in the country.
“More than 60 per cent of Nigerian workers live below the poverty line. What is the value of N18,000 as a minimum wage, in the face of today’s economic realities?
“There is no doubt that the workers’ take home pay cannot take them home. Cost of living is increasing at a geometric rate, while workers’ wages and monthly income have remained the same over the years.
“Today, it has become extremely difficult for most workers to settle their bills with their meagre income. There is an urgent need to review salaries, at least every four to five years,” Umene said.
He called on the National Assembly to as a matter of urgency, review the National Minimum Wage Act.
In Anambra, Mr. Madu Udemba, a retired permanent secretary, told NAN that the prospect of having a sustainable living wage for workers in Nigeria is very slim in view of the dwindling revenue for oil.
“We all know that the Nigeria economy is dependent on oil, and it is generally believed that we are a consuming nation. So now that oil revenue is falling, how does our government meet up its obligations?
“If we must give our workers a sustainable wage, then we must also as a nation think of how best and fast we can improve our revenue to meet up the demands of our recurrent budget,” Udemba said.
In his contribution, a civil servant in the state, Mr Ebimo Fulagha, said that only a periodic review of the salaries and wages of workers would help address the prevailing economic hardship facing workers in Nigeria.
“As it stands today, how many of workers can conveniently build a house if not for bank loans which have enslaved many workers,“ he said.
In Akwa Ibom, a development sociologist, Dr Aniekan Brown, said that the current national minimum wage was unrealistic.
Brown, who teaches at the University of Uyo, explained that given the rate of inflation and high cost of living, the current minimum wage should be reviewed.
The don urged the National Salary and Wages Commission to sit up and do its work properly by making sure that the legislators do not fix for themselves arbitrary salaries.
Speaking in the same vein, a schoolteacher, Mrs Glory Bassey, called for a concert effort to bridge the gap between salaries of public servants and politicians.
Bassey, who is an executive member of Nigerian Union of Teachers, said that salary disparity that is not based on special skill and competence of the worker was unacceptable.
She urged the Federal Government to devise measures to minimise the embarrassing trend of ostentatious living among political office holders while others are wallowing in abject poverty.
The immediate past Chairman, Senate Committee on Business and Rules, Sen. Ita Enang, advised that we should think of the value of money and not volume.
“We should think of boosting the economy, increasing agricultural activities, reducing the things that people have to buy with money,“ Enang said.
Enang frowned at a situation where certain government departments and agencies were allowed to arbitrarily fix their own salaries.
“It is not right that the board of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian Communication Commission, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation and Nigeria Port Authority be allowed to fix their own salaries.
“You see somebody in one of these commissions earning about N600, 000 to N700, 000 as monthly salary.
“And then you see a director in the ministry taking home N200, 000; yet they buy essential commodities from the same market,“ Enang said.
In Enugu, the Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Enugu State, Mr Chukwuma Igbokwe, attributed the restiveness in public service to the existing disparity in workers’ salaries.
Igbokwe told NAN that the salaries of workers needed to be harmonised in line with modern realities.
Also reacting, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Enugu, Mr Osita Nnamani, said that corruption in the system had limited the output and survival of the Nigerian worker.
Nnamani, however, said that a review of the current minimum wage was not an issue, but for the government at all levels to be prudent as well as tame corruption.
“The problem in the country is the money that is being stolen by individuals. The cause of our downfall is the diversion of national resources into private pockets.
“Once all corrupt practices stop and things are done the right way, workers unrest will cease because everyone will have equal right in the distribution of our resources,” he said.
From Abakaliki, Mr Dominic Chinagorom, the Secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Ebonyi, said that harmonisation of workers’ salaries would check the incessant strikes and ensure industrial harmony.
“There will be industrial harmony in the nation’s workforce as workers will no longer be agitating for parity with the salaries of their contemporaries in other sectors.
“It will also help the workers to understand the argument that some sectors which perform sensitive duties deserve specialised allowances to justify the sensitivity of their callings or duties,“ he said.
