31 October 2011

Nigeria: President Jonathan Owes Aides Six Months Salaries

President Goodluck Jonathan is yet to pay his aides salaries six months after he hired them. Those affected are chief of staff, special advisers, senior special assistants, special assistants and personal assistants.

A senior government official told LEADERSHIP last night that initially, the non-payment of the salaries was affected by the inability of the aides to finish the documentation of their appointments and later the dispute between the federal and the state governments over the monthly federal allocation.

It was also gathered that, civil servants have continued to express worry over the delay in the payment of their staff salaries. It was learnt that by the 25th of every month, salaries of government employees in the ministries, departments and agency were usually ready, but most workers have continued to express dismay over the delay in the payment of their salaries, especially as there was also a delay in payment of September salary. As at press time, workers' salaries were yet to be paid.

In March 2011, President Jonathan signed the Minimum Wage Bill into law after its passage by the National Assembly. The new law also states that private sector employers with more than 50 employees must pay workers the new wage.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had before the elections in April, threaten to withhold workers' votes, unless the minimum wage law was signed and paid to workers. But the organised labour later backed down from its threats when it went ahead to allow its members to vote during the April elections.

LEADERSHIP investigation can confirm that the N18,000 minimum wage is yet to be paid to any worker in federal ministries, departments and agencies(MDAs) till date. Instead, what the least paid civil servants have been receiving remains the N17,000 approved by President Jonathan upon inception of his administration last year.

In the same vein, the salary structure of all other categories of federal employees remains the same without any increment. Until this salary adjustment was done, the least paid worker went home with a paltry N7,500.

An employee of the Federal Ministry of Health, who spoke with LEADERSHIP under condition of anonymity, condemned the development and likened it to the growing culture of impunity in the Nigerian society.

He said: "What can we do? If the federal government says they will pay N18,000 and up till now we have not seen any increase in our salary, who do you complain to, are we to take them to court?

But I want to tell you that we are not happy. Even though the least paid worker now, as of today, earns N17,000, we expect the federal government to honour the promise by paying the N18,000 it promised. Although, it is just a matter of adding a few hundreds to our salary to make it N18,000, still, we want it. Even though it is still not everything but it is something. If you go to the market, things are so expensive based on this new minimum wage of N18,000 but we are yet to receive it,"

When contacted for his comment on the development, acting Secretary-General of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Owei Lakemfa, denied knowledge of the situation. He said, " We are yet to get any complain from our members in the public sector. We are surprised that the Federal Government is not paying the N18,000 minimum wage. In July, the organised labour signed an agreement that this would be done, and at the end, a circular was issued to all our members. That is the instrument of implementation of the minimum wage.

The minister of labour and productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, had in an interactive session with the media recently declared that the new minimum wage had become a law, adding that failure to pay the new rate to workers in the public or private sector was unconstitutional and a violation of the law.

When LEADERSHIP visited the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation for clarification on the delay in payment of N18,000 minimum wage to federal workers, spokesperson of AGF's office, Hassan Timon Dodo, said government regretted the delay and was working round the clock to offset the payment in all the MDAs.

He said: "Government is finalising plans to commence payment of the minimum wage soonest. When these plans have been concluded, payment would immediately commence in all ministries, department, and agencies (MDAs) in uniform manner, without any disparity," he said.

Our investigation further revealed that employers in the private sector are also adamant with the N18,000 minimum wage. This is even as most private sector employers with well over 50 staff strength are not complying with the new wages law.

For instance, those employed in private security outfits, gatemen, street sweepers, gardeners, among other categories of unskilled workers continue to earn far below the N18,000 prescribed by the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

A Higher National Diploma (HND) graduate of accounting who works in one of the top private security guard firms in Abuja (names withheld), lamented his plight as an employee of the security sub-sector. He said despite the new minimum wage law, his employer still pays him and other secondary school leavers as low as N10,000 monthly. But efforts to get the owner of the firm to comment failed.

But when contacted, a very liable source in the presidency disclosed to LEADERSHIP that the payment of minimum wage had since commenced at the time the President declared it. He however, stated that before the actual declaration by the president, federal workers were being paid about N17,000 plus.

The source also stated that Jonathan's approval of N18,000 only gave way for the addition of N1,000 to the already paid N17,000 plus to make it N18,000. Though, our source claimed not to know the actual amount of money added to the N17,000 plus, he added that the appropriate information could only be supplied by the Salaries and Wages Commission.

Further investigation by LEADERSHIP regarding the non- payment of Minimum Wage revealed that federal workers have not been paid as at Friday October 28, a development described by which many workers who were interviewed by our correspondents as quite unusual.

The source also revealed that the payment of October salaries for federal workers which has been delayed has been cleared for payment, saying that workers would be getting their salaries as from today.

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