Ngige advises states not to delay minimum wage payment
by Tony Akowe, Abuja
Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige yesterday urged state governments and other employers of labour to start the implementation of the N30, 000 minimum wage.
He said the immediate implementation of new salary regime remained the only way avoid a huge backlog of arrears that will likely create labour unrest for them.
Ngige also advised the states to avoid the mistake they made in 2011 when they carried out percentage increase across board for workers, thereby placing them in a position of not being able to pay wages, adding that “any state that does percentage increase will put itself in a disadvantaged position as it will not be able to pay.”
The minister told reporters that no state governor can refuse to implement the minimum wage being a national law, adding that the earlier they start the implementation, the better it will be for them.
Ngige said with the signing of the new minimum wage bill into law by the President, the new wage now takes effect from the April 18, 2019, adding that “any employer of labour that has not commenced the payment is already owing workers arrears of the new wage.”
The former senator said: “The minimum wage was one of the products of the technical committee that worked on the palliatives as a result of the increase in pump price of PMS.
“We were the anchor ministry and I led the government delegation comprising about seven ministers, the National Salaries and Wages Commission and the state government.”
Reminded that state governors were complaining of inability to pay the new wage, Ngige said: “it is a national law and no governor can say he will not pay. Issue of national minimum wage is item 34 on the exclusive legislative list in the third schedule of the Nigerian constitution. Issue of labour is also there and not on the concurrent list. If it is on the concurrent list, then they can make their own state Assembly laws on that.
“Any state government that has not started implementation of the new minimum wage is now owing workers’ especially if they have not started paying N30, 000. They are owing workers effective from 18th of April, the new minimum wage.
“We are now in a committee working out a new template with which we will adjust the consequential adjustment upstairs for those already earning above N30, 000.”
N30,000 minimum wage: States return to drawing board
by Bisi Oladele, Ibadan; Adekunle Jimoh, Ilorin; Nicholas Kalu, Calabar; Okodili Ndidi,Owerri; Justina Asishana, Minna; Sunny Nwankwo,Aba State governments across the country are taking a fresh look at their finances with a view to mapping out strategies for payment of the new N30,000 minimum wage.
They are also awaiting guidelines from the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission on how best to handle the situation.
Although some of the states, including Kano, Zamfara, Kwara, Rivers, Kogi and Edo, had expressed their readiness to pay the new minimum wage, there seems to be discordant tunes from some other states about their ability to pay.
One of such states is Oyo where the current monthly wage bill stands at N5.6 billion.
The state is allocated an average of N4.4 billion a month from the federal purse while its internally generated revenue is about N1.6 billion monthly.
Information, Culture and Tourism Commissioner, Toye Arulogun, could not tell what the wage bill would look like when details of the new minimum wage are released.
He said that could only be determined when the Federal Government gazettes the new minimum wage and guidelines are out.
The commissioner explained that the government would take the necessary step if it was confronted with inability to pay.
But he was quick to add: “We will wait to cross the bridge before deciding the appropriate line of action.”
The Kwara State Government is also awaiting the template for payment from the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.
It says the template is required by the 13-man minimum wage reviewing committee it set up to guide it on computing new salaries for workers.
Investigations revealed that the state government receives between N2.5 and N3.8 billion monthly, going by the figure usually released by the Joint Allocation Account Committee (JAAC).
The internally generated revenue of the state also stands at between N1.7 billion and N2.3 billion per month.
The Chairman of Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS), Prof Muritala
Awodun, recently said that the service generated a total sum of N6.279 billion as revenue in the first quarter of 2019.
Awodun, said that the agency generated N2.16 billion in January, N1.76 billion in February and N2.38 billion in March 2019.
The KWIRS boss, who said that the revenue agency was yet to achieve its target of N60 billion revenue per annum or N5 billion monthly, however, said that the service has been developed to a point that it would not make less than an average of N2.5 billion every month.
It was gathered that the state government currently spends over N2 billion on the payment of workers’ salaries.
A source gave the breakdown of salary payment as follows: core civil servants N600 million; primary and secondary school teachers N940 million; local government staff N500 million and pensioners N400 million.
