A long time ago Governor Abubakar Sani Bello established a reputation for paying salaries promptly.
Salaries were paid as early as 24th of the month to the praise of many. It was to dismiss this fit as minor that his critics like to argue that, “paying salaries is not an achievement.”
But there are those who might disagree with this assertion and argue that paying salaries is an achievement worthy of commendation, like the former state chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Yahaya Ndako Idris, who during the 2018 May Day Celebration, commended Governor Sani-Bello for prompt payment of salary in the state.
That is why the hullabaloo between the state government and the NLC over salary payment surprises many people. Seeing as Governor Bello always pays salaries in full and on time, Labour, more than most, should understand that circumstance must have forced the hands of the state government and influenced her decision to pay only 70 percent of the total of June and 100% of July salary.
Many observers are beginning to suspect that the Labour union has been infiltrated and compromised by politicians, or why else is Labour endangering the lives of the poor residents of our state by shutting down government institutions and barring our people away from hospitals in this time of health crisis even as health workers in the state have been fully paid?
Is Labour unmindful of the fact that that the poor masses cannot afford private hospitals? Are they so insensitive that they would let the poor die so as to hold the government to ransom over a matter that the government has little control over?
Labour must contemplate the legal and moral implications of her actions. For example, do they have the right to close ministries and keep our political appointees who are willing to work and to achieve the mandate of our people?
Let us be clear: Niger state is not peculiar on this matter of salary deduction. All over Nigeria states have had to cut back. Only recently Delta State Government with a monthly allocation of over N16 billion, after meeting with organized labor, agreed to slash salaries of state government workers for 6 months starting this July.
Other states like Kaduna have done this before now. And the unions in these states with higher allocation and IGR have shown appreciation of the economic situation of the world. Why is Niger state Labour Union different?
It is true that Labour’s duty is to negotiate a better life for its workers, but one cannot ignore the fact that Labour is only concerned for the small percentage of the population of the state who make up the civil service.
Niger State Government on the other hand is responsible for every person, including the persons Labour fight for. This why it is imperative to understand that it is not a reasonable request to ask the government to hand over her entire allocation for a month to the less than 10 percent of the population of the state and forgo other pressing matters like insecurity which the state is being faced and it is also a first line priority to government which if left unchecked may consume us all.
The state has other issues like running of offices, ensuring that hospitals are powered to deal with.
What Niger State Government asked for was simple: accept 70 percent of the June salary and when things improve, the government will pay the remaining. And there are instances in the state and under this very political dispensation that this was done and the government kept her word.
Let us not destroy our dear state because we seek to make political profit. Our people and posterity will judge us and judge us harshly.
Ahmed Suleman Tanko write from Suleja