By Wale Adedayo
The belief among many is that Osun State continues to pay half-salaries to ALL its civil servants. Of course, that is not true. Secondly, none of the critics wants to know about the dynamics of salary payment for civil servants – just pay, “a worker deserves his wages,” remains a regular refrain as if all the newspapers in Nigeria pay salaries regularly. It also pressuposes that Osun State has the funds to pay, but a Governor who ‘hates’ the people is at the helm of affairs. It just does not add up!
Once income does not match expenditure in an organisation, retrenchment of workers should be the first option in any sane organisation. This happens regularly in private organisations, the old Etisalat and Nigerian banks with loads of money being prime examples. Of course, that has to be managed at the political level as the Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has done – insisting that sacking of civil servants is not an option for him. He was, and remains an activist whose background was agitating for the welfare of ordinary people.
Son of man would have acted differently, given one’s background with former Chairman of The PUNCH newspaper, Chief Ajibola Ogunsola. Income meant a lot to Ogunsola, who always applied the stick of dismissal in ANY section of The PUNCH, where productivity was not matched with appropriate Income from relevant Departments. Ogunsola’ll never keep dead woods who have little or nothing to contribute in keeping The PUNCH growing as a newspaper. He always wanted results shown by regular advertisements, newspaper sales and an expanding readership, leading to year-after-year increase in profit for the newspaper.
Once advertisement or newspaper sales dwindles, the first option for Ogunsola was to dismiss workers “surplus to The PUNCH requirements.” Yes, The PUNCH never allowed a Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), while I was there, for obvious reasons. Yet, the newspaper remains one of the highest paying in Nigeria. At the end of each of each financial year, about March/April, and without solicitation of any kind, workers often get a ‘bonus’ as alerts in their bank accounts. Secondly, while Mr. Gbemiga Ogunleye was Editor, and The PUNCH won newspaper of the year awards about three times, the same bonus always get to workers’ bank accounts each time, apparently in a show of gratitude to staff by the Management.
Back to Osun State, one is aware that financial appreciation was regularly shown to the workers in the early years of the Aregbesola Administration when Federal Allocations were regular and good. The story changed with the fall in income from crude oil, thus a decreased Federal Allocation. This affected salary payments, seriously too. Even at that, and contrary to the half-truths being fed many, the Governor has not forgotten his roots.
Majority of Osun State civil servants, mainly the lowest rung on the ladder get FULL salaries till date (June, 2017)! The lowest cadre of the civil service can be found among Grade Levels 1 – 7, who constitute almost 60% of the work force of ANY state in the Federation. These are not being owed salaries at all! They are the lowest of the low, who often have little or NOTHING to fall back on in times of economic difficulties such as being faced in Nigeria today.
Apart from this, many critics hardly mention deductions from the salaries of workers by many states of the Federation, who often claim regular payment of salaries. Examples abound in the South-West, with Lagos State being the ONLY exception. These deductions, such as pensions, cooperatives and the like, are still being deducted by the states in question, who many critics of Aregbesola continue to praise.
Yet the deductions are neither paid to the workers through their salaries nor remitted to the organisations, where the affected workers can benefit from. The practice is worse than paying half salaries, because many civil servants depend on loans among others from these deductions to buy cars, household items, properties or pay their children’s school fees.
Interestingly, Osun State has not failed in these remittances, paying Gross Salaries instead of Net Salaries to majority of its workers. The deductions are being remitted in line with the principles agreed with Organised Labour on how to face the challenges of reduced Income from Federal Allocations. And these are up to date. Some states are owing more than FOUR years! But, as the Yorubas would say, “A kii ti oju elese mesan kan.” Those concerned among the critics, whose states fall in this category, need to look in the mirror.
In Osun State, Grade Levels 8 – 10 get 75% of their Gross Salaries, while Grade levels 12 upwards get 50% without any deduction from the percentage paid. Payment of full salaries presupposes FULL Federal Allocation as before. And that may not happen soon, given Nigeria’s parlous economic state occasioned by reductions in crude oil income being the major source of Federal Allocations to the states.
Many often argue about salary payment. But the reality in Nigeria’s flawed Federal System of Government is that ALL the states, apart from Lagos, can hardly pay salaries without Federal Allocations from Abuja. For one, Osun State is paying a Federally agreed minimum wage, which some states till date are not paying! Two, in a proper Federal System, each component unit of the Federation will be allowed to pay workers based on the income accruing to such states, unlike now that well-to-do states are paying the same salaries as the poor ones.