Like Oyo and Kwara, Cross River State is also waiting for the guidelines from the federal authorities.
It currently has about 25,000 workers on its payroll and receives an average of N3 billion allocation from Abuja monthly and generates between N1.5 billion and N3.5 billion.
Apart from paying salaries and meeting financial obligations in respect of projects, the state also services the loan taken for the execution of the Tinapa complex.
This is put at almost N100 million per month.
There is also the controversial superhighway expected to gulp over N700 billion.
The governor recently transmitted a letter to the House of Assembly to approve modalities for funding the project by the state government.
The letter, which was leaked on the Internet, sought approval for an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) for N648.8 billion in favour of a construction company.
The letter with reference number SSG/S/300/VOL.XVII/1199, addressed to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, sought the state legislature to consider and pass a resolution granting an approval for the state government to issue an ISPO of N300 million monthly through a bank in favour of the construction company.
Imo ’ll pay, says Okorocha
…as gov-elect insists on checking records first
The Chief Press Secretary to outgoing Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, told The Nation that the state government would pay the new minimum wage.
He said: “Imo State was the first state to pay the N18,000 minimum wage and it will also pay the new minimum wage of N30,000.
“The governor has always considered the welfare of workers a top priority of his administration.”
But Mr. Chibuike Onyeukwu, the media aide to Governor-elect Emeka Ihedioha, said the records would have to be checked first to determine what could be done.
He said: “The issue of the minimum wage is a matter the governor-elect will not comment on until he is sworn in and assumes office on May 29.
“Thereafter, he will check the records on ground and make the position of the state known.”
Investigation showed that the current monthly wage bill of workers in the state is about N4 billion, pensions gulp N1.4 billion, while internally generated revenue (IGR) is N1.4 billion per annum.
The state also gets between N3.4 billion and N5 billion as allocation from Abuja monthly.
Speaking on the state’s chances of paying the new minimum wage, the Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Iyke Njoku, described it as a complicated issue.
He said: “With the signing of the new minimum wage bill into law, every state is expected to pay. For it to be obtainable, the Federal Government should have made it optional rather than foisting it on the states.
“States should have been allowed to negotiate with the workers and agree on what they can pay.
“For instance, in Imo State, we have free education going on, and this is taking a lot of money and we cannot stop that to meet up with the new salary because they will bring back hardship on the people.
“And if you fail to comply with the new salary structure, labour will revolt. So it is a very complicated issue for now.”
Niger to initiate discussion with labour
Governor Abubakar Sani Bello is seeking talks with labour leaders in the state on how to proceed with payment of the new minimum wage.
He wants to find out why government’s wage bill has remained unchanged despite the large number of those who have either retired from the service or died since 2015 when he assumed office.
Bello said that while he is committed to paying the new minimum wage, “we will initiate discussions with the organised labour on how to proceed with the necessary modalities for the full implementation of the 30,000 minimum wage bill as signed into law by the President.”
He said it was ”disheartening that despite conscious efforts to turn around the fortunes of the state, the state wage bill continues to remain static, regardless of the number of the people that have retired from the service and those who died between 2015 and now.
“The civil servants need to be sincere with themselves and support government in changing the ugly trend.”
The federal allocation to Niger State in January 2019 was N4.043 billion.
Figures recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put the state’s IGR last year at N6.5 billion per annum, an average of N543 million per month.
Abia ready to pay, says commissioner
The Abia State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Obinna Oriaku, told The Nation that the state government was ready to pay the new minimum wage, saying it “will also give us the opportunity to recalibrate our wage structure to be on the same page with other states.”
Asked whether the state has the financial muscle to pay, he said: “Our IGR is not static; it fluctuates. In my time, it has gone beyond N1 billion, and at times, it has fallen below N700 million.
“It keeps fluctuating, but we have arrived at a point where I think today, we can target N2 billion as IGR in Abia and achieve it.
“Ultimately, people believe that Abia can make N5 billion as IGR, and I share that optimism. But that hasn’t happened yet.
