In a recent turn of events, federal civil servants in Nigeria have confirmed the receipt of their October 2023 wage awards, marking the resumption of payment after a temporary suspension that left many anxious about the delayed compensation. The initial agreement between the Federal Government and Organized Labour promised a wage award of ₦35,000 to mitigate the impact of the subsidy removal on Premium Motor Spirits, commonly known as petrol. President Bola Tinubu had initially proposed a wage of ₦25,000 for “low-grade workers” in the Federal Civil Service during his Independence Day speech. However, subsequent negotiations with organized labor unions resulted in an increase to ₦35,000.
A memo signed by Ekpo Nta, the Chairman of the National Salaries Wages and Income Commission, indicated that the payment would commence from September 1, 2023. Despite these assurances, investigations reveal that the government only disbursed the wage awards for the month of September. Civil servants across Federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies reported that they received payments only for that month, leaving them in a state of uncertainty about the disbursement for subsequent months. This revelation coincided with reports of a purported ₦100bn reduction in the wage award allocation in the 2023 supplementary budget.
Ekiti State Government’s wage award initiative.
The Nigeria Labour Congress strongly condemned the government’s actions, labeling them as dishonorable, while the Trade Union Congress warned of potential industrial action if civil servants were not promptly compensated. A senior civil servant, speaking anonymously, disclosed that some colleagues had begun receiving the wage award for October 2023, amounting to ₦105,000 owed to them. However, it remains unclear when the outstanding awards for November and December will be disbursed. In response to these concerns, Bawa Mokwa, the spokesperson for the Office of the Accountant General, assured that all civil servants would receive their wage awards as soon as possible. The vague timeline has only added to the frustration and apprehension among federal employees awaiting the full implementation of the agreed-upon compensation.
Adding to the narrative of wage awards, Ekiti State Governor, Biodun Oyebanji, took decisive action in December 2023 to address the economic challenges facing workers in the state. Governor Oyebanji approved a ₦15,000 wage award for all state workers, a measure aimed at alleviating the financial strain caused by the current economic situation in the country. This proactive decision is set to run for six months, providing temporary relief while discussions and agreements are sought on a new minimum wage for the state’s workers. Additionally, pensioners in Ekiti State are not left out, as they are entitled to a ₦10,000 wage award for the same duration, according to the governor’s approval.
This initiative is for workers and pensioners facing economic problems.
On December 21st, 2023, a statement released by the Special Adviser, Media to the Governor, Yinka Oyebode, outlined the specifics of the wage award initiative. It emphasized that the award would be effective immediately, offering timely financial assistance to workers and pensioners grappling with economic uncertainties. Governor Oyebanji’s commitment to prioritizing workers’ welfare was further evident in his approval of the payment of July 2018 salary arrears to local government workers and primary school teachers across all 16 local government areas of Ekiti State. This move aligns with the governor’s pledge to settle outstanding entitlements, underscoring his dedication to ensuring that workers receive their due benefits.
Acknowledging the challenges posed by the subsidy removal, Governor Oyebanji had previously implemented palliative measures, including the settlement of outstanding entitlements and the extension of the minimum wage to senior workers on levels 14 to 17. The provision of shuttle buses for workers and students in the state was another initiative aimed at easing the burden on the workforce. In his statement, Governor Oyebanji praised Ekiti workers for their dedication, reliability, and understanding, urging them to continue playing their vital role as the engine room of the government. He assured workers that his administration would persist in prioritizing their welfare within the available resources.
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As federal civil servants await the full implementation of their wage awards, the situation remains uncertain, with concerns over budgetary allocations and the government’s commitment to fulfilling its promises. The Ekiti State government’s proactive stance in implementing a temporary wage award reflects a recognition of the economic challenges faced by workers and pensioners. The juxtaposition of these two scenarios highlights the complexity of managing economic realities at both the federal and state levels. It underscores the need for transparent communication, timely disbursement of funds, and a comprehensive approach to address the multifaceted issues affecting the workforce. As the nation navigates through economic changes, the actions and decisions of government officials will undoubtedly shape the landscape of labor relations and financial stability for years to come.