A former councillor in Ikwo Local Government Area, Chief Ifeanyi Mbam, called on the government to include politicians in the unification process to ensure equity and guarantee industrial harmony.
“Even though some state governments cannot afford to pay the N18, 000 minimum wage due to the dwindling oil revenue, but the Federal Government can come to their aid,“ he argued.
Mrs Maryam Faruk, a civil servant at the state Ministry of Health said the 8th National Assembly should review the minimum wage act to reflect current economic realities in the country.
She said, “Cost of living is very high for everyone as prices of goods and services have gone up.
“Civil servants in the same profession should earn the same basic salary as well as allowances.
“Professions differ and so their requirements, challenges and duties also differ, as such they can earn different salaries in view of the nature of their work.
“Public servants in the medical and journalism professions are more prone to hazards than most workers in other professions. So, they should not be compared with other professions.“
Also commenting on the issue, Hajiya Rukayya Usman of the same ministry, said that salary disparity was not peculiar to Nigeria.
“In the United States of America, medical professionals are the highest paid government workers followed by teachers,“ she said.
She said that periodic review of salaries and wages would go a long way in curbing corrupt practices in the public service.
“As the cost of living keeps increasing and salaries are reviewed periodically, corruption will be curtailed,“ she said.
In Zamfara, the Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Malam Bashir Mafara, said minimum wage should be made realistic and a guide to employers on the number of workers they can employ.
He canvassed for uniformity in the basic salary of all workers, adding that allowances may differ based on the quantum of work put in by the worker.
An Economist, Mr Abubakar Isma’il, also supported a uniform basic salary for workers with differential in allowances.
“The present administration must do everything possible to provide a uniform basic salary to all with differences in allowances because some jobs are more hazardous than others,“ he said.
He maintained that in order to end corruption, improve efficiency and enhance workers’ confidence the work force must be well paid.
Malam Muhammad Muhammad, a civil servant with Gusau Local Government Council, canvassed for a law to establish a body to enforce compliance with the minimum wage act.
He said that there were states that had not implemented the N18,000 minimum wage in spite of the fact that workers are still agitating for an upward review.
“It is unfortunate that local government workers in Zamfara state have not yet started enjoying minimum wage and even those working under the state government are not fully enjoying it.“ he said.
In Sokoto, the NLC Chairman, Malam Aminu Umar, advocated a raise in the national minimum wage to N 50,00, saying: “The current national minimum wage of N 18,000 is not agreeable and it is not a living wage that can accommodate the daily needs of the workers.
“It is not in tune with the current economic realities and it precipitates bribery and corruption in the country.
Umar also called for periodic upward review of minimum wage in the country.
Prof. Sambo Wali, a lecturer in the Arabic Department of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, also advocated a periodic upward review of workers’ salaries in the country.
“This is to make a living wage that can adequately cater for the needs of the workers.
“Doing so will reduce bribery and corruption, boost productivity, as well as enhance the provision of social services to Nigerians,“ he said.
Alhaji Abubakar Umar, the Secretary, Nigeria Civil Service Union in Katsina State, also backed the call for an “acceptable living minimum wage for workers“.
He said that the N18,000 minimum wage was no longer realistic because of high cost of living in the country.
“I believe If the government and unions will sit down and together produce a new living wage that will take care of workers’ needs, it will be better for the workers and the country,“ he said.
A lecturer at the Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, Katsina, Malam Musa Garba, said that the present N18,000 minimum wage “has been consumed by the high cost of living“, hence the need for periodic review.
Mr Elaisha Dangiwa, a lecturer in the Department of Economics, Kaduna State University (KASSU), however, feels that workers should be paid based on their input.
He said: “Workers should be paid in accordance with their input and the numbers of hours they work daily instead of basing it on paper qualification.“
According to him, that is the only way the current disparity in the salary structure of civil servants in the country can be justified.
“How can someone who works eight to twelve hours daily earn far less than someone who works only two to three hours daily, just because he has a higher certificate?
“There is no justification for that whatsoever in spite of the certificate differences. What should count is the hours of work put in on daily basis and the quality of one’s input, not his or her certificate,“ he added.
