‘Governors above 50 yrs should resign first’ — Nigerians react to govs’ call to Buhari to sack workers above 50


Worried by the near collapsed economy the nation is currently grappling with governors of the 36 states of the federation recently proposed to the Federal Government to among others compulsorily retire all civil servants above 50 years of age as well as impose levy on workers earning up to N30,000 and above monthly.

Coming at a time millions of Nigerians are either unemployed or underemployed, the proposals have been met with outright rejection with many urging the governors to bury their heads in shame.

Describing the proposals as wicked and insensitive, some argued that it is against the civil service law and admonished the governors who are above 50 years of age to first resign from office before making such advice to the Federal Government.

Constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome described the proposal as inhumane, wondering what the nation stands to gain if it heeds the governors’ advice and populate an already saturated labour market.

He said, “’the proposed step is unwise, ill-advised and inhumane. It smacks of the usual government’s insensitivity to the plight of the common man. How do you retire civil servants in their prime at 50 years? This is the real age of full bloom, experience and productivity. It is extremely ridiculous! It is the height of irresponsibility and insensitivity. It is the brazen exhibition of cruelty at its highest level.

“The N30, 000 is not enough for these same proponents of the funny and phoney proposal to buy snacks at KFC or Mr. Bigs at a go. Do they live in another planet? The entire proposal is shameful and disgusting.”

On its part, civil rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, described the proposal as a violation of the 1999 constitution (as amended).

HURIWA said the move violates section 42 subsection 1 of the 1999 Constitution as it discriminates on the basis of age and breaches extant civil service rules which peg retirement age at 60.

The group said what could lead to imminent collapse of the economy of Nigeria is the widespread political corruption by public office holders including the governors and the Presidency “who carve out huge chunks of financial resources that are not captured in the budget and pilfer the funds under the guise of security votes.”

The rights group according to its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko noted that the exorbitant costs of running the executive arms of government at the two tiers of government of federal and State especially are the draining pipes that could precipitate total collapse of the nation’s economy.

It further advised executive arm of government at both the state and federal levels to cut down on the costs of governance including amending constitutional provisions on appointment of ministers and commissioners to peg the number of each category at six for ministers representing the six geo-political zones for federal government and three commissioners per state representing the three Senatorial zones of each state

HURIWA asked for the law to be amended so that citizens above 50 years cannot run for offices of governors and President of Nigeria because of the possibility that such persons “may be subjected to unexplained health challenges associated with old age.”

The body added that if the federal government “disagrees with these far-reaching reforms of the laws aforementioned to peg the ages of executive officials of the federal and state governments, then, there is no justification to discriminate against civil servants.”

In his own reaction, one of the presidential aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the just-concluded primaries, Dr Cosmos Ndukwe, asked governors above 50 years of age to first resign before asking the Federal Government to sack civil servants above the age of 50.

The former Deputy Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly argued that since public servants and political office holders are being paid from public funds just like civil servants, they should first quit to save cost before recommending the sack of core civil servants.

He further argued that the amount of public funds spent on civil servants is a peanut compared to what is spent by public servants.

According to him, “how much do civil servants earn compared to what public servants get? Look at the security votes of governors? Some of them collect up to N1.5 billion a month, some N1 billion, N800 million. What are they doing with it?

“If they really want to cut down on the cost of governance they should start from themselves, not poor civil servants. If they are saying that civil servants who are above 50 years should go, then political office holders whether elective or appointee beginning from the governors should also resign and go.”

The former Chief of Staff to the Governor also flayed the governors for advising that civil servants who earn up to N30,000 be levied saying that such amounts to double taxation as tax is deducted from salaries of workers including those in the public sector. He advised the Governors to first cut cost of governance by abstaining from some of their unnecessary expenditures if truly they want to save the economy from collapse.

Reacting also, former Secretary to State Government, SSG, Abia State, Elder Ralph Egbu, said staff emoluments were not the problem of Nigeria but misplacement of priority by Government.

He said that “Government most times waste money on white elephant projects that have no bearing on the people and at inflated costs just to enrich those in power. The cost of most projects is 700 times over that of the actual cost. That’s where the problem lies and not the money paid to civil servants”.

National President of Coalition of South East Youth Leaders, COSEYL, Comrade Goodluck Ibem, described the advice as “satanic and height of insensitivity”. He argued that there is already a law that stipulate 60 years as retirement age for civil servants or 35 years in service, hence, reducing the age to 50 will require an amendment. The COSEYL helmsman further said that payment of salary of civil servants was not the country’s problem but the incompetence of the drivers of the country’s economy.

