By Michael Ayotunde
What started like a child’s play in the Sunshine State, has within a short time graduated to become a nation-wide phenomenon.
When the Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, at a time cited dwindling economic conditions as part of the reasons why the state government could not fulfil its obligations to its workforce in the state by paying their salaries as at when due, not many believe this would snowball into what we now have staring us rudely in the face.
Under this scenario, the Ondo State government resorted to paying half salaries – a situation workers in the state quickly used to re-christen the Governor – Baba Halfsa. It practically became a hit title for the white-bearded governor in the state, where majority of workers are under the employ of the state government.
No doubt, Osun State recorded its fair share during the regime of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola – but has not really gained traction then.
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The twist of the matter, however, is the latest seeming adoption by the big masquerade, that is, the Federal Government of Nigeria. There have been reports that Lecturers of the nation’s Ivory Towers were paid half salaries (Half-Sa) for the month of October, 2022.
Recalled that the Lecturers who are members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had only called off their 8-month-old strike recently.
It stands logic on its head that the Federal Government under no circumstances could resort to this unpopular terrain to settle or pay its workers.
Is it not ironical to see the FG embracing this strange gesture to settle its workforce by paying them half of whatever they earn monthly, when hundreds of absentee legislative members are paid all allowances and other benefits and entitlements – ostensibly for doing nothing?
Some of the Lecturers even confirmed receiving a paltry N40,000 as payment for the month of October 2022. This certainly can only help to achieve one thing – it will further demoralize them and in the process, contribute to brain drain problem in the country.
Notably, ASUU faulted the payment of half salary for October, describing it as an attempt to reduce Nigerian scholars to casual workers. This was contained in a statement by the National President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke after the emergency meeting of the ASUU National Executive Committee (NEC).
Osodeke had said after the NEC’s meeting that “the union deliberated on developments since the suspension of the strike and NEC noted with dismay that paying academics on ‘pro-rata’ basis, like casual workers, is unprecedented in the history of university-oriented labour relations. We’ll have to challenge this in court. It is totally unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, the Head of Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr. Olajide Oshundun, faulted the reports on payment of half salary as “grossly inaccurate, misleading and barefaced distortion of facts.”
He noted that members of ASUU were paid their October salary pro-rata, and not half salary as the media widely reported. With pro-rata, he simply means the FG cannot pay for job not done. This is where the double standard phenomenon of the government is brought to the front burner.
It remains to be seen if house members and other government officials also experience the same treatment. Agreed that what ASUU were demanding is out of this world and that government has made it abundantly clear that it cannot meet up with the demand; government cannot absorb itself of blame for allowing the strike to linger for too long in the first place; this is as it cannot also deny it entered into an agreement which was duly signed with ASUU in 2009.
Definitely no serious government would allow its schools shut down for months, without concrete moves to address the issues at stake. This is particularly uninspiring when the same government is caught in gross mismanagement and frivolous spending here and there.
It was on record that a one-time National Assembly member who was jailed but later got released was paid all his outstanding allowances – despite not sitting or contributing anything to whatever that transpired while away in prison.
This goes to show that Nigeria is deliberately designed to reward mediocrity, injustice, failure and maladministration; while merit, justice, fairness and productivity are sacrificed on the altar of self-aggrandizement and sheer impunity.
Does it still bother people to see government and its agencies treating an average citizen as a common criminal? Whereas the real criminals, treasury looters in the corridor of power are given national honours and accolades.
The incontrovertible fact is – education is key. No nation aspiring to be relevant and constantly be at par with other developed nations would relegate education of its upcoming generations to the background. As such, nothing can be too much to develop and propel the education sector to make it more effective and efficient.
Even if the government cannot meet all the demands, some levels of commitment and political will would probably have savaged the situation.
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