Of peace, Minimum Wage, workers salary arrears and good governance by Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, PhD

Cross section of Pensioners waiting for verification

The 2019 Global Peace Index (GPI) by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) ranking placed Nigeria 148th among 163 countries on its peace index. That means there is no peace in Nigeria. It was same 148th position last year, whereas Ghana is ranked 44th as most peaceful in the world, even Zambia and Sierra Leone ranked 48th and 52nd in the world and 2nd and 3rd in Africa.

Cross section of Nigerian     Pensioners waiting for verification
Cross section of Nigerian Pensioners waiting for verification

It means, there is banditry, militarization and conflicts everywhere that no safety and security of citizens can be guaranteed in Nigeria. Nigeria is ranked close to Democratic Republic of Congo (155), Central African Republic ranked 157, and Somalia 158, and South Sudan is ranked 161.
Most peaceful country is Iceland. It held this position since 2008. After Iceland, you have New Zealand, Portugal, Austria and Denmark. There is sadness in our country Nigeria, yet people pretend that their prayers are working when they are the architects of the commotion in the country. What is good governance if peace eludes the citizenry? What is good governance if poverty is at its peak?

Former Head of state, General Yakubu Gowon last week during his Nigeria Prays Movement in Osun state, said the greatest wish for Nigerians is peace, in order to continue to live in peace. He even advised that Nigerians should develop sense of unity, love and respect for one another. I laughed because disunity seed was sown by him after the civil war when he failed to implement the 3 R’s– Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation policy for Biafrans. He now parades himself as a statesman, but is he? I don’t think so! Mismanagement of the 3Rs policy by the military government to erase the scars of war, brought about resurgence of Biafra uprisings like IPOB and the likes.

Hence in faraway Washington DC, United States of America, Onyema Uche in his piece outlined three cardinal sins General Yakubu Gowon committed against Nigerians in 1967 and why he was silent against Fulani Herdsmen. He described Mauritala Mohammed who convinced Gowon to bring in the foreign militias known as Godogodo to fight Biafran people as a beast and a bigot. The untrained Godogodo militia were heartless and unskilled men doing the dirty job of the federal military in any conquered Biafran land.

Theirs were kill at sight and nothing else. They tortured, massacred, raped and slaughtered Ndigbo civilians at will while Gowon looked the other way.
After the war, Godogodo militia were not settled to leave Nigeria as government lost control, and they settled in Northern Nigeria. Godogodo is a village in Kaduna state. Majority turned to herdsmen while others became errant and deadly in crime.

Edo State Pensioners protest
Edo State Pensioners protest

Remember that the inability of Gowon led federal troop to conquer Biafra led to pledging of Bakassi Peninsula to Cameron for Nigeria to use its sea route to get to Port Harcourt. And we lost Bakassi too and so many innocent citizens died in Bakkasi over this flop. The same lop happened in Niger when he sought the help of Arabs in Africa and for Chad, Benin Republic and Niger as well as other Fulanis to give the federal troop help, Gowon agreed to give the Fulani herdsmen a grazing route from Niger to Eastern Nigeria. He signed off the arable land of Nigeria to Fulani herdsmen for grazing. That’s why Miyetti Allah Association maintained there was an international document that granted them a grazing route from Niger to Eastern Nigeria. Gowon signed Nigeria into slavery. 

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But, is Gowon really iconic in the contest of it in Nigeria? Could one not be tempted to conclude that the lack of love and division in Nigeria today should be heaped on his head as Head of state? What has the NYSC he introduced achieved judging from countless corps members murdered at no justification, mostly in the North? The hate in the country and marginalization among other injustices were rooted at the instance of Gowon not doing the needful with his 3 R’s after the war.

Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun state was praised by Gowon for not only hosting but tolerating Christians having the event during Eid-el-kabir though a Muslim. That Osun outing was a media propaganda outing and nothing more.

That injustice on a tribe necessitated the enthronement of inept and corrupt leaders as merit was sacrificed on the altar of nepotism, tribalism and Federal Character which never meant anything more than the paper it was written on. He enthroned Hausa domination in armed forces and federal service at the detriment of Igbo tribe and other minor tribes. Yoruba people got a fair share from him as those from one Nigeria, whereas Ndigbo were ‘rebels’ so to speak from ‘Biafra. Those who fought that war on Biafran side were still marginalized till date without benefits even when Obasanjo gave them pardon, not all were accommodated.

President Muhammadu Buhari isn’t helping matters as most of his policies today are anti people hence there is ethnic suspicion and rivalry at its peak today at all corners. Ethnic jingoism, ethnocentrism and bigotry have taken over the center stage, undermining the peace and unity of the country, Gowon was preaching about. 

Why should our leaders not tackle the insecurity challenges in our country? Why should people without requisite qualifications and knowledge be enthroned into leadership positions because of their tribe and not by their competences? Why sacrifice equity, justice, competences, and fair play for tribalism, religious intolerance and brazenness in a secular economy like Nigeria? Shi’ites and IPOB among others were banned and proscribed, but, killer Herdsmen notoriously killing innocent people including priests do not merit proscription and banning?

Cross section of Pensioners waiting     for verification 1
Cross section of Pensioners waiting for verification 1

Has Nigeria fared well at all since 1960? But look at China, Education threw China where it is today. According to the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian, ‘’a country thrives when its education is well developed. Higher education is a key gauge of nation’s development and potential. In the 70 years of existence of China, it has always placed education as the fundamental to its pursuit of national rejuvenation’, he spoke while giving 58 Nigerians scholarship to China. 6845 Nigerians are studying in China with 512 on scholarship. How many Chinese are on Nigerian scholarship and in Nigerian universities?