Dangiwa called on the National Salaries and Wages Commission to consider the proposal in order to solve the lingering debate on the disparity in public servants salaries.
The lecturer equally called on the federal government to tackle the challenge of inflation, in order to make minimum wage realistic and valuable.
“If the Federal Government could address the issue of inflation, nobody would be talking about downward or upward review of the N18, 000 minimum wage,“ he said.
In the same vein, Dr Abuh Adah, a lecturer in the Department of Accountancy, Kaduna Polytechnic, said that minimum wage should not be an issue, but the value of the naira.
“The key issue should be how to raise the value of our currency. Upward or downward review should not be the case, but what would the current N18, 000 minimum wage buy in the market?
He said it was unfortunate that “Nigerians neither have the cash, nor the goods and services“.
In Kebbi, Malam Sadiq Kaoje, a former NLC Chairman, said the minimum wage should be reviewed annually to enable policy makers to adjust the wages in tandem with the fluctuations in the economy.
A public commentator, Alhaji Ahmed Bunza, said the revenue sharing formula needed to be adjusted in a way that would enable state and local governments to bridge their revenue gaps.
He said that the agitation for increase in wages would continue until the government came up with a social security scheme for Nigerians.
A civil servant, Malam Musa Umar, said the national salary and wages commission had not justified its existence as it had failed to address the disparity in salaries and wages, leading to constant strikes by labour unions.
“This constant strikes have portrayed the commission as ineffective in addressing that disparity,“ he said.
Dr Alarudeen Aminu, a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of Ibadan, said that the poor state of the economy should discourage wage increase.
“Given the economic realities of falling oil revenue arising from falling oil prices, several months of unpaid salaries, huge public sector debt stock, there should be no review of the Act at the moment,“ he said.
He also argued that civil servants should not earn the same salaries as they engaged in different kinds of chores.
But Mr Bashir Olanrewaju, a former NLC Chairman in Oyo State, opposed disparity in the salaries of workers in the same public service.
“It is very wrong to have disparity in workers’ salary in the same public service in the country,“ he said.
Hon. Sunday Adepoju, representing Ibarapa East/Ido Federal Constituency, on his part said that the 8th Assembly should for now focus more on boosting the nation’s economy rather than wage review.
Mr Jacob Adekomi, the Chairman of the NLC in Osun, urged the 8th National Assembly to review the minimum wage upward in view of the high cost of living.
Adekomi said the present N18,000 minimum wage was inadequate based on the economic realities in the country and called on the Federal Government to block all leakages affecting income generation and retention.
A labour activist, Mr Andrew Aladejobi, spoke of the need to improve the purchasing power of workers through salary review.
Speaking in the same vein, a labour activist in the state, Mr Kayode Shittu, urged members of the National Assembly to consider the plight of workers and put it on the front burner of their legislative business.
Mr Abiodun Olakanmi, the Chairman, Ogun chapter of the Public Service Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), on his part, called for a review of the minimum wage every three years.
Olakanmi said that the current economic realities in the country had overwhelmed the capacity of the current wage regime for workers.
“The ever increasing level of inflation in the country has made nonsense of the current N18,000 minimum wage, which was signed into law in year 2011,’’ he said.
According to him, the minimum acceptable wage in light of the present economic situation in the country is N52,000.
The NLC Chairman in Ogun, Mr Akeem Ambali, also called for a review of the N18,000 minimum wage.
He, however, noted that a healthy economy was more important than regular wage review.
He, therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently address the ailing economy to improve the living standard of workers.
The Head of Service in Ogun, Mrs Modupe Adekunle, on her part, called for the suspension of all forms of wage review until the economy had been improved.
In Ondo State, the Chairman, Joint Negotiation Council, Mr Sunday Adeleye, described the disparity in allowances of public servants as “normal“.
Adeleye said that medical doctors, nurses and other health workers were being paid professional allowances because “they are quite different from civil servants who go to work at 8 a.m. and close by 4 pm“.
According to him, professionals such as doctors and nurses are entitled to call duty allowances which account for the disparity in wages.
