Since he assumed duty as the Governor of Kebbi State, the Land of Equity, following his landslide victory in the 2015 Gubernatorial Election under the platform of All Progressive Congress (APC), Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu has always held the welfare of its citizens, including the state civil servants, as well as retirees, with unparalleled respect and in the highest esteem.
It is a clear and an indisputable fact that, while other states grappled with the backlog of unpaid salary arrears, Kebbi state civil servants are paid as and when due on monthly basis. Pensioners, too, smile to early alerts from their banks, barely the very month they left service.
Therefore, there is a smooth transition of salary and pension money on monthly basis in the state. Bagudu Welfare Policy, in Kebbi state, has greatly helped to develop and implement proper working environment for the workers in the state.
Gov. Bagudu, having realised that a good welfare policy provides better physical and mental health to the workers and thus, promotes a healthy work environment, the Kebbi State Government was one of the first few elite states in Nigeria that implemented the new National Minimum Wage of N30,000.
Even with the lean revenue resources of the state, the Governor took the Bull by the horns and approved the new wage, well ahead of other seemingly more buoyant states in the Federation.
This courageous gesture by Governor Bagudu has no doubt cemented the cordial relationship between the organised labour (NLC), with the Kebbi State Government, thus, a sustainable industrial harmony thrives in the state.
Without any doubt, in the last five years, Bagudu had made tremendous efforts towards improving the standard of living of the workers, with the resultant multiplier effects on the workers’ psychology, leading to improved productivity, which the Governor has always acknowledged and commended in many public gatherings.
Beyond the timely payment of workers salary and monthly pensions, Kebbi State Government is also gradually defraying the gratuity of retired civil servants.
To Bagudu’s credit, he recently gave an approval for the release of 3 billion naira as payment of gratuities to verified retired civil servants in the state, comprising State, Local Government as well as Local Government Education retirees.
This was happily contained in a recent statement signed by the Hon. Commissioner of Finance, Ibrahim Muhammad Augie in Birnin Kebbi, on Thursday, 31st December, 2020.
According to the statement, N2 billion has been approved for the State Government verified retirees, while N1 billion was approved for Local Governments and Local Government Education Authorities. It said that, all necessary process for the electronic payment to all categories of the affected beneficiaries, on a very favourable equitable ratio had already put into motion.
This happy development, certainly, sent workers, especially, retired civil servants of the both tiers of Government in the state jubilant. It will be recalled that only last May, 2020, the sum of N2 .403 billion arrears of gratuity was paid to all the categories of verified retirees, across the State, local Governments and Local Government Education Authorities.
It is on record that, from inception of this Government, to date, therefore, a total sum of N20.052 billion, was approved and paid as arrears of gratuities to the State and Local Government retirees of Kebbi State, according to the State’s Commissioner of Finance, Hon Ibrahim Muhammed Augie.
Augie emphasized that, Kebbi State was among the elite states that pays both Salaries and Pensions regularly, without any outstanding arrears, from inception in 2015, to date.
It is also pertinent to state that, Governor Bagudu had settled the backlog of gratuity arrears it inherited. This Government met a liability of N4.3 billion, which was not only liquidated, but an additional sum was provided, which beefed the whopping amount of money up to N20.05 billion.
At this point, workers and indeed the NLC, must be reminded that, the resources at the disposal of Government to execute necessary economic and social development demands are scarce, considering the limited revenues accruing to the coffers of the state government, more so, under the current scourge of Covid-19 pandemic and other formidable extraneous factors inhibiting smooth governance.
Government cannot effectively attend to all the demands of labour, in view of the lean resources available, as well as the competitive expectations from the citizenry, for Government to execute the direly needed developmental projects that have direct bearing on them.
In order to bolster cordial labour relationship and reassure the public, the commitment of the Government of Senator Abubakar Atiku, on sustaining continuous welfare of civil servants and retirees in the state, the Hon. Commissioner for Information and Culture, Mamuda Muhammad Warra, reiterated that, Kebbi Government had expended N20 bn on payment retirement benefits in 6 years.
Speaking at a recent Press Conference, he averred that, Kebbi State Government, under the able leadership of Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, has appraised the various agitations of the organised labour in the state, with all sincerity of addressing them, within the available resources at the disposal of Government.
He averred: “Specifically, out of a total number of 1098 retirees, 958 retirees whose retirement benefits ranged from N5 Million and below will be paid 100 percent. This indicates that, at the end of the exercise, the State Government will only be left with the burden of those who retired from 2019 upward.”
According to him, also, the state government was also determined to continue the monthly savings that will seek to address new retirees, promising that, the Kebbi State Government was committed to the payment of all outstanding leave grants when the situation improves. On the issue of consequential adjustment, he said that, a committee was set up on the issue of consequential adjustment, in line with the subsisting agreement with the organised labour in the state.
“For these reasons, it is necessary for the organized labour to recognize salient appreciable efforts put in by Government to address various agitations made. Government is not unmindful of the universal predicaments facing the Civil Servants and is determined to appropriately and affordably address them,” he said.
At this juncture, before I forget, the general public and the labour need to be reminded that, unlike in other states, Kebbi Government did not go to any bank to borrow money to pay for pension and gratuity.
We all know the implication of borrowing or incurring debts to our economy, especially, if the resources are not managed prudently by any incoming Government. Posterity will bear the brunt.
Again, we equally need to appreciate the commendable gesture of Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu during festive periods like Sallah and Christmas to civil servants, organizations including the labour, tribal organizations, religious organizations, NGOs/CSOs and individuals, all this is geared towards improving the welfare of people.
Although with all these glad tidings from Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, the organised labour went on strike, the industrial action was uncalled for at this trying period, happily the strike was called off within Twenty Four hours following the commitment of the State Government.
An industrial action will certainly not augur well for the even and requisite socioeconomic development of the state. What are required now are mutual understanding and dialogue, between the labour and the Government.
The citizens on their part, especially those better informed about the current economic circumstances of the world, the Federal and State Governments, to educate others, appreciate the effort of Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and fervently pray for lasting peace and development in Kebbi State and Nigeria, in general
Times like this call for mutual understanding, prudence and self-discipline and we must all agree to the necessity to prioritize state expenditures to areas that can best uplift our society from poverty.
Let us all join hands to support and cooperate with Government to move Kebbi State to greater heights under the leadership of Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Matawallen Gwandu).
Sarki is Special Adviser (SA) Media to Kebbi State Governor