“Minimum wage is something that we have all agreed that the amount currently being earned by workers is low, and as a state, we are going to abide with the decision, in line with other states. Whatever other states are doing, be rest assured that we are going to do it.
“But I am not also worried, because if you check the whole of Southeast today, Abia pays the highest. N30,000 minimum wage will also give us the opportunity to recalibrate our wage structure to be at the same page with other states.”
On the possibility of the wage bill being a burden on the state, the commissioner said: “There is no doubt that it is going to be a big burden on the state.
“But why I am not a bit bothered like other states is because Abia has been paying well above the N18, 000 minimum wage since 2011 till date.
“So, we are not as jittery as other states. But like I told you, this has also provided a very good platform for us to look at our wage structure, knowing that we pay the highest.
“We have the capacity to continue paying highest. We are going to use this opportunity and adjust and then make it easier for us to pay and for the workers to earn this money as and when due.
“It is going to be a win-win situation for everybody. The workers will be happy and the state will also be happy.
“I know that when we came in and did the biometrics and the new payroll administration strategy where we have centralized payroll system, that assisted us in realigning our wage structure and we made huge savings from that exercise.
“This exercise was basically for the MDAs, but the minimum wage now is going to give us the opportunity to look at what is being earned even in other parastatals like Abia Poly where the wage structure is dysfunctional because a PhD holder in Abia Poly earns higher than a professor in ABSU (Abia State University, Uturu).
“It is absurd and totally unacceptable. So, be rest assured that with the restructuring that we are trying to do, it will realign these things and make it look like what it should be, so that the state will be alive to its responsibility, these institutions will also be alive and running.
“We are going to restructure our salary wage bill to be in line with what is obtainable elsewhere.
“Concerning our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), we are currently undergoing restructuring. During the period of restructuring, you don’t get that kind of quantum leap that you expect, but any moment from now, we will start reaping the dividends of those things”.
Labour yesterday hailed the signing of the Minimum Wage Bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, describing it as the first stage of victory for workers.
It said strict implementation of the new salary regime should begin immediately.
The workers leaders – Bobboi Kaigama of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joe Ajaero of the United Labour Congress (ULC) – said the signing was the first stage of the battle to ensure a living wage for their members.
They called for strict implementation of the wage to ensure that all the states and the private sector comply.
The Labour leaders plan to sanction any employer that refused to comply with the new minimum wage.
Speaking with The Nation, Ajaero said one leg of the battle has been won, adding “Labour is ready for the second battle”.
He said the level of enforcement by the states, government agencies and the private sector would be look into.
He said: “Experience has showed that some states, government agencies, private sector may not want to comply. So, we have to enforce strictly on this.
“Also, the insinuation that N27,000 is what will be approved has been laid to rest. I want use this opportunity to congratulates the Nigerian workers.”
Kaigama said: “It’s a victory for the Nigerian workers.
The TUC President said further: “What is needed now is strict follow up, saying that the minimum wage is long over due.
“We are happy that it has been finally signed. However, strict monitoring is necessary so that every employers will comply. I congratulates the Nigerian workers.”
BREAKING: Minimum wage now N30,000 as Buhari assents to bill
President Muhammadu Buhari has signed into law the Minimum Wage Repeal and Re-Enactment Act, 2019. By this act, the new minimum wage is now N30,000. The President assented to the Act on Thursday in Abuja, mandating all employers of labour across the country to pay workers a minimum of N30,000 monthly wage. The National Assembly had submitted the minimum wage bill to the President since March 27. The bill approving N30,000 as the new national minimum wage was passed by both chambers of National Asaembly before they went on break for the 2019 general elections. Earlier in the week, workers in the Federal Capital Territory had begged the President to sign the minimum wage bill. Some of the workers had expressed concerns over the delay in signing the bill into law, adding that it was causing them unnecessary anxiety.
Sign minimum wage bill into law before Workers Day, NLC tells Buhari
by Adeyinka Akintunde
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Thursday appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the new National Minimum Wage bill for the Nigerian workers recently passed into law by both chambers of the National Assembly before the 2019 workers day celebration.