Thirdly, Internally Generated Revenue is abysmally low in states like Osun with many items that should have cushioned the effects of poor Federal Allocations due to the downturn in crude oil income for Nigeria being on the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution. It is a major reason son of man also support the calls for restructuring 120%. Many items do not need approvals from Abuja IF a True Federal System of Government is being run in Nigeria. And states negatively affected cannot generate needed revenues from these areas without running foul of Nigeria’s miswritten 1999 Constitution.
For son of man, expecting a restructured Nigeria, which entails a constitutional amendment, with the characters in the National Assembly today could be a wait for Godot. It may not happen soon. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is also making a mockery of the agitation for restructuring with the appointment of Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai – a strong opponent of restructuring – as Chairman of a committee to assist the party to look into its implementation.
Meanwhile, while majority of the workers in Osun State have been understanding in their conducts, there is need for a change in paradigm by the Aregbesola Administration. The current Administration in Osun State should have done more in terms of revenue generation since it came on board. Aregbesola, known to many as Oranmiyan, is often called Oodua 1 by a number of us with a firm belief in Yoruba self-determination.
The watchword of every Oodua self-determination activist is that every Yoruba State MUST work towards ensuring that we do not depend on Federal Allocations for survival. An aggressive tax generation drive is essential in Osun State. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu laid the foundation for that Yoruba resolve in Lagos State before he left office. And Ogun State seems to be the ONLY South-West state that has bought into that vision with the impressive record in IGR recorded by Senator Ibikunle Amosun since he got into office.
Without taxation governments cannot function. Till date, it is the military-inspired stealing of resources belonging mainly to the Niger Delta we continue to use in running all levels of Government in Nigeria. And that can never continue indefinitely. Yes, there is a shortfall in crude oil income. But the income, ordinarily does not belong to the Nigerian Federation by virtue of what we agreed to as a people towards our independence and shortly after. Lagos State is also being cheated of its VAT income and those from the Ports located in the state.
Osun State MUST join Lagos and Ogun States as Yoruba entities desirous of being independent of Nigeria’s illegal Federal Allocations. And, there is no better way to do this than an aggressive recourse to tax generation. The Action Group (AG) under Chief Obafemi Awolowo made its marks in several areas of Western Region due to an aggressive tax collection drive. Education Levy was introduced to fund Free Education. Those who tried to evade paying taxes were sanctioned appropriately.
But Aregbesola need to learn from Great Awo, because Osun State is like the rural old Western Region, not the modern Lagos State of today, where almost every space is an
urban area. In his book, ‘Voice of Wisdom,’ Awo detailed discussions with local public opinion moulders ahead of his tax generation drive. He concentrated efforts on Obas and Baales. It was a direct approach with facts about what he intends to use the taxes for. Of course, some called him names. But the majority supported him led by the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi and late Alake of Egbaland, Oba Ladapo Samuel Ademola.
Son of man is aware of resistance to modest efforts to generate taxes in Osun State today. But as pointed out, this resistance is not insurmountable. Aregbesola should engage the experts as Lagos State has done. But moving in the direction of public approval through their traditional representatives is very key. Timber and Cocoa are in abundance in Osun State. Many are making a fortune from these agricultural products without giving appropriate dues back to the government through quality taxes. Ogun State will NEVER allow such under its current Administration.
But Ogbeni appears weak when the ‘masses’ cry. He prefers to ‘suffer’, personally, instead of allowing the downtrodden to be pushed into the gutter of misery by government policies. As the elders would say, “Ni tita, ni riro, ni a maa n ko ila. Ti o ba jina tan lo maa n di oge!” Ogbeni needs to look beyond the immediate pains that our people will shout about. The long term survival of Osun State is very key here.
Meanwhile, those who are denying Osun State taxes are getting quality benefits already through their wards, who enjoy free education along with feeding and uniforms. They are making money as well through income from agricultural activities. Aregbesola should not be deceived. Let the experts handle it. Awo was pilloried initially by the myopic, who naively believed they knew more than the old man. It is your time to move Osun State to greater heights. Egbon should engage the tax generation gear, and not allow the disgruntled and myopic to stain his name!
Just my two cents!