Civil Servants Threaten Strike Over Non-payment Of Salaries

Federal Secretariat, Abuja

The Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) has called on the federal government to pay civil servants their December salaries and outstanding emoluments since July 2013 or risk industrial action.

In a statement, Monday, the union disclosed that thousands of federal civil servants were yet to be paid their December 2013 salaries, adding that the affected workers and their families spent Christmas in pain and bore the pangs of hunger.

The ASCSN maintained that the inability of the federal government to pay salaries had lent credence to the belief in some quarters that the managers of the public sector economy were “grossly incompetent and rabidly corrupt”.

The statement signed by the union’s secretary, Alade Lawal, therefore called on the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to explain to Nigerians why the federal government could no longer pay salaries to its employees as at when due.

It added that it had become necessary for the minister to address the nation on the embarrassing situation since she has continued to maintain that the country is not broke.

The union said it was disheartening that the civil servants, who are the least paid in Africa, South of the Sahara, could no longer get their meagre salaries on due date, stressing that the delay was pushing the workers and their unions to the wall.

“We wish to emphasise that if federal civil servants are not paid their December 2013 salary and arrears outstanding since July 2013 immediately, the entire Federal Civil Service will be shut down shortly.

“It is difficult to understand why civil servants cannot be paid their paltry salaries in an economy where the political elite are carting away millions of naira monthly as remunerations while billions of public funds are also being looted without qualms and those involved in the stealing spree are not being brought to book.

“We have never had a situation in this country where the federal government cannot pay the salary of civil servants, particularly during festive periods. This development is very unfortunate and is making Nigeria a laughing stock before the international community,” the union stated.

The union emphasised that it would not stand by and watch the salary of members being looted, as had been the case with the pension funds.

It therefore appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to step in and order the finance minister to pay civil servants their salaries without further delay, adding that the necessary machinery should be put in place to ensure that such an embarrassing situation does not repeat itself.

It further called on the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), civil society groups and prominent individuals to prevail on government to pay members their salaries to avert disruption of services in the public service.

Reacting to the threat by civil servants to go on strike, the finance ministry said yesterday that it was investigating the complaint on the non-payment of December salaries and emoluments for six months this year.

In a statement issued by the minister’s media aide, Paul Nwauikwu, the ministry said: “It has come to our attention that an association of senior civil servants has issued a statement protesting the non-payment of their December 2013 salaries as well as some emoluments.

“We are yet to see the statement but the issue of prompt salary payment is one that the Federal Ministry of Finance has prioritised for several months now.

“The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance has made it absolutely clear that prompt salary payment cannot be compromised for any reason and this has been communicated to all relevant agencies. And we have received feedback from many civil servants who expressed their happiness about the early payment of salaries.

“While we investigate this complaint which is yet to be formally communicated, the initial feedback from some senior servants consulted is that government is not owing them any entitlements. So it is clear this is not a generalised problem.”

The minister added that it was aware of a few delays caused by the failure of individual civil servants and their ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to update their account numbers to meet the requirements of the CBN approved 10 digit NUBAN account numbers and communicate same to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

But this, the ministry said in the statement, “involves pockets of civil servants, certainly not the entire senior civil servants. Any legitimate inconveniences are regretted.”

It promised to provide updates as appropriate. [Thisday]