Speaking in an interview with The Nation in Abuja, General Secretary of Congress, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson said with the passage of the bill into law, the President should immediately sign it into law in order to give effect to his promise to ensure the welfare of the Nigerian workers.
It was recently rumoured that the President has signed the bill into law giving workers hope that they may start enjoying the new minimum wage before the May day celebration, but it turned out to be a false alarm.
Both Chambers of the National Assembly passed N30,000 as the new national minimum, increasing the government recommendation of N27,000, but Ozo-Eson said the delay by Mr President over the wage for workers in the country has become very worrisome.
He said “We are concerned that it has taken this long, since the transmission from the National Assembly to the presidency of the bill that both house and the Senate passed.
“We have thought that given all processes before arriving at that point. The long delay in setting up a tripartite committee, the long period before the tripartite committee to now finalized and all the debates that have gone on
“We thought that this was something Mr President will ascent to very quickly. Because as we have earlier indicated, we will want this implementation to be on before May. That is by May Day workers can be assured of the direction of implementation
“Our position is to call on Mr. President to without further delay to ascent to the New National Minimum Wage bill. So that workers can start to enjoy the new minimum wage implementation before May Day.
He emphasized that apart from the public sector, workers in the private sector were also waiting for the law to be implemented in order to make its own full negotiations and plans, while insisting that in implementing the new national minimum wage would also allow the economy to be operated in an environment of certainty.
They came forth to war, but, they always fell —James Macpherson, 1736-1796.
JAMES Macpherson was the father of Sir John Macpherson, a former governor-general of Nigeria, who handed the baton of office to Sir James Robertson who was our last British ruler before independence. He noticed how many times his Scottish brethren went to war against the English and have ended up defeated.
His lamentation recorded above serves as a fitting summary of the “sound and fury signifying nothing” to which the nation was treated by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, in the last three or four months.
We all will remember the empty threats by the two bodies that no election will take place this year unless a minimum wage is passed and the billions owed to the universities, since Yar’Ádua’s government are paid. After thirty years writing these columns, and with a very keen recollection of other skirmishes by the two organisations, it was clear to me that another defeat stared NLC and ASUU in the face.
Nigerians went to vote on Saturday and there is no Minimum Wage Bill passed. In fact, the House of Representative Committee, which first started “working” on the Bill, soon closed shop – for three predictable reasons from previous experience. One, it was impossible to form a quorum to take decisions. Two, it was impossible to form a quorum because virtually all the members were out campaigning either for re-election of for their parties. Three, the political class, APC, APGA and PDP had successfully swindled the NLC into accepting the presentation of the Bill to the National Assembly, NASS, was a demonstration of good faith on the part of the Executive and Legislative branches of government to get a Minimum wage bill passed.
It was beautiful and simple as all truly great swindles are –O. Henry 1862-1910.
The NLC leadership fell into a trap and were willing accomplices in the swindle for obvious reasons – obvious to strategic thinkers, that is. The strike and election disruption threats constituted the only weapons available to NLC and ASUU. Once that power is removed the two organisations can talk, shout or go on strike until dooms day and the issues on which they went to battle will no longer be resolved as they want. Again, permit me to explain.
With the elections concluded, several governors on their way out – Amosun, Ajimobi, Ambode, Yari, etc., have no incentive to work on any minimum wage bill implementation in their states. Even a fool knows that you can’t remove a lame duck governor. He is already packing his bags.
The outgoing governors, now untouchables, who will still be in charge until May and whose consent is needed for the bill to pass through various State Houses of Assembly, will provide support to their colleagues who might continue in office as well as incoming governors. At the very least, they will delay passage and implementation. It is well known that majority of governors are not prepared to pay N30,000. Now they have the upper hand in the negotiations.
All the above assume that President Buhari is re-elected. Even if he is, passage of a bill, note the word “a” because it is deliberate and because the bill that might be passed by the lawmakers might not call for N30,000. The mood of the NASS after the elections will determine what gets passed. So, even a re-elected President might not be enough to get the bill passed – if the mood in the NASS is nasty after the elections.
