No justifiable reason to deny civil servants arrears approvedby the President and National Assembly
Has the failure to pay salaries in the states infected the Federal Government which controls over 50% of the nation’s revenue? The central government that had twice provided bailout to states to pay their workers and ensure they are able to meet their personal and family responsibilities now seems unable to pay federal civil servants’ death benefits and arrears for promotion.
According to the president of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), who said failure to pay death and promotion benefits subsists even after approval by President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly: “We wrote to Mr. President; he responded positively and then directed the Office of the Head of Service to sit with us and work out the details. The details were worked out through the MDAs and our representatives at the MDA level and submissions were made to the Office of the Head of Service …That was done, then the National Assembly approved a virement but a chunk of the money was earmarked for the settlement of part of these arrears. …”
It is not clear what the ministers of finance and budget say on the claim that N200 billion approved for payment of arrears to civil servants had been used for other things. But what is patently clear is that the workers have suffered too much in the last two years and need not be subjected to more suffering at a time that both ministers are assuring the country that recession is on its way out.
It is wrong for the Federal Government to deny prompt payment of death benefits and raise in salary for well-deserved promotions to workers or their families. Further, it is necessary for it to disclose what has happened to the approval by the president for payment of the arrears. Keeping mum over this urgent matter is not a good option for any government, more so one elected on the platform of change.
Senior civil servants are traditionally not known for choosing to go on strike frivolously, as they see themselves as co-partners with politicos in the business of governance. And this is as it should be with professional bureaucrats. It will, therefore, be gross insensitivity for the government to fail to come to immediate agreement with ASCSN on this important issue. If the situation is allowed by the Federal Government to fester to the level of strike, it will be one of many avoidable strikes and an unnecessary dent on the government’s image.
For any government to delay payment of death benefits is callous and deplorable. Civil servants, indeed all government workers, deserve to be paid their entitlements as they become due. Denying or delaying payments of workers’ salaries and related benefits seems to have become second nature to governments at all levels in the country and for far too long. Nigeria has become an egregious example of a country in which workers are frequently subjected to indignity and suffering before they are paid their entitlements.
For example, many pensioners had died on queues while waiting to complete formalities that governments had turned into annual rituals. No human culture condones denial or delay of benefits to which workers or their families are entitled, especially when such families are under stress of loss of loved ones. Except in times of extreme national emergency, there is no excuse for workers to be denied their entitlements: salaries and pension benefits, after serving their country in their productive years.
It is, however, remarkable that a committee has already been set up to look for settlement on a matter that can develop into a major image problem for the government, should senior civil servants resort to strike. We urge the Federal Government to come up with workable solutions to the problems and commit sincerely to immediate implementation of agreements with ASCSN, after which there should be no excuse for not honouring contractual obligations.