‘More workers poorer amidst rising unemployment’
It is no longer a doubt that more Nigerians that have migrated into the ever-increasing population of the poor have been on the upward movement in the last one-year.
This mass movement was influenced by the rising cost of living almost on a daily basis. This has snowballed into an era of massive unemployment, poor infrastructure, growing insecurity and social tension capable of exploding so soon except government takes proactive steps to reverse the trend.
While it is also not a doubt that individual pockets have been in perpetual economic recession in the last few years and that the national recession is only a symptom of this reality, workers are the ones bearing the brunt of the unpalatable economic climate.
It may be fashionable to argue that workers in the private sector are the most hit by the reason of massive closure and winding- up of several companies as well as businesses, others believe that the public sector workers are paying dearly for it as transportation costs, house rents and prices of consumables are skyrocketing on a daily basis without corresponding increase in salaries and wages of civil servants.
In all of this, the Nigerian civil servant, appears to be the most vulnerable as a result of the blockage of all unofficial avenues that were opened for easy money-making in the past especially, with the full implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which has successfully brought the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) under full financial control of government.
This has made it even more difficult for easy withdrawal of money from government treasury without due procedures and approvals even as it become illegal for MDAs to open unauthorized bank accounts.
The recession is also coming alongside the ‘Change Agenda’ philosophy of the present government as well as its diversification drive.
It is no longer in dispute that the civil servants constitute at least 35 percent population of the entire workforce in the economy saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the full implementation of government policies are now at a crossroad of survival.
Contributing to the debate, an Assistant-Director, who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Guardian that one of the major effects of the recession on civil servants is the lack of a robust purchasing power, stressing that salary of workers has remained the same which can no longer cope with the current prices of goods in the markets.
According to him: “As we speak, many workers can no longer meet the needs of their families; parents can no longer afford to pay school fees of their children; they are also being chased out of their houses because they can no longer afford to pay house rents. Unfortunately, those that have retired are receiving the worst inhuman treatments from their landlords by confiscating their belongings to settle for unpaid house rents.”
The recession he noted, is currently causing health crises such as hypertension, stress and strokes in some cases including outright death in some cases, while several workers have even become debtors overnight.
Another Assistant Director with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) headquarters who do not want her name mention also inform The Guardian that the recession is affecting the civil servants from all direction such as accommodation, transportation, feeding and inability to provide the needs of their families, which are all creating room for low productivity among the rank and file of workers.
She however, admitted that the recession has its good side for workers, saying, “it has helped us to know that it is not business as usual, many of us has resorted to self- restructuring, we are cutting down on our unnecessary spending.”
She said contrary to believes in some quarters, the recession is a good omen for the civil servants as it has forced them to begin to look inwards, make better plans for themselves and their families on how to complement their low earnings.
Another Senior Civil Servant in the Ministry of Power, George Oyekanmi told The Guardian that the recession has reduced the standard of living of the average civil servants in the country.
He pointed out that many workers as at today, especially at the State and Local government levels are left with months and years unpaid accumulated salary areas.
He explained: “If the recession persists for the next few months, most civil servants may not have clothes to wear or put on because all they are after presently is to be able to feed their families. You can see, there are no more welfare packages for workers. It may interest you to know that even those who were privilege to buy cars before the recession are either selling them off or have converted into taxis.”
In his remarks on the impact of recession on civil servants in all its ramifications, the Permanent Secretary, Common Services Office in the Head of Service (HOS), Yemi Adelakun warned that civil servants must at this time think out of the box.
He added: “To me, there is no recession in Nigeria. We must check ourselves and do the right thing; we should make sure government money is accounted for.”
Also speaking, the President, Joint Union Negotiating Council Office of the Head of the Civil service of the Federation (OHCSF), Bola Olaiya told said that this is the worst period ever in the history of the Nigerian workers, where almost every one has turned to beggars while those that couldn’t beg to survive live on loan even as survival for Nigerian workers today is more difficult than a camel passing through the eye of a needle.
‘he said: ‘With double digit inflation, high cost of transportation, food stuff, clothing, increase in electricity tariff, school fees for children, house rent and all what have you, the workers have lost purchasing power, making the salaries worthless with the current 18,000 minimum wage.
“We are appealing to the Federal Government to please bail out all federal ministries from a looming crisis and at least pay all the outstanding arrears, promotion arrears, salary arrears, training allowances and all outstanding welfare related arrears while negotiation for salary increment is ongoing’’.