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‘Governments should create salary calendar in MDAs to fight corruption’

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Olaleye

President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Quadri Olaleye, in this interview with Gloria Nwafor, spoke on measures government can take to fight corruption. He also spoke on how the union plans to embark on sensitisation exercise in the civil service against assisting politicians to embezzle public funds, and the need for the government to develop the agricultural sector to create jobs.

Some states have not yet started paying workers the new national minimum wage, what is labour doing about this?
After all efforts to get the minimum wage signed and approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, some states are still refusing to pay, and it has got worse that some of the governors are now reducing salaries of workers without proper negotiation. They are giving excuses of the pandemic, that their share from the Federation Accounts will not be able to survive their economy. However, these governors have continued to live their bogus lifestyle, receiving their share of jumbo pay as and when due without any pay cut. Nothing has changed. Why is it that any time those politicians get a lower percentage of the expectations, the best way they tackle it is to short-change Nigerian workers? TUC frowns at it, and we are going to take action alongside protest.

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How constructive has labour engaged the government during the lockdown to lift the economy? 
Labour has been working to engage with the government constructively, especially on how to diversify the economy, but the government has not been cooperative. All the proposals sent to the government during the lockdown were not responded to. But during the same lockdown, politicians were busy sharing money and looting the nation’s treasury. They were receiving allowances during the period, and even a budget was passed. But when it comes to labour matters, they will ask that we should allow the lockdown to be lifted. Our position is that we cannot continue like this. We believe the government will get our position and action very soon. Nigerian workers are in pain, a lot of people are losing their jobs and the government is paying lip service to these. Government is expected to lead the talk.

How has labour made government accountable for misuse of funds? What mechanism has labour put in place to dig into how funds are managed?
We are going to partner with civil organisations that have to do with corruption matters. We have the advantage, being that our members are the ones in the ministries; we should have access to the right information to engage the government. Someone asked recently that is it possible for politicians to embezzle without the assistance of civil servants? We are going to start sensitisation to re-educate our members in the civil service to ensure that we don’t assist those corrupt elements to perfect their corruption acts. We are going to begin another process on what we are borrowing, generating and what the funds are being used for. If we are having a 2020 budget deficit, and huge amounts saved and recovered, then why do we have a budget deficit if we are actually saving? TUC believes they are mere propaganda to make workers believe in them because you cannot say you have money, yet you are still borrowing.

To fight corruption, this administration must come out clearly with a salary timetable and all states should follow suit. Workers should receive their salaries before estacodes and luxurious lifestyle politicians build around themselves. But it is quite unfortunate that first of all, they will remove their security votes and other allowances, then they will ask how much is remaining, and ask to get additional money to pay workers. That is what they are doing. Let us start from the scratch, let us have a salary calendar that everybody can follow, and this should be binding on all government parastatals, ministries and agencies. States also should follow suit. Let us create jobs that have security for our youths, and also diversify from oil money. The cause of insecurity in the country is because of oil money, people want to get their own share of the cake. Let us keep everybody busy in other parts of the economy. The rape of our treasury must stop. 
 
What kind of opportunities do you want Nigerians to embrace in this period of COVID-19 to avoid another round of recession?
Before the pandemic, the Federal Government had announced that we have food sufficiency. It was an opportunity for the government to divert attention from oil to the non-oil sector. Government claimed that they source 70 per cent of raw materials within the country, yet there is a huge pressure on forex. Why do we have pressure on forex if manufacturing companies source 70 per cent of the materials locally? There is a need to develop the agricultural sector to create jobs. Government needs to create a scheme for retirees to invest in agriculture.

Government should facilitate a loan scheme for them, and also build a production shade so avoid putting clauses in the processes. Government should create an enabling environment for the private sector to create jobs. Job creation should go alongside the number of graduates churned out from the universities yearly. Government needs to take advantage of this period to produce 70 per cent of those raw materials to build this country. This is the best time for the government to build the economy.

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