The civil service is a collective term for a sector of government composed mainly of career bureaucrats hired on professional merit rather than appointed or elected, whose institutional tenure typically survives transitions of political leadership.
For about two years now, there has been a massive overhaul in the Civil Service Commission in Nigeria, and also the demand by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) for a rise in the minimum wage for all civil servants. The toil has been huge and a relative success was attained late 2019, by the declaration by the Federal Government, that all states must pay minimum wage irrespective of their ability to pay or not.
A couple of state as captured by a handful of Newspapers, especially the Leadership Newspaper for February 5, 2020, stating the 16 states that were unable to pay the minimum wage, of which Taraba State was captured also.
Swiftly, I beg to differ from the idle caption “Unable to pay”, and some that captured wrongly “Not willing to Pay workers”. Taraba can be among the states “Unable to Pay ALL”, not “Not willing to pay workers”, because, a number of state like Taraba State have put up systems in place to ensuring that the issue of minimum wage is implemented in the state. Machineries are pivotal in the implementation, because, it is not about taking actions hastily, but ensuring actions taken are effective and sustainable, so that all leakages blocked by the Government starting 2015 to date are not wrecked during these processes.
The case in Taraba State is unique and must be given top sensitivity to the process and systems designed to accommodate this law. I recall in 2015, when Governor Darius was elected as the Executive Governor of Taraba he noted in his inaugural speech and I quote:
My fellow citizens of Taraba State, as I stand here on this podium looking at the horizon of Taraba State, I see a promise of possibilities; I see a promise of a greater tomorrow; and I see a promise of a united indivisible Taraba State. Based on these promises, I have a vision. I have a vision that in 10 years, Taraba State will be the leading economy in the North East Sub-region
To the civil servants, we say that a lot will be demanded of your expertise, experiences, and proactiveness. You must brace up to take your pride of place as the fulcrum around which the machinery of government will oscillate. In this regard, we shall overhaul the civil service to reposition it for functionality; we shall examine the staffing, the anomalies, and the capacity gaps; we shall reconsider the funding arrangement of the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs); and, we shall proactively engage the labour unions.
When re-elected to office 2019, the progress made was captured by the Rescue Captain:
We realized that a well-motivated civil service is the engine room of any successful administration. It is against this understanding that in my first inaugural speech, I said that I saw the reality of an oversized public service. In this regard, we resolved that we shall overhaul the civil service to reposition it for functionality; we shall examine the staffing, the anomalies, and the capacity gapswe shall proactively engage the labour unions. We have not reneged on these pledges in the past four years.
The administration has successfully plugged leakages in the salary system and exterminated the ghost workers syndrome for good. The reduced civil service has enabled us to pay regular salaries and entitlements without backlog, as well as ensure their welfare and trainings. We are up-to-date with our salary and pension payments and have also commenced the reduction of Gratuities.
The prove that the administration of Governor Darius has remained committed to the welfare of the Civil Servants is evident in his undivided attention towards the needs and welfare of the states workforce. The prove to that also was when the Labour Leaders Commend Governor Ishaku for Labour Friendly Policies, November 13, 2019, the same time the issue of Minimum wage was at its pick. The Statement was made by the Chairman then of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, in Taraba State, Comrade Peter Gambo, when the entire team paid a courtesy visit to the Governor.
Comrade Gambo (late), particularly mentioned prompt payment of salaries. Pension and gratuities, employment, women and youth empowerment as some of those policies and urged him not to relent because Taraba State is a civil service state.
At the meeting Governor Darius stated: his administration achieved a lot during its first tenure because it enjoyed the cooperation of labour in the state, and on minimum wage, Gov. Ishaku said: the state government was waiting for the matter to be resolved at the federal level to decide what the state can afford.
Staying true to his words on employment, in November, 18, few days from the meeting with the NLC leaders, as part of his efforts to address the manpower needs of the state, Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku approved the employment of over 300 people into the state civil service.
Hence, it is clear, that the Governor is in touch with all the dealings of the civil servants, and efforts are underway to implement the demand of minimum wage in the state at all level, according to the capacity of the state, just as it is done in sister states. It cannot be an absolute fact, when some journalist are still making reference to the statement of the NLC boss a year ago, when the National President of the NLC said: I can say authoritatively that its only in Taraba that nothing has started; the committee has not been inaugurated, the process of dialogue has not commenced. Every state is unique and have their model for operations.
Worthy of note, the Government of Arc. Darius has maintained a continued and a cordial working relations with the organized labour and its affiliates. A number of Labour Unions and Organizations have recognized his numerous efforts with several notable awards which include:
Vanguard personality of the year, Governor of the Year by Daily Assets Newspaper 2017, Leadership Governor of the Year 2018, Award of Excellence by the Abuja Chambers of Commerce and Industry for outstanding performance in Trade and Investment (at 2017 Abuja international Trade Fair), and the Most Youth Friendly Governor by the National Youth Council of Nigeria. Others awards include: Distinguished service Award by the Nigeria Medical Association, Water Man of the Year 2018, Electricity Man of the Year 2018 and joint Award by ALGON and NULGE to mention only a few.
With these facts, I am of a strong believe, as someone who have followed carefully the dealings of the Darius’ administration over the years, that his government intends to leverage on the harmonious relationship in the years ahead for an accelerated development in all sectors of the state.
Written from Abuja by A. A. Mshelia.