Eleven days after the January 20 date President Goodluck Jonathan gave for the payment of January salaries of federal civil servants, workers are still not sure when the promise would be fulfilled.
The promise was part of the palliatives the Federal Government rolled out to help workers cushion the negative impact of the controversial removal of subsidy on petrol announced on New Year day.
The initial hike, which raised petrol price by over 117 per cent from N65 to N141per litre, triggered a spiraling rise by over 100 percent in the cost of goods and services, compelling government to announce series of palliatives to placate the people and persuade them to back down on the nationwide protest called by organized labour.
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, had told reporters at the end of an emergency meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation in the wake of the protest early this month that the President had directed all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to ensure that their workers’ salaries were paid by latest January 20 to ameliorate the harsh impact of the petrol subsidy removal.
This, Mr. Maku said, was in addition to the procurement of about 1,600 mass transit buses to ease transportation difficulties as well as a directive for the engagement of qualified, but unemployed Nigerians, to help them cope with the pains of the policy.
The President has since launched the mass transit buses, but the workers are still waiting for the fulfillment on the promise on salary payment, even as they grapple with the harsh impact of the new petrol price on their general economic welfare.
Though after six days of nationwide protest, government was forced to announce a 59 per cent reduction in the price, the new price of N97, which is about 49 per cent higher than what consumers used to pay, has kept inflation high at double digits.
National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says Composite Consumer Price Index (CPI) in the wake of the fuel subsidy removal protest rose to 10.5 per cent.
When Premium Times visited the Federal Secretariat today the topic of discussion among most workers was the salary issue and how they would cope in the days ahead as the month rolls by without pay cheques.
“This is not what we bargained for when government issued the no-work no-pay threat during the nationwide protest,” one of the workers told our reporter. “When the President said he knew the pain we feel with the hike in petrol price, and announced that we would be paid earlier than usual, we thought it was genuine display of concern. But, we can see that it was all a ploy to break the strike.”
Spokesman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Chris Uyot, said non-payment of workers at the time the President promised is part of the desperation by government to frustrate the protest it called in collaboration with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Nigeria and their affiliates.
“It is unfortunate that the government has not kept its promise to pay the workers, apparently because it had plans to do so,” Mr. Uyot said. “It shows that the promise was all a ruse, because the government was not even prepared for any outcome, apart from what they had set their minds to do.”
Mr. Maku did not return calls on Tuesday. He also did not reply a text message sent to his mobile telephone on the matter.
However, a spokesperson at the Ministry of Finance told Premium Times the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) is completing the payment processes for the last tranche of lodgments into the accounts of the civil servants, assuring that the office is working with the Ministry of Finance and Budget Office of the Federation (BOF) to ensure payments are completed before the end of the week.
“The delay was caused by the nationwide strike, which made it difficult for the NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) to remit the funds into the treasury for disbursement,” an official said.
At the last meeting of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC), about N783billion was shared among the three tiers of government for the month of December 2011.