Our public service sector needs serious reform

The current state of the public service in many states of the federation is very, very sad to say the least. Many states have been unable to pay their workers for months! Can you beat that?

A government worker goes to work and goes home at the end of the day for 22 days, and at theend of it he has nothing to take home to his wife to use to prepare okra soup for the family. In fact, the family may have been owing theneighbourhood grocer money for food handed on credit for many months and the grocer is threatening to suspend the food inflow because it is beginning to affect his business.

Imean, how does the grocer go back to replenish stocks if he isn’t paid for the ones he has sold? The man is forced to look at his kids crying in hunger, but he can’t provide even 5 naira for biscuits for them. And if his wife is not the patient type… Ogah o! That pitiful scenario I have painted is a reality in many families of public servants inseveral states in our country today.

This time around, it is not that some greedy state governor has decided to put the salary allocations of these workers in a private fixed deposit account for some time so that he can chop the money that accrues on top (if it were so, it would not be so bad).This time around, the cause of the lack of payment of the wages many government workers for many months is that the money simply is not there, and why is the money not there? In a land where everyone suppose dey sharp no policymaker foresaw – like the biblical Joseph who was governor of Egypt – that after seven years of plenty would come seven years of drought.

With oil at $100 a barrel last year, nobody, no single person up there for a second, thought seriously that we should dig our well before we get thirsty. Nobody said, ‘Hey, lets save some of this money for the rainy day’. The result is that, while a fellow oil dependent nation like Saudi Arabia has almost a trillion US dollars in savings, Nigeria has no money to pay salaries! Oh, the crinkum-crankum and higgy-hagga of it all!

In this gbesesaga, Osun state is one of the worst hit of the states. This is how it’sgovernor, Rauf Aregbesola explained the situation.

“I have found it hard to pay the wage bills owing to the declining federal allocation to the state.

“Federal allocation to the state has reduced by 40 per cent since 2013, making it difficult for government to meet up its responsibilities,” he said.

Ogbeni revealed that the situation became so bad at a time that he resorted to the state’s reserves and exhausted it on payment of salaries.

The jovial governor added that the government had accumulated a debt of N12 billion in its bid to ensure that salaries were paid!

He said that he would not mind to borrow more money “just to ensure that workers were paid but the “banks would not grant more loans.”

According to him, “Osun is next to Lagos in the sheer size of its civil service.

“In fact, the state inherited 50 per cent of all the workers in the old western state and more than 75 per cent in the old Oyo State.

He says, “I was meeting my wage bill of over N3.6 billion with N4.6 billion federal allocation until July, 2013 when the Federal Government announced a decline of about 40 per cent allocation to states.

“This reduced the state’s allocation from N4.6 billion with which I was meeting my bills to N2.6 billion.

“Since then, Osun has had to augment salaries by sometimes N1 billion, sometimes N1.6 billion.

“Before the last time I paid salaries in November, 2014, I have had to either spend the state’s reserves on salaries or borrow money. (Wait o, what happened to Internally Generated Revenue?)

“Today, I have a loan of N12 billion that we spent on salaries and I could not go to the banks anymore.”

Scary when a state governor tells you banks refused to give them loan. The Osun situation is not unique. Many states across the country are in a similar situation.

So why is it that somany states in our country are owing and cannot paytheir workers? Let us look at the way the states manage the local governments which are currently under their supervision.

According to an editorial in The Punch;LGs exist only to pay salaries and contractors with nothing left for the citizenry. A friend says most local government councillors are only there to ‘cancel’ funds.

According to Governor Nasir el-Rufai, “80 per cent of state resources are spent on salaries and allowances of civil servants and political office holders, leaving only 20 per cent for the state’s development.”(Only 20 percent? How does a state then do new things like build new roads, hospitals and schools, or they just pay salaries ni???)

The truth is that no matter how you slice it or dice it in macroeconomic terms, the bottom lineis that human lives are at stake.

Rich Nigerians, nothing says you should not donate to your country or its constituent states in times like this.

I hereby hand our Federal Government a charge to:

  1. Print money (issue bonds) to bail these states out (even though that may ignite inflation if not properly handled, but what can we do? Human lives are at stake).
  2. Probe to find out why so many states are scandalously at risk of bankruptcy right now.
  3. Diversify our economy, realizing that oil is not a dependable source of income.
  4.  Save saveand save. If Singapore, with less than the population or size of Lagos has savings of $275.23 billion. What are we still doing?

As for the state governments, they should realize that the era of just sitting downand waiting for oyelmoneyallocation from Abuja is over. Now is time to get serious about Internally Generated Revenue.

You have so many opportunities to generate income, and I am not talking just about tax. Do you have tourist attractions you can maximally promote to the world? Some countries get their bread and butter through that. Do you have mineral resources in your state that are not beingexploited now? What are you doing about it?!

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