There is no need to list seriatim all the obstacles standing in the way of the bill. It is merely important to point out that leaders of the NLC made a strategic blunder when they agreed to call of the national strike after a hastily and ill-digested bill was sent to the NASS. Certainly, that bill, if it ever receives serious consideration by the lawmakers will be sent back to the presidency to be re-presented. There are too many vague aspects to the bill as it is. It cannot be implemented as it is.
Failures are divided into two classes; those who thought and never did and those who did and never thought— John Charles Salak
While the NLC has sent the same “Generals” to engage the “adversaries”, the ASUU almost always sends a new set of “field commanders”. The current crop, clones of the former ones, exhibit two traits of their predecessors. First, they are intelligent but not wise. Two, they are the wrong “generals” for this war. They learnt nothing from the history of past encounters with the Federal Government.
When in 2017 ASUU once again threatened to go on strike, what followed was the first paragraph of the article written in August of that year.
“I must confess that the government has not fulfilled its part of the bargain. Though we are unhappy that ASUU went on this strike without following due process…” said the Minister of Education, our own Adamu Adamu. It was very noble of him. I cannot remember another example of a Federal Minister offering apology and confessing to a mistake by the government in my almost thirty years of writing weekly columns.
It is really noble of him – especially when one realizes that the problem was inherited from the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administrations from 2009 to 2015. It is even nobler of the minister because the former leaders of the Academic Staff Union of Universities were the architects of everybody’s current misfortunes. The agreements they now want to enforce were reached during the halcyon days of crude oil when crude prices rested comfortably at over $100 per barrel.
Buhari’s government reminds me of the tenant moving into a room whose previous tenant accumulated “NEPA” bills of twenty thousand naira or more before absconding. “NEPA does not care about the former tenant, they grab the innocent new occupant. But, because there is no alternative to NEPA the innocent tenant is forced to pay. It happened to me before when renting an office at Ikeja. It is blackmail plain and simple and that is what ASUU is doing now to Buhari’s administration. As usual, the charge against the unethical ASUU can be proved by going back to the history of ASUU and the FG since 2010.
Nothing has changed since then – except that ASUU in 2019 is making claims based on promises made in 2009. They allowed Jonathan to wriggle out of the agreement twice – in 2011 and 2015 – when the price of crude was over $100 per barrel. Now, they want to collect when we now pray to get $60 for the stuff and the number of public universities has escalated – thanks to the irrationalities of GEJ and Buhari.
As ASUU embarked on its march to the war front, it was clear that they were doing something without a clear thought of what they sought to achieve. They dropped their arms when apparently handed a small sum. Was that the reason for mobilisation, for disrupting universities programmes and for asking lecturers not to participate in the elections? It is doubtful. In the end, ASUU turned a serious matter into a farce. They are not sure where the money promised is and how much each university received.
These are the people training our leaders of tomorrow. Right now, the bulk of the agreement reached in 2009 remains unpaid. In 2022, another ASUU leadership will call the universities out on strike. “Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over again and accepting a different result”?
Polytechnic lecturers under the umbrella of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic Staff (ASUP) have suspended their nationwide strike.
ASUP thus directed its members to resume work as soon as possible.
ASUP President, Usman Dutse, told journalists in Abuja, on Tuesday, that the decision to suspend the strike was taken by the National Executive Council (NEC) after exhaustive deliberation and due consultation with the respective congresses across Nigeria.
He said that government had committed to a reviewed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of action to concretise the resolution and ensure its full implementation, and the union would resume the industrial action if the government failed to do that.
Recall that academic workers withdrew their services in December 2018, to register their discontent with the inability of the government to meet the agreements it reached with the union.
UPDATE: Organised Labour Rejects N27,000 Minimum Wage
By Soji-Eze Fagbemi With Agency Reports
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has rejected the N27,000 new National Minimum Wage adopted by the National Council of State on Tuesday.
Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, the NLC General Secretary, made this known to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja.
According to him, the council has no jurisdiction determining another amount after a Tripartite Committee has submitted its report.