A case for Minimum wage 
Why would President Muhammadu Buhari withdraw $1 Bn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) in 2017 purportedly for security services without legislative approval? What actually did he do with the money, when the National Security Adviser, General Babagana Mongunu (rtd) said he knows nothing about the money? Has President Buhari rendered account of the money, enough to pay arrears of salary and pension of workers and retirees?

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Already, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has declared that the 2019 budgets by 28 states cannot be adequately funded. This means budgets will fail. NEITI stated that the combined net Federation Allocation Account Committee (FAAC) disbursements to each state would not be able to save the budgets from failing. The report went further to explain the details and was categorical that no state can finance its 2019 budget solely on FAAC disbursements. Deductions are made from FAAC from some states owing to service their debt obligations. Osun state had N7.27 Billion directly deducted from their state allocations and Cross River state has similar percent deducted from its account to service loans. NEITI has cautioned states to exercise restraint in their expenditure and continued dependent on oil revenue, yet states are not bulging.

It means that another collapse of our economy is imminent as witnessed three years ago under President Buhari’s first term in office. Nigeria under Buhari is bleeding with borrowing and same to most states in the federation. Where were all the money borrowed by states and the projects they were channelled to? Where were all the IGR generated by states thus far? Were the money generated diverted? Despite the huge borrowing, no projects, no infrastructure upgrade and no development, yet workers’ salaries are owed recklessly by these Governors. Why starting projects that have no value to the people and continued variation until state resources are lavished?

Pensioner protesting

So many states are still owing workers arrears of salaries in months and still counting. The pensioners are the worst hit as they die like fowls daily out of deprivation caused by man’s inhumanity. This is why a cry for help over the N30,000 new minimum wage by workers to me amounts to waste of energy and time as it is useless forcing a horse to drink water while in the stream. 

When President Mohammadu Buhari gave his assent for the Minimum wage law, there was jubilation but months later nothing has happened. There is now blame game between the Federal Government and the Labour on the delay of the implementation of the wage sequel to adjustment needed on the wage. Are the workers making unrealistic demands as alleged by the Federal Government or the Federal Government looking for scapegoat not to pay?

Chief Richard Egbule former National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) said the irreconcilable differences between Labour and Federal Government is holding the payment of the new wage pointing out that demands of labour unions would raise the wage bill too high and that’s why government would not pay. Labour asked for consequential adjustment while Federal Government had made budgetary provision for N10,000 across board for those already earning above N30,000. The unions refused insisting that since the increase in minimum wage was from N18,000 to N30,000 which is 66 percent, they want 66 percent across board.

Egbule wants Labour to know that consequential adjustments in percentage if applied, it would be above the budget. Therefore he was asking for understanding of Labour for a percentage of 9.5 percent from level 7 to 14 including level 1-6 of those salary structures that did not benefit from minimum wage, then, 5 percent for level 15 to 17. Labour is asking for 30 percent increase for level 7 to 14 and 25 for level 15 to 17. That’s N12,000 increase for minimum wage earners and N100,000 increase for level 17 on 25 percent. Federal Government later shifted grounds to 10 percent for level 7 to 14 and 5.5 percent increase to level 15 to 17, yet Labour rejected the offer.

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Another cross section of pensioners     protest
Another cross section of pensioners protest

First Deputy National Secretary of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Bola Audu fired back saying Federal Government not telling Nigerians the truth about the cause of the delay. He said the N10,000 across board as proposed by Egbule is unacceptable as it is alien to the minimum wage President Buhari signed into law. He said increment from N18,000 to N30,000 represents about 65 percent but Labour came down to 30 percent when government said there is no money to pay. Already, Federal government has approved N160 Billion for the new minimum wage from April to the end of the year.

What is Egbule getting at? Is Federal Government creating confusion where none existed in order not to pay? Is Labour being unnecessarily demanding? Why can’t Labour accept this from Federal Government and wait during harmonization of salaries to strike a better deal? Time is elapsing because implementation must have started since April. Why the unnecessarily logjam? Is the new NSIWC Boss, Mr Ekpo Nta going to make any difference for the actualization of the minimum wage? Nta was former Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC). Can this salary arrears ever be resolved in Nigeria after minimum wage imbroglio is resolved? More than twenty States are owing workers and pensioners several months of salaries and other entitlement.

BudgIT nationwide survey June 2017 showed workers were owed salary arrears range of 36 months or less. The survey on salary arrears focused on the “frequency of salary payment of six different categories of workers in all 36 states namely: primary school teachers, secondary school teachers, local government workers, state independent workers, pensioners and state secretariat workers.”

Edo State Pensioners protest
Edo State Pensioners protest

Why can’t the State Governors pay their salaries after receiving tranches of cash from Paris Club refund to offset salaries and other liabilities? Federal Government has shared N1.75tn to states, yet salaries are owed.

Can we ever have good Governance in Nigeria? Why is our government not committed to justice, peace, human rights and civil liberties? Can’t Nigerian government at all levels open up its processes for participation of the masses? Can’t Rule of Law, Transparency, Responsiveness, Consensus Oriented, Equity and Inclusiveness, as well as Effectiveness and Efficiency, and Accountability be the watchword of those in government? And I ask again, why can’t good Governance be part of Nigeria’s governance theory?

Cornucopia is a weekly column of Odogwu Emeka Odogwu.
Odogwu is a known Journalist, Editor, Media Consultant and famous Blogger, as well as Social Media Entrepreneur, Publisher and Conversationalist @ www.odogwublog.com among others.

Phone Number: 08060750240

E-mail : [email protected]

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