“There are many people on level 14 but they are being paid the salaries of level 10. And this badly affects his computation resulting in clear shortages when retiring. This is a lingering challenge and it must be corrected. We believe the Governor should give a directive for the correction.” – NLC.
By Sam Kayode
How far have you gone in your negotiation process with the Borno state Government concerning the plight of your pensioners?
Indeed, pension is one issue that the organized labour has concern about because we will all retire one day and become pensioners too. But first of all we must appreciate the Governor for his concern on pensioners. That is why when he came on board, he went head on to pension matters to clear backlog. As per the record, we have about 1500 late pension cases. Out of this, about 823 have been verified and returned to the pay role in November last year. And Government will continue to pay them till the family exhausts their money. That is the process so that when Government has money, they will pay them off. And that happens when the retiree dies which is why they are called late, they will pay off the family the final bulk balance pension through the existing next of kin. Especially if he or she did not collect up to five years running pension before death. Because if they had collected up to 5 years before death, it is assumed that they exhausted their pension. But if it was not up to 5 years, the next of kin will then collect any balance in bulk. That has been the procedure here. But because of lack of funds it has been delayed by past Governments, so when this Governor assumed duty he asked us to compile all the late cases and a committee started working on it to ease the tension.
The clarification will continue so that all the cases will be visited. They are on the process for another 300 and more until that issue is sorted. And they will also return to the payroll to exhaust their balance before they remove them finally from the payroll.
The families will take the money little by little until the pension finishes. The payment of pension in piece meal to us is far better than staying without anything. Instead of our people trusting and waiting endlessly until some of them die in the process without getting anything, we agreed with this arrangement. It is when they are verified that they will be returned to the pay role. After the next of kin has complained. We have always advocated for bulk in this matter but they keep saying no money, no money so this is a reconciliatory solution to the lack of money matters in the govt. So by the time they finished the pension, we can then go to gratuity which is next.
If someone retired on level 10 with the State government, how much will be his pension based on the N30,000 minimum wage law?
Between 50 and 60,000 naira, and if you go higher level 14 receives up to N100,000 as take home pension. They are all on the basic 30,000, far higher than what they were receiving during the 18,000 or 7500 minimum wage computation.
Actually we still have some pensioners who were not reported to the committee. And many others scattered by insurgency but will show up as long as the verification is on. We don’t have the exact estimate of people yet to be verified. But whoever is verified will be added subsequently. We can’t quote the exact figure of those not verified because there are still many out there scattered by insurgency. It’s only when they approach the committee and present their cases that we will make progress. Local governments pensioners are more than that of state but let’s concentrate on those in the state. The NULGE will give you that of the council areas.
How about medicals, are they also part of this very low pension figures?
No!! They are not. Someone who retired on level 14 gets as much as N150,000 naira. This is because theirs is consolidated not just normal grade level salary. Medical is a different salary scale entirely. All other consolidated are fatter than what is offered within the state cadre.
Comrade, looking at the last one year, what are the challenges impeding your expected gains as workers in this insurgency battered state?
As for demands, we have about 4 to 5 critical demands which we expect him to handle since last year. This is because in labor laws, it’s whatever you present that will be negotiated. And some of it includes promotion increment, non payment of promotion benefits, lack of minimum wage at the council level, up till now we have council staff earning only N10,000 as take home. The LEA is worse. We have a lot of pending issues at the council level. He made a promise that by the grace of God, he will handle the balance of minimum wages and other welfare challenges for all workers this year. And that is what prompted him to set up a high powered committee to clarify the status of teachers so that they can be upgraded by the implementation of the minimum wage later in the year. And what the committee did was to give aptitude tests to investigate who is qualified and capable to teach in all the LEA. It is being categorised into three. The first batch are the qualified ones. The second are those that can teach but need training. So they will be sent for retraining to fit in. And the third are those without the capacity to teach and will be moved to other departments in the council areas. That is to say they will be redeployed to other departments in the council like works, admin etc.
We were invited to that committee so we actually said that we don’t want what happened in kaduna to be repeated here at all. So we insisted that whether they pass or not, they should not be sacked.
So the Government gave us a commitment on that in writing that they will not sack our people. The report has been submitted anyway. We are waiting for the Governor to implement those found capable for proper upgrade and those that would be shipped out. We are now waiting for the Governor to implement the recommendation of the committee. However, before then we did massive sensitization and enlightenment assuring them that they will not be sacked. Even if they can’t teach, something else will be planned for them while their salaries continues.
Is it true that the Government has started some quiet implementation of the sack policy of teachers already?
