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  Workers Poised For Showdown Over N48bn Promotion Arrears

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PostSubject: Workers Poised For Showdown Over N48bn Promotion Arrears    Workers Poised For Showdown Over N48bn Promotion Arrears Icon_minitime2017-05-23, 12:18

By Onwuka Nzeshi

Civil servants in the employ of the Federal Government are poised for a showdown with their employers following the non-payment of their promotion arrears totalling N48 billion. As at last year, N12.3 billion was reportedly provided as virement in the 2016 budget for the settlement of part of the arrears that was due to workers who got their promotions in 2013.

However, New Telegraph learnt that the money was not released for payment to the concerned civil servants. The workers, our cor-respondent gathered, are currently mobilizing to picket the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the National Assembly.

A member of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), who spoke to New Telegraph in confidence, disclosed that the salary arrears accumulated over time because every year, the Federal Civil Service conducts promotion examination and uses the outcome of the exercise to elevate staff to the next level or cadre. According to our source, every promotion goes with a commensurate increase in the staff emolument and are usually paid en bloc to the concerned employees.

“The trouble is that civil servants have not received any payments in respect of their 2013 promotion and salary arrears. You will recall that during the May Day celebration, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) raised this issue among others, but it appears that the clamour for a new minimum wage overshadowed it.

“This is a matter for which the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, the Ministry of Finance and the Budget Office of the Federation had earlier resolved that the arrears would be paid. The relevant circulars were issued and part of the arrears was even included in the 2016 budget. Now that budget cycle has elapsed, yet no payments were made to the civil servants who have been waiting for it.

“Our fear is that the Federal Government appears to be sweeping this matter under the carpet. But we won’t allow it to go because the workers have a legitimate right to these salary arrears that came as a result of their promotion. Every day, we see what is happening to retired civil servants; we see them on long queues waiting to receive their pensions and gratuities. Now we are not yet retired, but we can’t even get what is due to us. Are we working for the government for free? This is unacceptable,” he said.

New Telegraph learnt that two years ago when President Muhammadu Buhari came into power, he promised that he was going to pay all outstanding liabilities owed civil servants. Based on that promise, a circular was issued by the Ministry of Finance directing all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to make compilations of the promotion and salary arrears as they affect civil servants under them.

These compilations were made and forwarded to the Budget Office of the Federation for collation and onward transmission to the Ministry of Finance for further action. According to our investigations, the total volume of the arrears for 2013, 2014 and 2015 amounted to N48 billion, which was considered too huge to be settled in one fell swoop.

Further investigations revealed that the authorities resolved to commence the payment in installments. The sum of N12.3 billion, representing the arrears for 2013, was subsequently included in the 2016 budget virement which was passed by the National Assembly, but the payment was never made.

“The truth is that the labour unions across the MDAs have been agitated over the matter. They even held meetings with the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, during which they received assurances that the money will be paid.

“As we speak, the matter is getting compounded because the MDAs have even started sending in requests for the arrears of those promoted in 2016 when the previous ones have not been settled. The civil servants are apprehensive because we are all living witnesses to the fact that the Federal Government has been using the Paris Club Loan refund to assist the state governments in settling salary arrears in the states while federal civil servants have been left in the lurch. It is a provocative situation that could lead to industrial unrest if nothing is done urgently,” he said.

When New Telegraph contacted the Ministry of Budget and National Planning on the issue, a senior official there told our correspondent that it was the responsibility of the ministry to make provisions in the budget, but the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance is to issue mandates for disbursement of funds based on availability of resources.

The official, who did not want his name in print because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said the threat to picket the Ministry of Budget and National Planning was, therefore, misplaced and should be discouraged. Adeosun could not be reached for comments on the development and attempts to get her aides to react, met a brick wall.

For several weeks, the estate was said to have suffered its worst shortage in recent times, to the extent that some residents who do not have boreholes as an alternative water source, have resorted to buying bags of sachet water for their domestic uses”

A woman, who simply identified herself as Mabel, told Inside Abuja that for several weeks, the water board had failed to provide regular water supply to the estate. According to her, residents are now buying bags of sachet water for all their domestic use.

She said that even the local water vendors, known as “ Mai Ruwa” were also not an easy alternative as they have hiked the prices of their wares. A 25kg gallon of water now sells for N100, which translated to N1,200, for a trolley load of 12 jerry cans. “I have been buying bags of sachet water which we use to cook, flush the toilet and even for bathing.

This is because, for some week now, we have not had water supply from the water board” she said.

Another resident, Engr. Ezekiel Mbamalu, a civil servant, who has lived in the estate for eight years, lamented that living in Gwarrinpa had become a mere status symbol as the basic social amenities and urban infrastructure that attracted many residents to the large estate were no longer what they used to be due to neglect by the authorities.

“How can one be living in the estate where one hardly enjoys light and water, even after paying for the services? Except for those that have borehole in their compounds, getting water here is a serious challenge.”
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