- It’s a Condition for Recent IMF Loan; a Licence and Cover to Sack Workers
The Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) has rejected the recent Presidential Directive for the implementation of the Report of the 2012 Presidential Committee on Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies. NASU’s position is contained in a statement signed by Comrade Peters Adeyemi, the union’s General Secretary, and made available to National Record on Friday.
Government officials recently revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari had given the go-ahead to officials to start implementing the 2012 Presidential Committee report, which is popularly known as Oronsaye Report, so called because it was chaired by Mr Steve Oronsaye. The Report is believed to have recommended the scrapping, abolition, mergers and reversion of a number of semi-autonomous agencies, commissions and parastatals to departments of ministries.
Implementation of Report as IMF Conditionality
According to Comrade Adeyemi, the union is convinced that the presidential directive for the implementation of the Oronsaye Report is an attempt to meet one of the conditions for the granting of the recent US$3.4 billion loan by the International Monetary Fund IMF. “We are convinced that the rush to implement the Report is an attempt to fulfill one of the conditionalities the International Monetary Fund (IMF) extracted from the Federal Government as an eligibility requirement to obtain the recent loans the Institution granted the Federal Government.
“One unfortunate thing is that when some government officials talk with regard to the implementation of public sector reforms of government, they leave an impression of either being representatives of or agents of Bretton Wood Institutions. These institutions have no interest in the welfare of citizens,” Comrade Adeyemi stated, adding that the natural advice of the IMF always go against public interest.
“The advice they give to governments on public sector reforms are always tailored towards suppressing government spending on welfare of citizens, while tilting towards decisions that guarantee the repayment of loans granted to their surrogate nations.
“We in NASU see the decision to implement the Report as a licence and cover to carry out retrenchment in some sections of the public service and this is not acceptable to the Union. The policy direction, which is ill-timed is another attempt by the advisers and drivers of the policy to pitch the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari against workers and their unions. It is going to bring about job losses and poverty and this is not the time to throw people into the over-saturated unemployment market,” NASU stated emphatically,” Adeyemi stated.
He argued that while on face value, the implementation of the Oronsaye Report may portray an attempt by the government to streamline bureaucracy and cut cost, past experiences does not provide any guarantee to be hopeful.
He said: “On the face value, the implementation of the Report may portray an attempt to streamline bureaucracy and cut cost. Our past experiences with reforms aimed at cutting down bureaucratic cost are that they had always ended with job losses.
“Bureaucratic bloated cost in Nigeria is always on the side of recurrent expenditure. Unfortunately in Nigeria, recurrent expenditure has become synonymous with civil servants’ salaries and wages.
“The lie dubious political office holders sell to the uninformed public is that government is spending a huge sum of its revenue on civil servants’ salaries and wages, whereas salaries and wages of civil servants are not the sole component of the recurrent expenditure of government.
“Recurrent expenditure is all payments other than for capital assets, including salaries and wages of civil servants, bogus salaries and allowances of political office holders, their travels both foreign and domestic, interest repayments on foreign and domestic loans, bogus subsidies and other overheads of Government.”
Beyond the industrial relations element, Comrade Adeyemi pointed out that implementing the presidential directive demands extensive and mandatory legal or legislative processes. “We recognise that most of these Agencies are created by laws,” he stated, adding that “these laws have to be repealed or amended, while those that are created by the Constitution will have to go through constitutional amendment.
“What this means is that the implementation is not the sole responsibility of the Executive Arm of Government. It is therefore left to be seen how the National Assembly that had passed several Bills that are awaiting the assent of the President for the establishment of some Agencies and Boards is going to handle its responsibility in the implementation of the Report.”
The union described as ironic if Nigerians take into context the quarters from which the call for ‘rationalisation and restructuring’ is coming from. It contended that if the implementation of the report is all about cutting the cost of bureaucracy, the government surely knows what to do even without implementing the Oronsaye Report.
“The irony is that the people who are the beneficiaries of these bloated allowances are the ones who are the apostles of the implementation of the Oronsaye Report.