“It is abysmal of government to be delaying the submission of an Executive Bill to the National Assembly and by wrongfully adopting N27,000 through the council of states,” he said.
Ozo-Eson, however, said the NLC has called an emergency National Executive Council meeting for Friday to weigh on the deadline given to government within which to submit an executive bill to the National Assembly.
The NLC general scribe added that the Federal Government was only projecting a shutdown of the economy with its latest action.
“This is because workers should not be held responsible for any development after its NEC meeting on Friday,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the United Labour Congress (ULC) called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to unfailingly transmit a bill containing N30, 000 minimum wage; which is the product of collective bargaining in the Tripartite Committee report to the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Following the approval of N27,000 by the National Council of State as the new national minimum wage on Tuesday, the ULC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), swiftly rejected the figure, saying that the Council of State lacks the constitutional power to approve or recommend minimum wage.
To the ULC President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, the Council of State might have been playing their advisory role, thus only advising President Buhari and not recommending a minimum wage.
Comrade Ajaero said the Council of state has no legal power to approve or recommend minimum wage. In an interview with TribuneOnline, the ULC President said: “The Council of State does not have any constitutional power to approve or recommend minimum wage.
“So, if the Council of State is talking about N27,000 or N30,000, they are just being advisory. The Council of State cannot recommend minimum wage. So, we are still expecting Mr President to transmit the product of the collective bargaining in the Tripartite Committee report to the National Assembly tomorrow.”
He added: “There is nothing to be done to deny Nigerian workers any kobo from the N30,000 agreed by the Tripartite group. Maybe the Council of State advised him. That should be advisory.”
Also, in a statement issued by the ULC, the Congress said the unilateral N27,000 national minimum wage is unacceptable, saying, “The emerging news of the unfortunate decision of the Federal Government through the National Council of State to unilaterally propose N27,000 as the new National Minimum Wage is shocking and goes against the grain of all known traditions and practices of Industrial Relations especially as it concerns National Minimum Wage setting framework.
Rising from its Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Tuesday in Lagos, the statement said the ULC “Rejects in its entirety the proposed N27,000 which is contrary to the N30,000 agreed by the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee and which has since been submitted to the President.”
The statement, also signed by Comrade Ajaero said: “We state that the National Council of State in a National Minimum Wage setting mechanism is an aberration. It is also important that we make it clear that the National Council of State does not have powers to approve, confirm, affirm or accept any figure as the new National Minimum Wage.
“What they have pretended to have done is therefore without any force of Law, standards or other known practices of Industrial Relations the world over.”
He added: “It is a mockery of the essence and principle behind the setting of a National Minimum Wage to attempt to segregate it between Federal Workers and State Workers.
“We want to state that workers are workers everywhere whether at the Federal Level or at the State Level. They all have the same challenges; go to the same market, same schools and much more they suffer the same fate. You cannot, therefore, pay them differently.”
The ULC warned: “We will however in the next few days in consultation with other Labour Centres if they are still in the struggle for a just national minimum wage take steps to ensure that the interests of Nigerian workers as it concerns the National Minimum Wage are protected.
“We urge the President to disregard the pronouncement of the National Council of State as it ridicules the statutes and principles governing the nation. The only honourable path he should tread is to transmit the N30,000 figure as agreed by the Tripartite Committee and even the President on the day of submission of the Committee’s report.
“We will not accept the use of any cover of state to jettison the collective will of Nigerian workers and the trade union movement.”
In its own reaction, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) also rejected outrightly the new National Minimum wage of N27, 000 as recommended by the National Council of State.
The congress pointed out that the fact that the federal government agrees to pay N30, 000 notwithstanding; it would not accept it.
In a statement signed by the TUC President, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama and the Secretary-General, Comrade Musa Lawal, the Congress said the Council of State decision, though advisory in nature, “is weighty and may give the semblance of authority to the decision.
“This decision must not be allowed to stand because it will set the wrong precedent for the future: i.e, after statutory bodies have done their jobs, Council of State will now sit to review it.”
