Thursday, 21st September 2023

ASCSN absolves self from human trafficking allegation of ex-president

By Collins Olayinka, Abuja
25 April 2023   |   4:46 am
The Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) said the discharge of its former President, Innocent Bola-Audu, of a human trafficking allegation does not have a bearing on the status of the association.

Tommy Okon

•How Tinubu can alleviate workers’ plights, by Okon

The Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) said the discharge of its former President, Innocent Bola-Audu, of a human trafficking allegation does not have a bearing on the status of the association.

President of the association, Dr. Tommy Okon, who stated this in Abuja, explained that referring to Audu as president of the association in reporting the case by a section of the media, was a misinformation that could mislead the populace.
He explained: “Naming Bola-Audu as the current president of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) was misinformation by the media or deliberate wrong information intentionally given to the media by some people. The proper caption for that story would have been a former president of the ASCSN discharged and acquitted in a case of human trafficking between NAPTIP and Bola-Audu. Therefore, the matter has no link with the association in whatever form.
“The name of the association was mentioned when he was facing trial. At that stage, the Central Working Committee (CWC) met and decided that he should step aside until the matter is determined. He failed to abide by the decision of the CWC and National Executive Council (NEC) on the matter. He then took the association to court and by so doing failed to take advantage of the internal dispute resolution mechanism enshrined in the constitution of the association.

“Therefore, the public needs to be enlightened that his being discharged and acquitted does not translate to him coming back as the president of the association. Bola-Audu has been expelled by the highest decision-making organ of the association, which is the NEC. That decision stands without prejudice to the decision of the court, which has nothing to do with the ASCSN.”

On the status of the court case Bola-Audu instituted against the association at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Okon said: “He (Bola-Audu) took the matter to the court and the process is still on. With all these going on, I want to assure our members that the leadership is not distracted in any way.
“We have just been able to negotiate a 40 per cent increment on peculiar allowances, which the Federal Government has approved. The 40 per cent allowance is for civil servants in the consolidated salary scale structure. Since this leadership came on board, we have also been able to negotiate an improved Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) for civil servants. So, this leadership is a productive one and civil servants are extremely happy with us because of what we have been able to do for them since we assumed office.”
He hinted that the association is engaging the Federal Government on gratuity, which was scrapped when the Contributory Pension Scheme came on board in 2004.
He added: “In truth, the Act did not stop the payment of gratuity intentionally but a negligent on our part led to the situation.

We are correcting all those omissions now and government is beginning to see the need to have gratuity restored in the Act. We are hopeful that the next amendment of the Act will see the restoration of gratuity.”
Okon maintained that despite the distractions, the association has remained resolute in forging a labour relationship with the Federal Government, which is yielding results for the betterment of the members of the association.

With a new government coming assuming power on May 29, 2023, the ASCSN president said the association is ready to work with Bola Tinubu government to push Nigeria to greater heights despite rising inflation, an uncertainty that surrounds the removal of petrol subsidy among other challenges confronting the nation.
“There is no doubt that the present living condition of the Nigerian people is at their lowest level now. The challenges that will confront the next administration are formidable indeed, especially if one looks at the rising poverty index and static wages amid rising inflation. The Nigerian worker is in dire straits now. An average worker takes care of about five people without extended families. This shows that the present minimum wage is no longer enough to take people home. Nigeria is like a vehicle without an engine and finding a workable engine is a lot for the incoming administration. Health, transportation and education sectors need urgent attention right now,” he stated.
Okon described the $800 million World Bank loan facility that is targeted at alleviating poverty among 10 million households or 50 million people as an ‘insult’ of the highest grade, saying, “government needs to re-examine components that made up salary such as transport, housing, hazard, education and adjust them to be in tune with the present economic reality.     
“Some allowances are N2,000 and even below. This cannot be said to be realistic. If government provides free and compulsory education, quality healthcare and an integrated transport system, workers may not need salary increments, because basic amenities are in place. I think these are the low-hanging fruits that the incoming administration should pay attention to make life bearable for the working class.”