“We call on the government to jettison the advice of putting the jobs of workers in the affected agencies in jeopardy through the implementation of the report as it will put more families and households on the poverty line.
“On the other hand, if the government must go ahead with the policy, its implementation must be transparent from the planning to the implementation stages. This can only happen by bringing on board critical stakeholders, especially trade unions that represent workers in the affected institutions. Government has to show workers and their unions a concrete plan on how jobs of workers in affected institutions will be protected within the framework of the implementation of the policy.”
According to NASU, unemployment remains one of the most persistent and unimaginable problems facing Nigeria due to lack of a national employment policy in the country designed to eradicate unemployment. It said against the backdrop of the prevailing unemployment scenario, “it is unacceptable for government to implement any policy that threatens the security of jobs and entrench poverty.”
Unemployment and poverty, the union posited, “are two major challenges facing the country at present. Unemployment is a sign of poverty and it leads to financial crisis, hunger, health crisis, gloom and crime.
“To pinpoint how the current administration is worried about the endemic poverty in the country, the Federal Government is currently implementing a policy of conditional cash transfer to poor households across the country.
“Bashir Ahmad, a Presidential Assistant in a tweet dated 30th March, 2020, informed the nation that as at February 29th, 2020, the Federal Government had identified 10,695,360 individuals in 35 States across the country as the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians during this crisis of COVID-19 pandemic and that President Buhari has directed the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to look and take care of them.
“It is therefore unthinkable that the same government will be contemplating to implement a policy that will throw thousands of workers into the unemployment market, thereby exacerbating the endemic poverty in the country,” the union said while also stating that if the government goes ahead to implement the Oronsaye Report, it is clear that it will not be able to guarantee the payment of pensions to workers who will affected.
NASU revealed that federal public sector workers who statutorily retired from service as far back as January, 2019 are yet to be paid their pension entitlements “because the Federal Government is yet to make money available for the payment of their accrued rights, which is pension earned before the commencement of the Contributory Pension Scheme in 2004.”
Where the problem lies
According to Comrade Adeyemi, government cannot pretend to be ignorant of the real roots of the cost of governance. “The factors responsible for the increase in the cost of public sector bureaucracy are known to government,” he said, adding that the salaries and wages of civil servants are not at the top of the list of the cost of governance.
“With the exception of the recent minimum wage, which in real terms did not bring any significant increase in the take home pay of public servants, there has been a freeze in employment and wage increases spanning several years. The reality is that there are continuous statutory retirements and deaths of workers without replacements. These should be expected to bring down the real public sector wage bill.
He stated: “Corruption in the system is one of the key factors responsible for the increased cost of bureaucracy. The government should develop the political muscle and will to block all the leakages.
“The principal factor that is responsible for bloated recurrent expenditure is salaries and allowances of political office holders. There are duplication of functions among these officials, who include but not limited to Ministers, Ministers of State, Special Advisers and Special Assistants and their retinue of personal staff.
“This was well captured in the Report of the Adamu Fika Committee set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan to review Public Sector Reforms. The Committee expressed displeasure on the matter thus: ‘It is certainly not morally defensible from the perspective of social justice or any known moral criterion, that such a huge sum of public funds is consumed by an infinitesimal fraction of people.’ ”
The union concluded by pleading with President Buhari to properly evaluate the decision before go ahead as he is in his second and last term of office which he should dedicate to protecting jobs “rather than pursuing a policy direction that will take away jobs.”
NASU General Secretary has said it all about the draconic implementation of this Orosanye report of 2012. Salaries and wages of civil servants form the smallest part of the recurrent expenditure. Federal Government monitized our lobs in 2003, and started using faceless contractor in it,s place. For example in a university where the wage of all cleaners are not up to #3 million naira per month, contracts of over #8 million is awarded to clean offices which is limited to administrative blocks only. While cleaners with less pay covers of units in the institutions. I will then ask ” is cost of running the system higher under which system…. Retaining civil servants or contract system “. Who is fooling who. It is like a system being designed to hand over the Government agencies to their relations. Nigerian Government is moving towards a family property. LET US BE PROPERLY GUIDED