Nigeria’s President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, no doubt, has a huge burden upon his shoulder. Nearly every sector throughout the country is threatened. The sixteen years’ reign of the People Democratic Party, PDP, has been a matter of one step forward two steps backwards. The economy is currently in comatose. The nation’s foreign reserve has been depleted. To worsen things, inflation and unemployment is at an all-time high while corruption is rife. The truth, however, is that Nigeria is actually in trouble.
One of the very daunting tasks that General Buhari and his team would have to tackle, in earnest, is that of unpaid salaries. In the last sixteen years, the norm in budgetary planning, formulation and execution has been for recurrent expenditure to be excessively higher than capital outlay. This is not, in any way, peculiar to the Federal Government (FG) alone as nearly all the state governments in the country operate a similar unproductive budgetary planning.
The consequence of this is the poor state of social and physical infrastructure across the country. Almost all federal roads are in terrible conditions. The PDP-led government, after sixteen years in power, could not fix the nation’s refineries as we continue to import refined petroleum products. This is what happens when a nation fails to prioritize its developmental needs. No nation in the world, not even the almighty United States of America, touted as the number-one economy could develop via the kind of budgetary system we have been operating in the past sixteen years.
High wage bills, as well as escalating cost of governance, remains a major threat to the survival of democracy in the country. Presently, aside the various Federal Government agencies and parastatals that are being owed various degrees of salaries and emoluments, about twenty six (26) State Governments in the country are owing workers salaries in arrears of months. The State of Osun readily comes to mind here as the state has been singled out for target of media attack on this issue. I am piqued about this though the state is not the only one in this dire financial strait. The Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola was, in fact, the first person to call national attention to this financial disaster in 2013, when he alleged that the FG had declared war on the state as allocation dropped to 40%.
It will be difficult to query his record as a worker-friendly administrator. In some states, in order to ensure workers go home with something; salaries are paid in bits, and my lawyer friend told me this was a breach of contract. Expectedly, in most of the States, workers are threatening to go on strike in a bid to press home their demands for prompt payment of their wages. Things are not looking up at all.
With the decline in revenue accruing to the Federation Account through the sale of crude oil, some of the states might not be able to pay workers salaries, not to talk of paying arrears of pension and gratuity being owed pensioners. As things stand, the amount that stands to the credit of each of the states monthly is not enough to pay workers’ wages, and this means all other similar recurring expenditures would suffer. A few of them that try to embark on capital spending do so through loans from banks and bonds earlier negotiated, which must be serviced regularly at huge cost.
With this stark reality, it has therefore, become highly imperative for the incoming Buhari administration to take a holistic view of the whole issue with a view to saving our democracy from imminent collapse. Bureaucracy is meant to help drive the pace of development in a democracy. In any nation where bureaucracy has become the problem rather than the solution, democracy would become endangered. This is where General Buhari, and his team need to take decisive steps to save the country from what has become a chronic and nagging problem. As a stop-gap measure, one is actually canvassing that the incoming Buhari administration bails out the states that are owing excessive workers’ wages by offsetting such, and give them enough to pay pensions and gratuity. We have done it before.
Unpaid salaries have always plagued civil administration in Nigeria. Military takeover, had always been the quick fix, but with its recurring nature, it’s obvious we have not found the solution. Yes, government is always the biggest employer of labour; we cannot continue to bring idle hands into governments without a commensurate analysis of what is actually needed. This is to avert undue labour disputes that could cause needless troubles in the land. A sound employment policy would still address the problem of unemployment.
Equally, the idea of the Federal Government entering into wage negotiations on behalf of the State Governments should be discarded. Since the revenue base of each state differs, it would be inappropriate for both the Federal Government and the Labour Unions, to force State Governments to pay their worker’s wages being paid by the Federal Government. Each State Government ought to employ and pay according to its capacity. Equally important is that labour unions must desist from the incessant act of demanding for an arbitrary wage increase. While the work force deserves better pay packages, government has responsibilities to the larger society through the provision of social amenities and infrastructures.
In the same vein, governments across the land need to cut all avenues that open the door for wastes in governance. We have taken the issue of taxation too lightly in this country. No nation attains greatness without the adequate contributions of the citizens in the forms of taxes. We must start emphasizing our tax systems to make governments and citizens more fiscally responsible. Democracy is about bringing development to a greater number of the people. It is about human and capital development. It ceases to be democracy when just a few individuals or groups corner the commonwealth while the rest of the society languishes in abject poverty. Now that change has come, it is, indeed, the right time to get things done in the right way in order to get the right result. God bless Nigeria.
Source: Sun News