Eavesdropper: Workers deserve prompt salary payment

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Many things happen in Nigeria that appear oddly to a discerning mind. Eavesdropper keeps wondering if the leaders particularly seek office to exhibit certain acts to amuse the world. Some workers in Nigeria work tirelessly without pay for months. That’s even if they get anything to cheer them up in retirement as pensions were deducted monthly and not remitted to the pension fund accounts. Some workers in a state in the Southern part of the country on Tuesday protested against unpaid salaries and slash of their salaries. They were not only paid but what they were to also earn was also slashed. They were assured that their salaries would be paid while told to be law-abiding. So, such an assurance would not have come if the workers had not protested to ask for their rights? Citizens should naturally learn to protest peacefully and demand their rights. But those in positions of authority need to do what is right without having to be told what to do.

It is better to imagine the frustration that would have followed the protest.

Such an issue didn’t start in Nigeria today.  It’s something engrained in the country’s governance process. They are occurrences that happen in most states of the federation and there seems to be no end in sight especially as nothing tangible is happening across the country. Poverty level is high and no corresponding policies to tackle the situation.

In December, the organised labour unions in the tertiary institutions in one of the South-West states sought spiritual assistance on the challenges facing the institutions particularly on the alleged non-payment of salaries. It was gathered that the workers were allegedly being owed many months of salary arrears by the state government.

The labour unions comprised the Joint Action Committee of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, the Non -Academic Staff Union, the Nigeria Association of Academic Technologists and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics. The matter got the workers worried that they felt the only solution was to engage in fasting and prayer. It’s a clear sign that the workers had been stretched beyond limits.

In 2016, when it was glaring that many state governments were unable to pay their workers’ salaries promptly, some civil servants abandoned their duty posts while others skipped work. The workers must have reasoned that what was the use in working tirelessly only to be denied salaries at the end of the day. But come to think of it o, workers who refuse to work must not also demand to be paid but that can only be possible if employers also have justification to do that. You cannot owe a mountain of salaries and expect workers to continue working. 

In 2017, a state in the South-South was said to have owed its council 16 months’ salary but the state government described the claim as false.  It claimed that it only owed nine months. Yes, you heard right. The state justified nine months of not paying workers. Should it even owe at all not to talk of nine months? What were such workers expected to eat and use in taking care of their family members for the months? Eavesdropper wonders if they would want the workers to come to work promptly and frequently. Also in 2019, a state in the South-East owed doctors and health workers 13 months’ salaries and members of the state Hospital Management Board at the time had not been paid for 10 months. One can then imagine where the impetus to treat patients would come from. Sometime ago, there was the video of a man who cried because he was owed many months of salaries. Though pitiable sight, it’s indicative of how bad the situation is and what the people are enduring.

There are several instances of this awkward situation but the examples above would suffice. The funny aspect of the whole drama is that many of the culpable states would have reasons to justify their actions. But regardless, no action justifies denying a worker his or her wage. Amid the whole drama are the useless and wasteful projects that public funds go into. There is much wastage in government that needs to be plugged to deliver democratic dividends to the people.

States should learn to prioritise and not continue rolling out non-viable programmes. Instead of borrowing for recurrent expenditure, the government should be creative and engage workers meaningfully to be more productive to justify their earnings. A template should be made to make every worker contribute meaningfully to the state and not to merely parade workers who are non-productive. Eavesdropper sometimes wonders about the rationale behind some futile projects without significant bearing on the populace which governments would be proud to showcase. Families are often at the receiving end when salaries aren’t paid promptly. The situation puts pressure on families and in turn the society is worst hit for it. States cannot continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect something different. Is it not amusing that the majority of the states claiming that they have no money to pay salaries often have enough to pay their retinue of needless aides? The explanation is that governance is seen as politics and everything is done to protect the interests of the occupiers of the office. But there are also usually enough funds to embark on activities that are not beneficial to anyone.

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