Strident tunes are beginning to be heard in government circles regarding what to do with the perceived over bloated workforce. The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, is convinced that the government can function effectively with 50 percent of its present work force. The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala agrees and insists that there was no option to a purge in the nation's public and civil services. The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, on his part, has been trying to assuage the anxieties of labour unions and their members.
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and its sister union, Trade Union Congress (TUC) have made it clear that such thoughts are not only inconceivable but out rightly unacceptable.
In our opinion, there is no gainsaying the fact that the civil servants are a drain on the nation's resources. Consistently, recurrent expenditure and overheads take the lion's share of the nation's budget. This situation would have been tolerable if these civil servants were productive. But in most cases, they are not.
A visit to any ministry will expose the truth that most of the so called government workers do anything but work for the government. They have turned their offices to shops; that is when they are there at all. Others spend government time chasing contracts or running their own businesses. As soon as a new government comes into power, they spend their time conspiring and conniving just to frustrate policies and programmes; and shamelessly taking undue advantage of the system to serve their pecuniary interests.
We are, therefore, compelled by what is going on in the civil service to agree with the CBN Governor and Dr Okonjo-Iweala that the bureaucracy needs a real shakedown to make it relevant to contemporary trends. In doing this, we suggest, however, that the government must have at the back of its mind the unstable nature of the economy and direct its attention to those who have overstayed in service through falsification of their records as well as others tainted by corrupt practices. Even at that, it is our opinion that due process must be followed to the letter after which even those who will be affected will feel satisfied that, at least, they were given a fair hearing. This is important as we recall the purge of the Murtala Mohammed/Obasanjo regime that became a weapon for victimisation and witch hunting.
Having said this, we implore the leadership of Labour to take a back seat on this matter because, sadly, civil servants have become a cog in the wheel of national development. NLC and TUC must not defend its members just for the sake of it. Cleansing the rot in the civil service is, in our considered opinion, an act of patriotism which requires the cooperation of everyone including labour.