By Salaudeen Sulayman
Governance is about the people and must be seen as such. This the KWSG led by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has demonstrated in the last 18 months or thereabout. The Governor has displayed his dexterity in virtually all the sectors of the state including health, education, social investment and human capital development and the resuscitation of critical moribund public infrastructure and construction of new ones. Indeed, Kwara is becoming better for it. And in the light of fairness, AA as fondly address by his admirers has put Kwara on the pedestal of development should the #isenlo mantra sustains current its tempo.
It must also be noted that since the inception of the Abdulrahman administration, the civil service is also undergoing reforms with a view to better the lots of the service by providing enabling environment for workers for enhanced productivity. Workers and pensioners have also been receiving their monthly salaries promptly and in full. However, the proverbial “apa ajao” is making its “itan” longer than necessary, thereby destroying its good posture. The Governor has not shown a commitment to paying the minimum wage to the state workforce even in the face of harsh economic realities. In spite of the Governor and his ruling APC’s promise to pay the minimum wage and his (Governor) continuous assurance that he’s ready to pay the wage, the Governor has continued to hide under the excuse that the 16 LGAs in the state cannot sustain the payment. He has refused to sign and implement the new national minimum wage in the state.
Consequently, the state workforce through its unions: NLC, TUC and JNC having exhausted all avenues to make the government reason with its demand after the lapse of the two weeks ultimatum slammed on the state government are on Tuesday, 13th October embarking on an indefinite strike to press home its demand from the government.
But the government, through the state Attorney General in the attempt to stop the industrial action hurriedly secured an ex parte injunction from the National Industrial Court, Akure restraining the workers from embarking on the strike action. The government’s action is asking the court to declare that the local government is a separate tier of government with its own financial autonomy and which wages could not be determined by the state government, irrespective of some oversight powers the state government may have on them.
The case according to report may go down in Nigerian history as the first of such which seeks to assert the financial autonomy and quasi-independence of the local government as a tier of government. This is the icing on the cake of the Governor’s show of commitment and determination for transparent management of the third tier of government as he has always claimed that he has not and would not tamper the LG funds.
But in a swift reaction, the labour in a press release jointly signed by the NLC, TUC and NJC has said that it’s not going back on strike regardless of the court order. The labour was quoted as saying, “for the sake of emphasis we want to state categorically that N30,000 minimum wages agitation is a constitutional matter which had lasses through all legislative processes and assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.
To this end, the exparte order obtained from NIC is an infringement on labour rights to peaceful agitation and such cannot stand.”
This impasse between the labour and KWSG will be better managed without resulting in court. But the advisers of the Governor have not done well to have arrived at the option. They did not take cognisance of certain facts, thereby helping the Governor to act in error. Or could it be that the Attorney General is not mindful of the fact that:
1. The Governor and his party promised to pay the minimum wage during the electioneering campaign without discriminating the workers on the basis of state or Local Government service. And that leadership is taking responsibility for one’s words.
2. All workers regardless of their status worked for the “otoge” mantra and voted massively for the government.
3. The workers and their families constituted the chunk of voters who gave the Governor their mandate in the 2019 election.
4. The prevailing market price of commodities is not discriminatory of the workers status.
5. The government has not shown any commitment to coordinate the negotiation of the new wage at the LG level, when the government is not even prepared to hold LG election as the tenure of the suspended council administrators expires next month.
6. The multiplier effect of increase salary on the micro and macroeconomic development of the state can only be felt with the payment of the new wage.
7. The immediate past administration was rejected among other things for reason of “not responsible for local government” even when the Federal Government could bail the states out during their financial crisis.
8. The government is yet to explain why LG and SUBEB teachers salary still stand at N2.5 billion since the last administration even when workers are retiring without any new recruitment.
9. The salary and promotion arrears of LG workers have still not been helped and
10. Minimum wage is a law of the federation that must be respected.
Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq should rather be advised to stop applying unwarranted delay on the signing and implementation of the minimum wage and withdraw the industrial court seeking to dogged the state responsibility to the general workers.
While it’s acknowledged that payment of the new wage is a tough decision for the government considering the present financial stand of the state, the Governor must equally be informed that the N30,000 minimum wage even if implemented is nothing to take the workers home and further delay in its payment will worsen the already sorry living condition of the people.
May Allah guide our leaders right and help us all the truth to know and live by. May AA succeed.