No! We have two issues here that should not be mixed up. One committee is doing state while the other is doing council areas. This was the one doing council areas. And that is the one you are talking about. Dr Bukar Kuluma is the chair of that of state teachers verification. It was that committee that dropped those who entered with fake certificates or those retired due to age. There were lots of factors why they were dropped. One is fake certificates while the other could be age. But I can tell you that most of those dropped went out to buy grade 2 certificates to fit into the system then. This was why in those days they were told that if you don’t have grade 2 certificates you may be dropped so they went for it. For some it was purely on age issue as I noted earlier.
On the aptitude test, a literary test was given to everyone of them in the 27 council areas on zonal basis. And it were the same questions that were asked. Literacy and numeracy test divided into zones. North, East and South.
However, even with the casualties after the verification, the labour cried to the Government, so they set up another appeal committee to listen and revisit genuine cases we complained about and 1,028 were re-verified and cleared and as I speak their salaries have been restored.
How is the Governor reacting to the issue of grade 2 certificate against the minimum of NCE which he has been emphasized?
It’s part of our challenges. We talked to him about it, that we want him to temper justice with mercy even on those who used fake but he turned them down especially the fakes which he said was very offensive and fit for prosecution. I don’t think they will be allowed to stay.
Workers strength in Borno?
Between 16,000 and 17,000 of them. It is not static because there have been some employment recently so I can’t give you the exact figure right now. Especially when you consider the frequency of medical and main stream intakes.
You know the Governor is in love with the medical sector. But sadly most of the medicals hardly stay after employment, this is because the system of payment for the medicals is not helping matters either. After the employment before you are captured, you end up spending two three months waiting before you are captured. And they don’t have transportation work. That is not a good system it should be changed. It discourages people to stay. Today, Government will employ 100 nurses unto the system. Later after some months, you discover that the figure has gone down to as low as 70. And that is not good. Government has tried to see how they can harmonize the salaries of all the health workers in the state. But doctors, theirs is still very good. They have 100 percent like those of their Federal counterparts. While the remaining like nurses and some other health workers are enjoying 90 percent. But we have taken it to the CMD as a pending issue.
Other challenges affecting your people?
The Government is still owing some outstanding omissions for 2019. He has paid the 2021 leave grant although we still have that of 2020 still pending. And the total amount is over N600m for the entire year. However, we still want to appeal to the Governor to look into the stagnancy in terms of promotion benefits. Workers can only be motivated through these promotion benefits. Most of the workers have been stagnant since 2016 and most retire with the old salary grades. When someone has an accumulation of three promotion and he will retire this year, you can imagine what can happen to his computation at the end of the day. Most of the workers has such promotion of three years at hand but the financial backing that goes with that level is not in hand. There are many people on level 14 but they are being paid the salaries of level 10. And this badly affects his computation resulting in clear shortages when retiring. This is a lingering challenge and it must be corrected. We believe the Governor should give a directive for the correction.
Again training and retraining is equally needed for the workers. It’s a vital issue to be corrected. Apart from that we are happy that he pays salaries as early as 25th of the month but he must fix this painful issue of promotion back up cash.
The workers in the council areas are also in a pathetic situation and we want the Governor to consider them because they are yet to earn the statutory N30,000 minimum wage expected of all workers. Even those in the health sector in these council areas suffer from the same challenge.
What does the yearly May or Democracy day mean to you and your colleagues?
As a matter of fact, we are yet to see the dividends of democracy up till now. But I must assure you that workers are fully mobilized to get their PVCs so that they can be able to vote. We want all workers to vote for the right persons to salvage us from the current problems the citizens are going through. We are stake holders and we are going to exercise our rights. We have never done this kind of massive mobilization before and this is because of the pains of the common man in receiving basic dividends of democracy like education. Indeed our workers are tired of the economic stress.
Our in-house political Commission at the national level mandated all of us to mobilize the people so that we would not have a repeat of what happened in the last election. This is because politicians have been deceiving us too much in this country. We will not swallow their deceitfulness any longer. We recently had a national conference called NLC Commission where all state councils were invited to listen to briefs by the political Commission. Over 80 million of Nigerians registered in the last election but less than 30 million votes. We want to change that narrative. So that there will not be any day light robbery because the new law allows for the transmission of results on time so we now have confidence in the system that our votes will count.
Chair, were your people invited by the census Commission to plan for the coming exercise?
No they never invited us. We really believe we should be part of that arrangement for mobilization but we have not been contacted as they did to the Corp members. We were involved in previous censuses but this one, we don’t know what their reasons were.