KADUNA UPDATE: Text of Kaduna State Government press conference addressed by the Commissioner of Local Government and the Head of Service, 15th May 2021

Ahmed Nasir el-Rufai

Gentlemen of the Press,

  1. On behalf of the Kaduna State Government, we wish to issue the following statement.
  2. In September 2019, the Kaduna State Government became the first government at any level in Nigeria to pay the new minimum wage, along with consequential adjustments and it has continued to faithfully respect this obligation. It followed up by swiftly raising the minimum pension to N30,000 monthly for retirees on the old defined benefits scheme. The 23 local government councils in the state also complied and began paying the new wages. Amidst all the revenue challenges we have encountered over the last six years, the Kaduna State Government has always prioritised its ability to deliver capital projects and pay its personnel costs, especially salaries.
  3. Kaduna is also one of the states that is most faithful in implementing the Contributory Pension Scheme, effective from 1 January 2017. It has courageously attempted to settle the N14bn it inherited as arrears of death benefit and gratuity from 2010, commencing payments with those who had exited service the longest. Since 2015, the Kaduna State Government has paid over N13bn in death benefits and gratuity.
  4. As part of its commitment to the public service as the vehicle for the delivery of services and public goods to citizens, this government initiated the Public Service Reform and Revitalisation Programme in 2016. Its purpose is to modernise the service and make it more efficient and ICT-savvy. Apart from teachers and health workers, this government continues to also recruit required professionals for its agencies. It creates new jobs as it exits personnel from cadres that have been rendered obsolete. It is investing in training and has devoted 2% of FAAC receipts to fund training as a rigorous investment in building and boosting the capacity of its personnel.
  5. As sitting tenants, Kaduna State civil servants bought most of the non-essential residential houses the government sold in 2017 and the government supported their ability to pay for these houses by arranging single-digit interest mortgages for them.
  6. Therefore, this government has demonstrated in action its commitment to the welfare of its workers. But it insists that this is sustainable only in the context of the general welfare of residents of the state that the government itself is mandated to serve. Thus, it is not sustainable to persist in spending 84% to 96% of its FAAC receipts on salaries and personnel costs as has been the experience of the state since October 2020. This government was not elected to devote most public funds to paying government workers and treat that as its defining governance mission, to the detriment of developing the state and its people.
  7. In response to the fiscal headwinds caused by declining FAAC receipts and huge outlays on personnel costs, the government announced in April 2021 that it will rightsize the public service and reduce the number of political appointees and civil servants. The necessary verification of credentials for full implementation of this painful but necessary decision is still being done. It has not determined the total number of officers that might be affected by the decision. Neither has it stopped paying the minimum wage, despite the prompting of the denizens of sentiment who have urged it to suspend payment and thereby violate the national Minimum Wage Act. The Kaduna State Government prefers to take lawful and rational steps that are within its powers to rightsize its personnel and thereby reduce its wage bill.
  8. However, since making its intentions known in this regard, the Kaduna State Government has been subjected to a veritable campaign of lies and misrepresentation. Such is the absence of rigour that the NLC itself has cited in its correspondence the contents of a forged memo that first made its nasty appearance in 2019, alleging the casual engagement of workers on Grades 01-06, the imposition of maximum staff strength of 50 on each local government and the compulsory retirements of officers that are above 50.
  9. The NLC’s wanton fictions have been echoed by some other trade unionists who have variously and falsely claimed that the rightsizing exercise affects 4,000 or 20,000 or even 60,000 workers. This is not true, and neither is their claim that the Kaduna State Government has stopped paying the minimum wage. It bears noting that given the patchy level of compliance with the new minimum wage across the country, it is the state government that blazed the trail in paying it and has continued paying it at both state and local government level that some trade unionists are consistently traducing. Perhaps something other than worker interest is at play! We already know from the events of 2017 that some trade unionists privilege their ego and narrow interests above public welfare.
  10. Such trade unionists have used fictions and misrepresentations to build up a campaign of hysteria. The Kaduna State Government has been made aware of plans by some trade unionists, led by Ayuba Wabba, to reprise the mayhem they visited on Kaduna during their rampage of 8 November 2017. That day, in one of the most shameful displays of irresponsibility, they thrashed the premises of the Kaduna State House of Assembly as part of their futile attempt to force the government to retain 21,780 teachers who did not pass a Primary 4 competency test. The State Government sacked the failed teachers and swiftly recruited 25,000 teachers to replace them and to promote the right of the children of the poor to decent education.
  11. Following that shameful 2017 episode, there is a subsisting warrant for the arrest of Wabba for the vandalization of government facilities, in violation of the Miscellaneous Offences Act and other laws of the land.
  12. As is appropriate, the security agencies have been notified of the plans of some trade unionists to recruit hoodlums, including from other states, to create a destructive spectacle and further their self-serving narrative about public service jobs and insecurity.
  13. The Kaduna State Government has been assured by some trade unions that they will not be part of the planned sabotage of social and economic life. We acknowledge and appreciate these assurances.
  14. The Kaduna State Government wishes to clarify that it will not be blackmailed by the criminal plans to attack and shut down power transmission stations, hospitals, government offices and infrastructure such as waterworks and streetlights. We note the brazen threat to the operations of private companies, their workers and facilities and the indifference to the rights and interests of their customers.
  15. Kaduna State Government’s obvious investments in schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure represent the rebuke to specious arguments that paying salaries will suffice as evidence of governance. Kaduna State pays salaries to its workers, but it also invests to develop the state, as every fair-minded person can see. But when its revenues drop, it will do what rational people do by reducing its expenses. Therefore, the state government calls on residents of the state to resist the apostles of violence and do their utmost to protect public facilities.
  16. On 20 December 2020, the Kaduna State Government asked workers below Grade Level 14 to stay at home, effective 21 December 2020 as part of Covid-19 prevention efforts and they have not been recalled to their offices since then. However, they continue to get paid. Along with officers from Grade Level 14 upwards, those workers that have been declared as essential by their commissioners and agency heads are expected at their duty posts as usual.
  17. The Trade Union Act is clear in prohibiting strike action by workers that are engaged in the provision of essential services. The law also forbids subjecting “any other person to any kind of constraint or restriction of his personal freedom in the course of persuasion” for strike action.
  18. The planned strike action and shutdown are futile gestures, just like Ayuba Wabba’s bluster and histrionics in 2017. KDSG has notified the security agencies who would take steps to thwart the violent intent of the organisers. Apart from the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 protocols, a ban on public processions subsists in this state. This was imposed precisely because of the violence that has frequently broken out from such processions even when they began with innocent intent.
  19. For its part, KDSG will protect its facilities and the right of its staff to access and work in their offices. It is unlawful for anyone to try to deny them access or exit. Government offices are not the property of any trade unionist and none of them should entertain thoughts of locking up or vandalizing any facility.
  20. As in 2017, the Kaduna State Government will not subject its policy to the veto of a mob. This government did not campaign on a platform of tired populism and it was not elected to practice timidity as public policy. It is not about to create the mistaken impression that it has much fiscal wiggle room as a subnational or that it is the supreme goal of government to pay 100,000 people while ignoring the larger public welfare of 10m citizens. The trade union laws of this country are not a cover for irresponsibility, and therefore everyone concerned should be rightly guided.

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