“That the economy is bad is not the fault of civil servants but the incompetence of the President and his economic team. The economy was fine when he took over in 2015. Then, a bag of rice sold for N8000 but now the same bag goes for N37,000. That shows the President lacks the capacity to manage the economy. Those people making these suggestions have invariably admitted that the economy is bad. Then what happens to their own jumbo pay and allowances that can feed a whole Local Government Area for months? Such suggestion is the height of wickedness”.

The National President of Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu urged the Federal Government to jettison the suggestion and assemble the best economists in the country to advise on the way forward.

Dr Pogu said: “Nigeria is in a very difficult situation. But I do not think the Governors are economists. We need to consult our economists to be able to proffer solutions to our problems. Many of the Governors are also not living above board. Some of them spend money on frivolities and allowances instead of attending to pressing issues of the state. As a result those who are not able to generate adequate internal revenue suffer. Some of them cannot even pay salaries the way they should let alone pensions and other commitments to workers.

“They should know that retiring people means increasing the pension bill. And we must not forget that people have rights. Unless the provisions in the constitution and labour laws are amended you cannot arbitrarily retire workers. So I think they didn’t seek wise counsel before they made such statement.

“It is true that we need more ways of generating revenue; VAT is there and some others but the economists around should be brought and assembled because we are in a mess and the Federal Government is not able to do the needful to get us out of the woods. I believe that when we get the economists together, a solution that would be acceptable and workable will come to the fore and it might assist us in resolving the economic situation. No doubt the advise of the Governors is not a wise thing because of the backlash of what will emanate if you start retiring people”.

On his part, the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Benue State University, BSU, Makurdi branch, Dr. Tarnongu Kwaghfan urged governments at all levels to cut down on the cost of governance and wastage in government, as well as cut down their security votes and allowances rather than implementing the ill conceived advise.

Dr. Kwaghfan said, “Most governors who have finished their tenures are still earning huge sums of monies from the coffers of their state government. So what justification would they have to make that kind of suggestion. The problem of Nigeria is partly with the Governors who spend the country’s money anyhow. So how do you tell me that somebody earning N30,000 should be levied. Are they not paying the Personal Income Tax that workers pay. Do they want to kill poor Nigerians?

“Why would they now change the rules of the age of retirement? People are supposed to retire after 35 years of service or on attainment of 60 years. That is obviously a bad recommendation. They should start from asking the Federal Government to reduce their security votes and they too should reduce theirs. They should also cut down on the cost of running government. They should reduce the convoy of vehicles that accompany them. They should cut down on their spendings. They should not start with other people, they should start from themselves.”

According to Abagun Kole Omololu, National Organising secretary, Afenifere, “I have never seen a not too carefully thought out kind of advice from political leaders like this in my life. Some civil servants joined the service at well over 30 yrs old, having wasted so many years in the university due to frequent strike actions. A course of three years take them six to seven years to complete. So after serving less than 20 years in the service, you then throw them out to the unemployment market through no fault of their own. It is wicked and I disagree.

“Let the ministries block leakages and unnecessary expenditures. The poorest of the poor can not survive on N50000 monthly income in Nigeria of today and now you want to tax them. This recommendation shows that the governors are not in tune with realities. They are too far away from the governed. I see this suggestion as an act of meanness and wickedness. Let the states who believe Abuja is their pot of soup to increase their IGR. Let the federal government deal decisively with Fulani terrorists, so that our able body youths can return to the farm”.

On his part, Ondo State Chairman of Social Democratic Party SDP, Stephen Adewale, said, “the best way to prevent Nigeria from imminent economic collapse is by blocking leakages in government revenues and open up more production sectors through foreign direct investment in Agriculture, Mining, reviving our refineries, and channel more resources to research and education.

The major challenges facing Nigeria currently is the problem of insecurity that has not allowed investors to come in and increase investment in the production sectors for employment generation. The worst of it all is the leakages in our revenue collection agencies. Relieving civil servants who are above 50 years of their job through retirement will worsen the problem as the same Governors proposing this crude and archaic idea to the government have no single plan in their various states for the aged and elderly. Who will take care of the elderly if you compulsorily retire them?

“More so, taxing the clerical workers on the payroll of government is not the solution too. The taxes we generate from oil, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Natural Gas, electricity, Federal Inland Revenue, Customs and other sectors, where are they? They are being stolen by few criminals in government. Money is not the problem of Nigeria but inept management of the nation’s affairs and corruption. Nigeria has money enough to develop and feed the entire Africa. We need patriots as leaders not criminals. Presently, we have a lot of unpatriotic and criminal minded people in government who think solely about their welfare and not national interest.

