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Kogi TUC berates Bello over mass purge of workers

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The Trade Union Congress (TUC) of Nigeria, Kogi State chapter, has berated Governor Alhaji Yahaya Bello over his purported plan to sack 40 percent of the current workforce in government employment.

The union alleged that the government had set up a parallel six-man committee with a mandate to reduce the work force at all cost.

Mr. Ranti Ojo, state TUC chairman, who spoke to newsmen over the weekend in Lokoja, demanded for the stoppage of the committee failure of which the workers might withdraw their members serving on the screening/verification committee of the state government.

He also alleged that the state government was engaging in witch-hunting by extending the 30-day compulsory leave it sent permanent secretaries and other top government functionaries for another 30 days without coming out to make public the offences committed by the categories of workers.

Ojo said the union kept quiet when the first compulsory leave was given to the people by government thinking that their offences would be made public before the expiration of the 30 days.

He said: “But we are taken aback by another circular No. HSC/KGS/CIR/3/VOL.V/542 dated March 15, 2016 entitled, “Re: Urgent Directives from the Executive Governor extending for another 30 days the compulsory leave granted to our members in the service of Kogi State even when none of them has actually been accused of and found guilty of any gross misconduct. This current action is tantamount to a witch-hunt and a negation of the civil service rules and regulations governing the conditions of service of our members in the state”.

The TUC chairman said although the union supported the on-going verification exercise in the state, it would, however, not condone unwarranted punitive measures aimed at subjecting its members to ridicule and psychological torture.

He also demanded the payment of the four months’ salary arrears of members of the union, adding that members were dying of hunger and avoidable sicknesses daily.

The union also threatened to resume the industrial action recently suspended, saying that its members could not be borrowing money to transport themselves to the offices on empty stomach.

However, reacting to the allegations, the state government through Abdulmalik Abdulkarim, the special adviser to the governor on media and strategy, said the extension of the compulsory leave of the affected officials was not made out of malice and not intended to punish anybody.

He said when they were sent on leave initially, the government explained that they were to go on the leave to enable it look into staff and financial records of the state uninterrupted, adding that the exercise was yet to be completed.

On the accusation of a plan to reduce the workforce, Abdulkarim said the union was only jumping into conclusion unnecessarily as the committee in question was set up to ascertain the exact number of bona fide workers of the state.

Meanwhile, Governor Bello has indicated that the ongoing screening exercise would yield positive dividends for the state and the citizens at large when all the loopholes created by greedy individuals must have been exposed and taken care off.

“The state has been bleeding under very heavy wage bill occasioned by manipulations on the part of the civil servants which has made government to perpetually rely on borrowing to meet up with its obligations.

“The issue of screening that is going on is very important; when we came on board the wage bill was N3 billion and a staff strength of over 3,9000.

“When you move round the state where are the offices, where are the schools, where are the hospitals and we are aware that since 2011 there has not been any advertisement for recruitment of staff so how can we be having this heavy wage bill monthly?”

He said what accrues to the state from the federation account monthly had dwindled to between N2 billion to N2.2 billion adding that the internally generated revenue (IGR) is hovering around N400 million and N500 million monthly.

The governor stated further that when all that are put together it would not even be enough for salary hence the state would have to rely on borrowing to service overhead which is not sustainable hence the screening exercise.

He, however, expressed satisfaction with what has been uncovered so far from the screening.

“I will give an example, like in a situation where Kogi State College of Education (Technical) with barely 300 students and yet non-teaching staff strength is over 500.

He said on the eve of that screening the registrar issued out over 200 appointment letters.

He lamented over another discovery where a staff is earning salary in four offices and another staff taking salaries of over 40 people.

The governor said that to ameliorate the hardship in the delay in salary payment he has given a directive for the heads of ministries, departments and agencies to work out the payroll for the genuine workers for payment of salaries pending the completion of the exercise.

He indicated that so far one senatorial district has been completed expressing the hope to complete the exercise before the month ends.

On the local government and the inability for workers to get 100 per cent salary, he said that it was not his making adding that he granted them financial autonomy but with over bloated staff the same problem that bedeviled the state was also affecting them.

“I gave full autonomy to the local governments on assumption of office so that they can have full autonomy financially but we will superintendent and oversight the generation of those funds and other activities.

“Some of the local governments’ salaries are over-bloated. If the wage bill is N120 million and N85 million accrues to the local government, how would you be able to pay 100 per cent but reasonably they should be able to up the percentage of their pay? That is the reality and that is the reason for the screening,” he explained.

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