Workers’ Salary and Enugu Govt’s Worthy Example

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Charles Ezeamu

Before the crash in the price of crude oil and the economic recession that hit Nigerians, not many see government’s payment of workers’ salaries as an achievement. It is often seen as government’s fulfillment of its obligation. But across the country today, many state governments are struggling to stay afloat talkless of paying workers’ salary. Not because they are not getting or don’t have resources, but because they lack leadership sagacity to manage it for the well-being of the common people in their states.

That is the reason some state governments are owing workers’ salaries for months, despite receiving bailout and Paris Club funds from the federal government. This development has prompted the leadership of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to disclose recently that it will soon hold “name and shame” rallies against governors in the states, where workers are being owed salaries and pensions for several months.

According to the communiqué issued by the union, Kogi, Ondo, Ekiti, Benue, Osun, Ebonyi, Abia, and Bayelsa states were identified as specific examples of those owing their workers between five to 10 months salaries and pension arrears.

“There are other cases like Kaduna and Zamfara states that have refused to disclose any information about how it had utilised the bailout and Paris Club refunds, despite demands from the unions and (the) general public,” the NLC stated in the communiqué signed by its President, Ayuba Wabba, and the Secretary-General, Peter Ozo-Eson.

The germane questions begging for answers are: why and how do other state governments like Enugu for example manage to pay their workers salary regularly, when some oil producing states that collect monthly federation allocation and 13 per cent derivation funds are unable to pay? Why should state governors owe workers salary, but pay political appointees that do no much work? Why have some state governors refused to disclose how they spent bailout funds and Paris Club refunds? Why are some state governors always quarrelling with workers in the state?

State like Enugu is a good answer to the above-mentioned questions and there is need for other struggling state governors to take a clue from Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. On assumption of office in 2015, Ugwuanyi, made workers and ordinary man’s welfare his government’s top priority. He brought in prudence, teamwork, accountability and transparency into governance. No wonder, the people of the state quickly and wholeheartedly embraced his style of leadership that is people and development-oriented. Today, the state is very peaceful and has become investors’ destination. Its IGR has improved significantly and the state government is managing it well.

Above all, Ugwuanyi is more of a home governor than an Abuja or globetrotting governor. He is always on ground in the state and has only travel abroad once, since he became governor. It is of note that workers in the state have never embarked on strike action since he became governor. This is unprecedented in the history of workers-state government relationship in a civil service state like Enugu.

Under Ugwuanyi’s watch, workers in the state have continued to have a good working relationship with the state government. This is built on confidence, truth, camaraderie, openness and accountability.

In order to appreciate Governor Ugwuanyi’s caring and fatherly disposition to them, the workers under the auspices of Trade Union Congress (TUC) passed vote of confidence on his government during a one-day symposium organised by the union in Enugu this year.

Speaking the state chairman of TUC, Comrade Igbokwe Chukwuma Igbokwe, said the symposium themed ‘Good Governance and the Development of Enugu State: A Focus on the Present Administration’ was designed by the Congress “to generate opinion pool from the various sectors of the economy of Enugu State on the performance of this administration.”

Also speaking President General Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo (jnr) said he was delighted at the kind of peace, love and unity being enjoyed in the state today, telling the workers that it was as a result of the above that “none of you has been arrested or intimidated since the inauguration of this administration.”

He noted that in spite of the fact that “Enugu State is fifth from the bottom in the federal allocation list,” the governor has been able to execute numerous road projects mostly in the rural areas and installed streetlights to the excitement of dwellers, among others.
In his speech, the then state’s Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Prince Cornelius Nnaji, commended Ugwuanyi’s landmark achievements in the state, adding that he gave the Transitional Chairmen of Council Areas in the state “a free hand to manage our due allocations without any interference.”

In his response, Ugwuanyi thanked the state chapter of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) for deeming it fit and in collaboration with all the civil/public servants in Enugu State to organise the event.

According to the governor, “we have always said (and I reaffirm), that we will forever be grateful to the organised labour and to all civil servants in Enugu State for the exceptional support and cooperation that they have offered my administration since inception.

“They have indeed remained our trusted allies and partners in the quest to enthrone good governance in Enugu State and I must once again, express my gratitude for their kindness in conferring on me the award of ‘The Most Labour Friendly Governor’ in the history of Enugu State during the last Workers’ day or May Day celebrations.”

It is also a huge applause for Governor Ugwuanyi that today no civil servant in Enugu State is being owed a kobo as salaries or arrears of salaries. On assumption of office, Ugwuanyi government paid workers every 25th of the month, but he later changed it to 23rd making Enugu workers the first to receive salary across the 36 states of Nigeria.
What the state does each time it receives her share of the refunds is to immediately call for a meeting of the stakeholders–the two labour unions-NLC and TUC, representatives of pensioners, leaders of traditional institutions and community-based associations, and development experts–to decide how best to use the refund.

At the meeting, a sharing formula is established between the states and local councils. The portion reserved for salary and pensions payments is kept aside and used to pay workers and pensioners as and when due. This is the secret of Enugu State Government’s harmonious relationship with its workers since Governor Ugwuanyi became governor. It is worthy of emulation by other governors, who are groping in the dark to provide good governance.
Ezeamu, a development expert wrote from Agbani, Enugu State