By Victor Ahuma-Young
Senior Federal Government workers, yesterday, threatened to embark on an indefinite strike should government fail to pay their outstanding salaries, promotion arrears, and other allowances in seven days.
Handing out the ultimatum, the officers, under the auspices of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, said the money government was owing them was in excess of N290 billion, stressing that the strike would commence on Monday, September 18, if government failed to act.
Specifically, ASCSN listed the debts owed the workers by the Federal Government to include outstanding salaries, promotion arrears, first 28 days allowance on transfer from post, mandatory training allowance of 2010, repatriation allowances, burial expenses, and death benefits.
The arrears, the association lamented, dated back to 2007, expressing disgust over government’s refusal to pay.
In a statement issued in Lagos, ASCSN Secretary-General, Alade Bashir Lawal, expressed sadness that for more than two years, the Federal Government had been promising to pay the officers their outstanding entitlements without doing so.
He said: “It is rather unfortunate that the same Federal Government that has given state governments bailouts up to three times to settle the entitlements owed their workers, takes delight in punishing its own employees by denying them their legitimate benefits.
‘’The debts owed federal officers by the Federal Government include outstanding salaries, promotion arrears, 1st 28days allowance on transfer from post, mandatory training allowance of Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, OHCSF, 2010, repatriation allowances, burial expenses, and death benefits. We have written several letters to the Presidency to settle the debts owed Federal officers but the Government has been dilly-dallying.
“Although the Federal Government had issued two different circulars directing the Ministries, Departments, Agencies, MDA’s to compile the names of their staff that are affected which they did, no payment was made.”
‘’Even when the government directed the Budget Office to raise virement last year for the payment of the outstanding entitlements, there was no cash backing until the virement lapsed. Two months ago, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment informed the Uunion that N10 billion had been earmarked to kick- start the payment but nothing has happened.”
The union warned that the patience of the workers had been stretched thin on the matter, explaining that the entire federal public service would have be mired by incessant strike but for its interventions.
“Workers have now come to agree that the Federal Government is not in any way serious about paying them their outstanding entitlements. In view of the foregoing, the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria has given the Federal Government a 7-day ultimatum with effect from September 8, 2017, within which to settle all the debts owed federal officers failing which a 3-day warning strike will start in all the Federal MDAs throughout the country.
‘’We urge prominent citizens, royal fathers, religious leaders and other stakeholders in the Nigerian project to prevail on the Federal Government to pay the debt owed federal officers and not wait until the strike starts before they begin to plead with the union to call it off.
“Somebody that has been promoted from level 8 to 9, from 9 to 10, from 10 to 12 and so on is still earning level 8 salary because the employer, which is the federal government, has refused to do the right thing. So, this issue has brought these arrears that run to N290 billion.
“The insincerity of the federal government is demonstrated in the first instance, when the federal government gave out the bailout funds to states totalling about N734 billion, the federal government took 52.2 per cent of the amount as a result of the revenue sharing formula. Then the states took their shares.
“The federal government is asking the states to use their share to pay arrears of workers’ salaries, but the federal government took its share and diverted it into other use without using it to pay salaries. That is the height of insincerity. So, now the federal government has accepted that there is a problem.”