I received dozens of reactions to last week’s column several of which were heart-wrenching, but I have space for just two this week. The first is from the Kwara State government and the second is from a private citizen in Ilorin.
The Kwara State Government has dismissed as false and unfounded [an op-ed] linking the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki with the salary crises in state-owned Colleges of Education.
In the statement issued in Ilorin, the Kwara State Government dissociated the Senate President from the salary arrears at the affected institutions, and restated that Saraki neither controls nor interferes with the management of state government funds or institutions. The government therefore challenged anyone with contrary proof to publish it.
The State Government blamed its inability to pay subventions to the affected tertiary institutions on the drop in monthly federal allocations to the state from N3.2b to N1.8b.
Explaining further, the statement added that N1.7b of the amount goes towards the payment of secondary school teachers, civil servants, pensions and gratuity per month, stressing that the remainder is inadequate to cover the N500m monthly subventions to parastatals, including revenue-generating tertiary institutions.
According to the statement, the government was therefore forced to suspend the payment of subventions to parastatals while expecting tertiary institutions and other revenue-generating agencies to pay workers from their internally-generated revenue in view of the huge drop in monthly federal allocation to the state.
On the N4.3b Federal Government bail out to the state, the statement emphasised that the money was used to clear the two months’ arrears owed to state civil servants in August 2015. It added that the Federal Government was yet to release the bail out component for the payment of subvention to the tertiary institutions and other parastatals in the state.
The state government also denied cutting salaries at the Colleges of Education by 30 per cent. It clarified that the state government was financially-constrained to implement only 70 per cent of the Consolidated Tertiary Education and Institution Salary Structure, a nationally-agreed salary structure for tertiary institutions which is however subject to states’ capacity to pay.
The statement added that despite its lean finances, the government had increased subventions to tertiary institutions in the state thrice in the last four years but was currently unable to ensure regular payment due to the huge drop in monthly federal allocation to the state.
Mr. Muyideen Akorede, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications to the State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed.
The crisis of unpaid salaries in Nigeria has reached an epic proportion. My brother and fellow Kwaran, Dr. Farooq Kperogi, was sufficiently concerned that he wrote on this issue as it relates to our state. In reaction to Farooq’s op-ed, the Kwara state government recently issued a statement to the media and gave two reasons for its inability to pay its workers:
1. A drop in federal allocation
2. Revenue generating state agencies are mandated to pay their own staff members
On both counts, the Kwara state government is being clever by half. On the first count, if the reason for the inability of the state government to pay its workers is hinged on a drop in the amount of money it receives from the federation account, then the raison d'être for the existence of Kwara as a state is null and void. If the Kwara state government has to wait on the federal government, then we may conclude that the Kwara state government is an appendage of the federal government, not an independent self-governing state within a republic. If that is the case, then the office of the state governor is unnecessary in Kwara state and perhaps we should push for a constitutional amendment that will make Kwara a department of the federal government with a minister sent to oversee its affairs. This, my friends, is what the Kwara state government is saying indirectly if we are to take its claims about its inability to pay its workers due to a drop in federal allocation.
On its second claim of granting autonomy to revenue generating state agencies to pay its staff members from funds so generated – this is another clever-by-half escapist reason for its inability to pay. Let us be sincere: how can any responsible government ask the Kwara state water corporation to pay its own workers in a state where the majority makes plans for their own water supply and in areas where the state supplies the water – many residents consider water supply as a social good that they wouldn’t like to pay for. I am not suggesting that Kwarans shouldn’t pay for water but the reality is that the few that do get water from the state may not necessarily be paying for it. In any case, even if they were paying, the payments would not be near enough to pay the staff members of the Kwara state water corporation.
The same situation exists for the Kwara state colleges of education, the state Polytechnic, and University. All of these institutions are not your traditional business concerns that must - as matter of rule - turn a profit. Perhaps, we should ask if the Kwara state government is embarking on a policy of commercializing education and other public services in Kwara state. It is a globally accepted practice for state governments to have some sort of annual grant or subvention to institutions like the Water Corporation, schools and colleges in the interest of public good. Why is the Kwara state government shirking one of the most basic responsibilities of state governments?
Kwara state governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, was quoted several times as saying that the business of government is too serious to be left in the hands of the opposition PDP during the last election; it is a self-indictment that Ahmed is in his fifth year as governor and things, rather than improving in the state of harmony, have taken a turn for the worse.
If Ahmed and crowd will seat down and face the serious business of governing, cut waste, reduce their own personal comfort, incentivize agriculture, support small business owners meaningfully through soft loans and a reduction in taxes, not a tax increase, (small business owners will create jobs and add to income tax) and ensure transparency in financial transactions, Kwara state will be able to pay all categories of workers under its government.
Abdulmumin Yinka Ajia