For reality, the interaction between Zamfara state Governor Bello Matawalle and labour leaders during a special breakfast session (Iftar) few days back has brought an end to the lingering “war of words” between the duo over implementation of the (N30,000) minimum wage to state workers.
The facts presented by the Governor are both straight and for me, the labour leaders should have work for the last option proposed by the Governor which aimed at getting all revenue generating agencies sitting up to their corporate responsibilities by getting the IGR improved.
From the beginning, the Governor has raised a very fundamental point that the economic reality in Zamfara for now may not allow for the implementation of the (N30,000) minimum wage considering what the state is earning from the federation account and couple with the on-the-spot deduction the state suffered from banks due to debt incurred by the immediate past government of Yari.
Governor Bello Matawalle has made it categorically clear that, what the banks usually left behind for the state are not even enough to pay the salary using the old scales of (N18,000) minimum wage noting that, the government has to borrow money to meet with the salary demand of the state civil servants.
Again, the Governor argued that, the IGR collection has not improved beyond the usual (N450M) and the other alternative sources which are usually awaited to compliment the payment of salary are not forthcoming.
He lamented with all sense of seriousness that the revenue generating MDA’s are not doing their best to ensure optimal performance in terms of getting all revenues due to the state paid and instead every shot is fired back at the government.
He also raised concern that every month workers are retiring, but the figure in the salary payroll is not decreasing and that of payment of gratuity is in the increase.
Matawalle again raised concern that because everything is connected to politics, the attitude of the people toward payment of revenue is stagnating because people of Zamfara do not see it as a responsibility to pay government revenues accruals to enhance its source of funds to run the government.
“There was a time when a car was moving with stocks of grain out of Zamfara and people from the board of Internal Revenue Services went to collect tax, the next thing I saw was someone sending me a text message that people from the BIRS are going to spoil my government because they are forcing people to pay revenue”.
He further said, “go to Niger Republic and see how things are working whatever you want to buy even if it is a measure of grains you have to pay revenue to the government of Niger Republic because the people are passionate about sustainable development of their country.
“Go to Kaduna here and see how heavy trucks are being stopped at the entrance of the tollgate and asked to pay revenue to Kaduna State government can you try this in Zamfara”? The Governor asked.
He further cited reference with the volume of filing stations that are operating in Zamfara which he said once they are asked to pay revenue they would mobilize politicians to talk to the Governor that they are being put under pressure.
The Governor further said despite the stagnating condition of the state resources “there has never been a month since my inception as Governor that I failed to pay monthly salary, pension, and release payment for gratuities and the facts are there for the labor to contest”.
“Someone in the last government told me clearly that I would only be able to pay salary for the first three months, after which payment of salary for Zamfara workers would stop. This is because they knew the evil things they have planted for us”.
“Some states had to use local government allocations to augment and pay salaries to state civil servants while some have not been able to pay salaries for month but for us in Zamfara once money came in the first thing I told my finance commissioner to do was to pay salary and pension and what is left we manage it with my Deputy for running the government” the Governor added.
“The burden is too much on the government and everybody is looking on to the government, you need to help me by making things improved”.
The most interesting part of the Governor’s interface with the labor leaders was the challenge he threw at them that “you should go back and put your eyes on the activities of the revenue generating agencies and make sure that their revenue generation improves. I promised you if they can change and make sure that the right thing is done I will sacrifice (80%) of the revenue collection from MDA’s to workers welfare”.
Another one is calling the attention of the labor leaders to the fact that security management is eating deep into the little resources accrued by the state on monthly basis noting that the crise was inherent, his administration is investing heavily in ensuring that peace has return to Zamfara and to a large degree of hope the situation is better than how he met it in 2019.
Again, the attitude of the workers toward government work was also another point the Governor raised. He lamented that workers are making too many agitations for the government but majority of them do not go to work and yet expected new minimum wage at the end of the month.
The labour chairman confessed at the opening of his statement that the visit of the Deputy Governor to Ministries and MDA’s has exposed the reality of the attitude of Zamfara workers and confessionally promised that they would take the most appropriate steps of getting things remedied.
Interestingly, however, when it was the time for the labour to react, it was more than clear that, facts no doubt speaks for themselves because their reactions testifies to that.
The Chairman of the NLC Comr. Sani Haliru first apologized to the Governor for what he called “communication gap” he specifically said “your excellency mistakes had happened previously, and we believe it was as a result of communication gap but as a leader, we believe you will forgive and pardoned us. We are your children and there is no where we shall go and cry for help than in your presence”.
He also confessed that all the machinery of the government of Bello Matawalle are solidly behind the labour and always work with labour to ensure that the right thing is done.
And because of accepting the facts, the labour leader instead ended up with a passionate appeal for the implementation of annual increments which the Governor said the matter will be looked into for action.
AREAS OF AGREEMENT BETWEEN ZMSG AND LABOUR UNIONS
•The labour union admittedly accepted the simple facts that the government is more than willing to implement the (N30,000) minimum wage if the economic conditions improve and with all sense of clarity the Governor asked labor to verify the facts he presented to them.
•The labor could not deny the facts that the burden is heavy on the government while the resources are stagnating constantly due to the national economic crises and also the attitude of the people toward non-payment of revenue to the government.
•The labor could also not deny the fact that the government and its actors are open to engaging them at every point especially with the confession made by the Chairman that the Chief of Staff, Secretary to the State Government and indeed the Head of Service are always available to listen to them.
•The labor could also not deny that, salary is being paid no matter what and also could not deny the simple fact that the state government is not owing any Zamfara pensioner his monthly pension. They could also not deny that on monthly basis and on the average, (N100M) is being released to the state and local government pension commission for settlement of gratuities.
•The labor union could also not deny the fact that the attitude of some state workers toward going to work and doing the right thing is demeaning, as confessionally pointed by the Chairman.
•The labor union could also not contest that the IGR performance of the state is still below the expectations and that the revenue generating agencies are not doing enough to help the government.
•The labour union could also not deny the fact that huge amount of money is being sunk into the security management of the state, which is the number one priority of every citizen of the state.
•The labor union could not deny the claim by the Governor that both the salary payroll and that of gratuity are increasing proportionately, instead of the former to be decreasing.
•The labor union could also not deny the simple fact that government is losing a large chunk of its statutory allocations in settlement of debt accrued by the old administration of Yari.
The next option is for the government and labour unions to come together and passion out strategies that would assist in improving the state IGR.
Already there is an existing committee on improvement of the state IGR set up by the Governor under the leadership of Amb. Bashir Yuguda which NLC is part of. What happened and why is our IGR not improving despite the effort by the government, I think the committee should sit up.
The Governor has also done perfectly well by assenting to the Zamfara new Consolidated Revenue Law which empowers the state board of internal revenue and indeed all the Revenue Generating Agencies to collect and remit revenue, but the question is what has changed?.
I think NLC and all stakeholders need to sit up to their statutory responsibilities