He, however, said that a review of the Minimum Wage Act in the face of growing need could help check corruption.
Mrs Bosede Daramola, the NLC Chairman in the state, said that she was not aware of any disparity in salaries of public sector workers in the state.
A civil servant in the state, Mr Omotayo Olumomi, advised the members of the National Assembly to review the Minimum Wage Act to improve the living standard of workers.
In Ekiti State, the Chairman of NLC, Mr Ade Adesanmi, condemned the disparity in salaries of civil servants.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in the state, Mr Kayode Akosile, lamented the wage disparity in the country, saying many workers were earning more than teachers.
He said that government could scale up the productivity of teachers by paying them salaries that would be commensurate with their work output.
In his own contribution, the state Chairman of the National Union of Local Government Employees, (NULGE), Mr Bunmi Ajimoko, called for the harmonisation of salaries of workers to ensure uniformity in the public service.
The Head of Service in the state, Dr Segun Faseluka, said while he sympathised with workers over the current harsh economic situation, the Federal Government must first consult with states before considering wage increase.
In Kwara state, a constitutional lawyer, Mr Deji Gbadeyan, called for the scrapping of the National Salary and Wages Commission to allow states to fix the salaries of their workers.
Gbadeyan, a human rights crusader, explained that the commission needed to be scrapped as it was wrong to have a unified salary structure in a Federal system.
He said state Houses of Assembly should be allowed to determine wages, emoluments and other prerequisites of office in line with the economic viability of a state.
Dr Abdullateef Usman, the Head of Economics Department, University of Ilorin, also called for a review of the present minimum wage in the country.
According to him, an upward review of the minimum wage will turn out to be the first step toward fighting corruption in the country.
From Cross River, Dr Ndubuisi Osuagwu of the Department of English, University of Calabar, said the review of the salary structure should begin with that of the National Assembly members.
He said that though disparity in wages was not peculiar to Nigeria, the N18, 000 minimum wage was not enough for an average Nigerian family comprising the man, the woman and four children
“The government in power had promised change; Nigerians have keyed into government’s idea of change. That change should start from the National Assembly to free up a lot of funds.
“Such funds can go in to service even the present national minimum wage considering the stark economic realities for now.
“Rather than bring it down the National Assembly should review it upwards.“
Mr Ndoma Akpet, Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the state, said that with the fall of the value of the naira, workers in the public service needed improved wages to enhance their purchasing power.
Akpet said that the current minimum wage of N18, 000 was not unrealistic.
Dr Ime Ekong, a Calabar-based economist, said that under the current N18, 000 minimum wage regime, the purchasing power of the Nigerian worker was fast diminishing.
“You can move from the current N18, 000 to N25, 000 and this should be backed by law.
“This will enable workers to live better lives and also stop the frequent agitation for increased minimum wage,“ he said.
According to him, since the public service workers are the engine room of any administration at any level of government, they deserved reasonable living wages to boost their morale.
Similar a cross-section of respondents from the North-Central zone also advocated for harmonisation of salaries of public servants, to reduce disparity in earnings.
“For a long time, Nigerians workers have borne the brunt of low wages and are only remembered whenever they go on industrial actions.
“Our counterparts in some agencies and departments working for the same government earn per annum what most of us in core ministries will not get by retirement,” Malam Isa Babadoko, a civil servant in Minna, said.
Hajiya Hadiza Shehu, a federal civil servant in the state, said the N18 000 minimum wage for federal civil servants was not enough to engender commitment.
Mr Bayo Ilori, a senior civil servant in Kogi State Civil Service, however, said that the current economic situation in the country would not permit the upward review of salaries for now.
“In fairness, I think the situation in the country now is not a very good time for the review upward of wages and salaries.
“Though as a civil servant, I should have loved that my salary be increased, but the global economic situation cannot permit that now,” he stated.
He, however, said that disparity in salaries of public servants could be justifiable as all categories of civil servants were buying from the same market.
While agreeing to the fact that the job hazard differs from one establishment to another, he said that it could be captured in the allowances and not in the basic salaries. (NAN)