By; NASIRU SULEIMAN
Finally Sokoto State Government has agreed to commence the payment of the new minimum wage 2019 to its civil servants this January 2020. Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal had earlier promised to pay the new minimum wage as soon as the Federal Government commenced payment of the new N30,000 minimum wage and this promised has been fulfilled.
The Thursday night decision by the Governor at the executive chambers of the Sokoto State Government House has ended weeks of speculations about Tambuwal’s administration’s willingness or lack of it to pay the new national minimum wage. It was indeed an historic decision, such that brings joy and happiness to the state civil servants, the major beneficiaries of this decision and of course the entire state economy will feel the impact, because of its multiplier effect on every aspect of the state economy.
It was a decision that was expected and it’s anticipation was informed by the fact that few states of the federation had announced the commencement of payment, and the opposition party in Sokoto had alleged that the governor is not ready to pay the minimum wage. But the governor’s pronouncement on Thursday night has ended the debate and new minimum wage has become a reality in Sokoto state.
From all this indications, this decision was however, a decision taken after much caution and circumspection while considering its implication on the present and future finances of the state. The confirmation that the decision may have been taken after careful examination of some indices is seen in the calibre of persons in the committee for the negotiation and implementation of the new minimum wage in Sokoto.
The large committee that includes but not limited to ulamas, traditional rulers, labour leaders cutting across all the strata of public service, business mogul, senior citizens as well as elders statesmen only point to the fact that, the government is aware of the enormous task of meeting this monthly obligation and its implication on provisions of other necessities of life to the teeming populace of the state, hence the carefulness and tact in arriving at a meeting point with the labour movement in the state.
According to the chairman of the committee, Alhaji Muhammad Namadina Abdulrahman, the government of Sokoto conceded to about ninety five percent of labour’s demand regarding the new minimum wage. The elder statesman said Labour representatives required an additional injection of three hundred and forty million naira into the monthly wage bill of the state government, but government representatives prone down their demand to arrived at a little lower than three hundred and twenty five million naira. This shot the wage bill of Sokoto state civil service to about N2.5billion naira monthly. This is not including the over two hundred million naira special allowances and special assistance the government pay monthly.
Considering the paucity of funds and the meagre revenue accruing as internally generated revenue of Sokoto state, couple with the dwindle fortune of the federal government revenues that has affected the monthly allocations to state governments across the nation. The enormous task of battling with a wage bill of N2.5bn monthly to Sokoto state government is intimidating, and this may likely affect the implementation of capital projects unless other revenue sources are available to be exploited.
But for the state government to take this decision without been pressured from any quarter, only revealed how prepared the government is to carry on with the task ahead. This is confirmed by the governor’s revelation that tough decisions and stringent measures will be taken to improve the state revenue as well as to properly manage what accrued to it with determination of blocking wastage and stopping pilfering of state resources.
This has been the determination of the state Governor and since the inception of the administration of Aminu Tambuwal in 2015, efforts have been made to bring sanity and improve the integrity of the state government payroll through many processes aimed at weeding out suspected ghost workers, beneficiaries of payment of arbitrary salaries, and other extraneous properties that have unnecessarily inflated the state payroll.
The governor said prior to the negotiation that ushered the new wage regime, the state government had discovered a disparity in the salary data between the state civil service commission, the ministry of finance and the the office of the head of service. According to him “this made me to look into the situation and we decided to harmonize all the data,” leading up to the taking of steps to introduce the issuance of payslips to workers, “a first in the history of the state,” Gov. Tambuwal explained.
Efforts so far, employed to achieve result in this regard has not yielded the desire outcome. And the governor is determined this time around to take the bull by the horn, the huge wage bill and the pressure to deliver dividends of democracy to the teeming populace of the state may be the motivating factor for him to go ahead with this difficult but necessary action.
The governors concern was corroborated by the committee that worked on the implementation of the new minimum wage. They are worried that, name of deceased civil servants, housewives that are not civil servants, babies and non-existing persons all made up the state payroll.
As suggested by the new minimum wage implementation committee, it has become imperative for the state government to decentralized payment of salaries by creating salary units in each of the ministries, departments and agencies. It is also important to conduct staff audit in each of these ministries, departments and agencies with the aim of knowing not just the staff number, hut grade level, salary scales, placement and posting.
Also a data bank of all staff with computer number for ease of identification may also help and any other strategy the government may find useful in its bid to ensure sanity in managing the state meagre resources.
Efforts to improve the internally generated revenue should come with sensitization and improve integrity on the part of the revenue generating agencies in the state. Government should also come up with innovative ideas that will motivate tax collecting agencies and improve their uprightness in the discharge of their duties.
Doing this, may improve the revenue generation of the state, and to achieve result in this regard, the government must be willing to step on toes and unmasked the big masquerade milking the state limited resources unjustly.