el-Rufai: How Kano Almajiris Increased COVID-19 Infections in Kaduna

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Nasir El-Rufai

Labour rejects 25% pay deduction to fund palliatives

Martins Ifijeh in Lagos and John Shiklam in Kaduna

The Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai has stated that Almajiris deported from Kano State last week brought 21 cases of COVID-19 to the state.

Speaking on Arise Television, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers yesterday, he said when the state took delivery of 148 Almajiris from Kano, it kept them in a holding facility where tests were conducted on eight of them with symptoms, adding that five tested positive to the disease.

He said: “Sixteen more of the Almajiris tested positive to it and we have now kept them in an isolation centre where they are being managed.

“We made sure stringent measures were put in place to either slow down the spread of the virus. I was the first to be infected in Kaduna. I got infected in Abuja, and I, in turn, infected four other people. Since then the numbers have increased slightly, but not as much as other states. Our slow growth is due to the extraordinary steps we are taking. Unfortunately, some of our neigbhours have not taken such steps, and now we are at great risk from what is happening in Kano, Katsina and some other states.”

The governor said Kaduna was the first state in the country to institute a lockdown which lasted 30 days, adding that it has commenced another 30 days lockdown to ensure community spread of the virus was halted, as well as ensure the disease was not transported into the state.

He said: “Enforcement has been quite difficult, but we feel 50 per cent success is better than zero distancing measures. We knew from day one that our public health system is incapable of dealing with a high number of cases. So this is not the time to relax the lockdown because in a state of about 10 million people, we have only tested about 200 and our infection numbers are still in the 20s. We have no justification yet to relax the lockdown.

“We know this lockdown will cost us, but we are ready to do whatever is necessary to protect the lives of our people. Our civil servants and political appointees have supported us financially to ensure poor residents are provided with foods and other palliatives so they can stay at home.

“We also had N500 million we set aside, which has been used to buy food for poor residents because 60 per cent of our gross domestic products are from the informal sector and locking down the state would mean many may not have foods to eat. So we ensured we shared palliatives in some parts of the state. We have also ensured our SS3 students take lessons through the radio. Very soon we will extend the digital lessons to primary schools and other secondary school classes.”

Labour Rejects 25% Pay Deduction to Fund Palliatives

Meanwhile, the Joint Unions of Tertiary Institutions of Kaduna State (JUTIKS) and the state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have rejected the 25 per cent deduction of workers’ salaries by the state government.

el-Rufai, at the weekend, had announced the deduction of 25 per cent of salaries of civil servants, receiving above N67,000 per month to provide palliatives for vulnerable residents affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.

However, the labour unions described the deduction as illegal, warning the state government to rescind the decision.
In its statement, JUTIKS said the unions had offered five per cent of workers’ salaries as a contribution for COVID-19 palliatives, adding that the government rejected the offer and unilaterally imposed 25 per cent deductions on them.

JUTIKS statement, jointly signed by its Chairman, Mr. Noah Danlami, and the Secretary, Mr. Jibril Makama, noted that providing palliatives to cushion the effect of the lockdown on citizens was the sole responsibility of government and such responsibility should not be shifted to workers already burdened with other crises.

JUTIKS said while some states were considering an upward review of workers’ salaries as a palliative against the hardship caused by the lockdown, the Kaduna State government was imposing a levy on workers.

The statement stated that workers in Kaduna State-owned tertiary institutions were still being paid 80 per cent of the obsolete CONTISS salary structure, as against the CONPCASS/CONTEDISS structure introduced 11 years ago.
JUTIKS said Kaduna state-owned tertiary institutions’ workers were the least paid in the country.

“The government said that no public servant will have less than N50,000 monthly to manage in this emergency period. But this is not true as the majority of workers are currently servicing different loans.

“The government is also aware that so many workers have acquired loans to purchase non-essential government houses.
“Such category of workers will be plunged into a deep financial crisis as a result of the multiple deductions which is further complicated by the forceful deductions,” the statement said.

The union appealed to the state government to immediately stop further implementation of the illegal levy, stressing that financial burden on members is already unbearable to accommodate 25 per cent salary deduction.

JUTIKS advised the state government to explore other sources of funding instead of deducting from the meagre salaries of the civil servants.

Also, the Kaduna State chapter of the NLC rejected the 25 per cent salary cut.

The labour union asked the state government to return the deduction or “face the wrath” of the union.
The state NLC Chairman, Ayuba Suleiman, while addressing a press conference in Kaduna yesterday, urged the government to stop the 25 per cent deduction forthwith.

Suleiman said the deduction should be done with workers’ consent, adding that anything other than that is unacceptable.
The NLC chairman said: “Sequel to the deduction of 25 per cent on the salary of all civil servants in Kaduna State, effective from April 2020, labour in Kaduna State unequivocally rejects this deduction.

“This is because the union was not consulted on the issue nor consented to the deduction.

“Article 8 of the International Labour Organisation Protection of Wages Convention, 1949, (No.95) provides that deduction from wages shall be permitted only under conditions and to the extent prescribed by the national laws or regulations or fixed by collective agreement or arbitration award.

“Labour in Kaduna State is not against the provision of palliatives to the poor to cushion the COVID-19 lockdown from the salaries of civil servants in Kaduna State but wish to state that, it ought to be carried along, and such deductions or contributions should be made voluntary not compulsory.”

“As responsible working groups who are conscious of the predicament of the average citizens of Kaduna State, we are disposed to committing much higher for the wellbeing of the less-privileged if the need be, and the proper process is followed.

“In view of the above, labour in Kaduna calls on the Kaduna State Government to stop the 25 per cent deduction henceforth and should return the 25 per cent salary already deducted from the workers.

“Failure to comply with the above will leave the labour in the state with no option than to explore other possible avenues within the purview of the law.”