By Dr. Muhammad, Bashir Maru
I have restrained myself from making my opinion public as it relates to policy and governance in my home state of Zamfara due to my perceived closeness to those at the helms of affairs because such could be misconstrued as blind support for government. However, after deep reflection and x-raying the destructive politics of the opposition, I am now convinced beyond any iota of reasonable doubts that silence can no longer be golden but an endorsement of the fiendish tirades geared at derailing good governance in our dear State. The opposition in Zamfara have now found refuge in sponsoring faceless individuals to write jaundiced articles in social media and fraudulent blogs sites as part of a grand ploy to malign the good reputation of the Governor and the entire governance apparatchik in order to distract the Bello matawalle led administration from achieving its set goals of transforming Zamfara State. It is a well aknown fact that the opposition are rattled by the modest achievements of Governor Bello Matawalle in all sectors of human endeavour in just under 1 year, thus overshadowing any claims of legacy in their locust years in government.
It is on record that the hallmarks of achievement of the last administration is the retrenchment of thousands of workers (including hundreds of healthcare professionals) most of whom were absorbed in the nearby health system of Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina states. Other sectors of the economy in dire need of expertise and skilled workforce also suffered a similar ghastly fate with the resultant negative ripple effects. Stoppage of the payment of leave grants to the civil servants for 8 horrendous years; and the deliberate stagnation of staff promotion throughout these gruelling years became the new normal. Most disturbing among the negatives of the prior retrogressive governance approach was consciously allowing banditry to thrive unchecked all in a bid to use it as a smokescreen to fritter the scarse resources of the state while leaving behind a heavy debt burden for the current succeeding government.
Expectedly, they are now embittered by the responsible and responsive leadership of Dr. Bello Matawalle (Barden Kasar Hausa) for restoring dignity in labour through the following courses of action:
1. Absorption and restoration of 1004 redundant civil servants employed and whose appointment was unjustly terminated by the last administration.
2. Prompt payment of salaries and allowances as and when due.
3. Upsetting of all outstanding leave grants owed by the last administration.
4. Promotion of all civil servants (some from level 1 to 6, 4 to 10 etc).
5. Subsidies to civil servants to cushion the effect of economic downturn that results from COVID19 Global Pandemic.
6. Settling of WAEC and NECO fees owed by the last administration which culminated in the release of withheld SSCE certificates of thousands of students and subsequent admission into many tertiary institutions across Nigeria.
There are countless other felt needs intervention packages introduced by the Bello Matawalle led administration. Today, Zamfara State Civil Servants can hold their head high among their peers because they receive their salaries and other sundry welfare even ahead of Federal workers. Matawalle’s love for civil servants stems from the fact that he was once a thoroughbred civil servant before becoming a politician fused with his avowed commitment to govern with a human face.
It is now imperative the we now beam the focus on the issue of minimum wage. It should be clearly emphasized that to date only 5 States have implemented the new minimum wage (Lagos, Kaduna, Adamawa, Kebbi and Jigawa) while 31 others (Zamfara Inclusive) are at various stages of negotiation and implementation. Worthy of note is a further step taken by the Zamfara State government under the Matawalle people oriented administration in constituting a 9-man negotiation committee to fashion out modalities on how workers in Zamfara State will benefit from the new minimum wage; the Committee has its membership transparently drawn from the labour unions and civil service. To demonstrate seriousness and sincerity, the Committee is led by a seasoned public servant in the person of Amb. Bashir Yuguda, former State Minister of finance. Comparably Kaduna State is deducting 25% of civil servants salaries as part of it stringent measures adopted in fighting COVID19. Should Zamfara adopt similar models of giving with one hand and taking with the other?
Let us not lose sight of the fact that Zamfara State is recovering from years of banditry and misgovernmence and remains one of the states with the least Internal Revenue Generation capacity in Nigeria. States like Lagos and Kaduna impose heavy taxes on both citizens and residents the bulk of which are civil servants. Such taxes include ground rent, tenement rate, right of occupancy rate (RofO), certificate of occupancy rate (CofO), water bills etc these are almost non-existent in Zamfara. Taking into consideration the monthly federal allocation, huge monthly wage bill, poor internally generated revenues and outrageous debt servicing brought about by the last administration, as it stands now Zamfara State cannot afford to conveniently pay the minimum wage except of course by downsizing its workforce or imposing heavy taxes on the populace to meet the demand of a new minimum wage. These are options before the Zamfara State Civil Service workforce and they do not further the pro-people drive of His Excellency. Logically, the government should be given more time to comprehensively deal with the issue of minimum wage implementation.
Indisputably, Gov Matawalle is fully committed to the implementation of minimum wage at the appropriate time that is why he introduce civil service reforms to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in civil service, eliminate redundancy and weed off ghost workers in the pay roll of the State Government. By all parameters, it is equally clear to any discerning mind the the government is committed to building institutional and system capacity that produces the human capital that is committed to efficient service delivery and the principles of good governance; This is one of the main reasons Zamfara State Strategy and Development Committee was formed and charged with the responsibility of developing a framework and blueprint using innovative techniques and technologies to upgrade human capacity and organization, improve the IGR of the State to support development and provision of basic infrastructure for the good and wellbeing of the people and also attract foreign direct investment to the state amongst other areas of competences.
There are pertinent questions to ask; to wit, where were today’s emergency activists when the last and only emperor to have governed Zamafara held forte as the Chief Executive? All discerning mind can now see beyond the facade that they are nothing but paid mercenaries under the pay role of mischievous elements with the sole aim to haul insults on Governor Matawalle so as to distract him from taking Zamfara State to its destination where prosperity for all is guaranteed not just for the few.
Dr. Bashir is a Deputy Chief of staff to Zamfara State Governor and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org