The statement added: “Let it be known that N30,000 minimum wage is a product of negotiation, not legislation, not advise and not a decree.
“Minimum wage issue, therefore, is moving to a new theatre, the National Assembly. We expect the representative of the people if really they are to do the needful during the public hearing.”
Teachers’ retirement at 65 years won’t help the system
Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu
Teachers’ retirement at 65 years won’t help the system
THE Federal Government has acquiesced to the demand of teachers to increase their age of retirement from 60 to 65 years. A parliamentary enactment to this effect is in the works. The Nigeria Union of Teachers’ request for this headlined the 2012 World Teachers’ Day event, which compelled the then Minister of Education, Ruqayyatu Rufa’i, to reveal government’s inclination towards the idea.
Broadly, workers’ retirement in the public service is still governed by the rule of either 60 years of age or 35 years of service, depending on which one comes first. The Federal Government caved in to pressure from the Academic Staff Union of Universities some years ago when it raised the retirement age of professors to 70 years. This is understandably so because such calibre of manpower is unique. The training and wealth of experience of professors are not easy to come by. But lecturers outside the professorial cadre, non-academic members of staff and their counterparts in polytechnics and colleges of education had their retirement age pegged at 65 years.
The NUT apparently took a queue from these concessions. However, there is a need for restraint here. About 500,000 graduates are churned out annually from the universities, giving rise to millions of them being unemployed. In addition, there are graduates of 89 colleges of education, set up primarily for producing teachers. Again, virtually all our conventional public universities have faculties of education that also produce graduates primed for teaching.
With the latest youth unemployment rate put at 55.4 per cent by the National Bureau of Statistics, an extension of teachers’ age of retirement will undoubtedly worsen this scourge with its attendant social upheavals.
It could be argued that the extension of teachers’ years of service will motivate them; but giving them professional salary structure with its enhanced pay package would serve this purpose better. This will guarantee teachers’ better living standards and make the teaching profession attractive as it is in Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, Norway, Canada and China, among others. In Singapore, each teacher gets 100 hours of professional development annually and with competitive pay, teachers enjoy their job. This should be the trajectory of teaching in Nigeria.
Ironically, the clamour in Nigeria is quite the opposite of what obtains in the United Kingdom. The teachers’ union, in an annual conference in Birmingham in April 2018, voted against government’s desire to increase the pension age from 65 to 68 years. The 65 years pensionable age came into effect in 2007, whereas for members of the Teachers Pension Scheme, who joined before 2007, 60 years is “the normal pension age.” A teacher, Candida Mellor, from North Tynside, likened government’s action to “work until you drop” dead.
The physical and mental exertions of teaching are being underestimated, Mellor stresses, while Chris Keates, another teacher and general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said teachers were increasingly burned out long before they reached the retirement age because of workload. This, combined with lack of wage increase, has even driven more teachers to early retirement, which the UK National Audit Office put at 11 per cent in the three years to 2016.
Every country has a retirement age for its public servants and a reason for the choice. In Austria, it was 65 years for a male and 60 years for a female, as of 2015; Russia 60 years for a male, 55 years for a female as of 2015; that of France for a male stood at 62 years in 2018. Nigeria’s Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, has cited the increase of teachers retirement age in Canada, Belgium and India to justify the proposal. But our teachers should not trudge on amid the collapse of supervision and inspection by the inspectorate divisions in ministries of education, two quality assurance mechanisms of the old order.
It was not without reason that Nigeria’s retirement age was fixed at 60 years. Socio-economic variables and workforce dynamics differ from country to country, which are taken into account in determining when workers should retire. Therefore, it does not make sense for a country with a life expectancy of 53.4 years like Nigeria’s to have the same retirement age with Canada at 82.5 years and Belgium, 81.3 years, according to the UNDP 2017 statistics.
A survey carried out by the Universal Basic Education Commission revealed in 2012 that a state in the North-West had 50 per cent of primary school teachers who were incapable of reading textbooks supplied to pupils. This might not have been an isolated case. Extending years of service for such misfits, therefore, is doing violence to learning and irreparable damage to the lives of pupils, who are the country’s future.