Former Minister of Communication and chieftain of All Progressives Congress, APC, in Oyo State, Mr Bayo Shittu, argued that, “sacking such magnitude of people at the federal civil service is like sacking about 200 thousand families, thereby sending them back to labour markets.

He said “on the issue of sacking people above 50, it must be condemned. It doesn’t make sense, it would further impoverish Nigerians. At the Federal level I’m aware that there are about two million civil servants and it is assumed that only 10 percent of them are above 50. That means about 200 thousand people are to be sacked. If you sack them, you are not just sacking individuals but you are sacking families. So to sack 200 thousand Nigerian families, even when their current incomes cannot take them homes, it will further impoverish them. Again, if you are taxing, you must tax only the high income earners not the lower income earners for the same reasons. Some of them are earning N30, 000. Certainly that money will not be enough for their daily transport not to talk of other expenses. So if you tax further, you further impoverish those classes of people. So tax can only be imposed on high income earners.

“Secondly, and very importantly, most Nigerians don’t pay tax, particularly the high income earners in private sectors. So, if you are taxing, concentrate on professionals, on entrepreneurs, on people who have businesses. Look at so many businesses at the major streets of our cities, they are multimillionaires but some of them don’t pay tax. Some only pay general tax. Government should collaborate with banks to know who has what to get tax from individuals, particularly in the private sectors.”

Ekiti State NLC Chairman, Comrade Kolapo Olatunde said retiring civil servants above 50 years was against the extant law of the civil service arguing that, “if such will happen it will take a process by the National Assembly and you can’t take law from the back. You can’t change a goal post in the middle of the match.

In his own submission, Ambassador Yemi Farounmbi contended that the suggestion of the Nigeria’s Governors Forum to relieve persons above age 50 of their duties as civil servants will be creating another problem while trying to solve one, though about 89000 civil servants in the employment of the federal government earn about N4.5trillion which is about 30 percent of the budget while others are being catered for with the remaining 70 percent.

 But if you relieve them of their duty, how do you pay them off. That will amount to creating another batch of poor people. Similarly, the forum said those earning above 50,000 should be taxed more, while those earning 30,000 below should be taxed N100. For me, that amount to increasing the number of people in the poverty line by creating a network of very poor people and create more problem for the country.

“However, I believe what the forum should be thinking about is how are we going to expand our revenue base, by diversifying our export so that we won’t be relying on crude oil income alone. How are we going to revive agriculture, so that again we can be net exporter of cocoa, oil, cassava etc. We should look at if we produce cassava, which we are the number one producer and we are just producing garri from it, but we should industrialize its products. Government should build more refineries so that we won’t be importing petrol, kerosene or diesel. That should be our focus, but relieving people of their job and increasing tax will only increase poverty level among our people”.

Hon Ayo Fadaka, public analyst, argued that, “truly, urgent steps are required to ensure that Nigeria does not collapse. It is equally heartwarming to see that the Governors Forum is quite apprehensive and thinking of ways out of the seeming crisis, however their panacea seems to target the people and punish them excessively for a problem they did not create.

“The idea that civil/public servants above 50 years old should be discharged from service is begging the issue, can Government at every level afford the consequences of such action? Gratuities and pension will be paid and where is the money coming from? There will be added pressure on the battered economy, except they are suggesting that they will just be laid off carelessly?

“As a matter of fact, Government must sit up and work assiduously to fix all the leaking holes in our economy. The recent procurement of luxurious cars for Niger Republic is an inelegant spending by a Government that is incapable of due appreciation of the dire economic situation that confronts it. Sadly today, Nigeria is said to be unable to meet its OPEC quota and reason for this debacle is because of oil theft that it cannot curb.

Government must dispassionately tackle our challenges and take very seriously its responsibilities to manage the nation effectively. Nigeria is broke and no longer in a position to continue to play Father Christmas to less endowed nations.

Mr Iniruo Wills, President, Ijaw Professionals Association (Homeland Chapter comprising Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta) said: “the governors may have meant well, but whichever consultant that wrote those proposals for the governors did no good to their collective image. It’s beyond wickedness to suggest a levy on workers earning N30,000 which is less than fifty dollars a month. We’re all agreed that the Nigerian public service, especially the civil service component, is not fit for purpose as it is. But rather than the impulse of retiring workers aged fifty years and above, there are countless imaginative ways to upskill, motivate, optimize and rationalize the civil service. When a polity is on the precipice the way Nigeria dangerously is, leaders need to mobilize intensive public feedback that can bring out the best ways out of the mess.”.

Lebile ThankGod

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