President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered that books on the state of the country’s finances should be opened to Organised Labour in a bid to make them understand that the Federal Government may be unable to meet certain financial demands presently.
A meeting between key government ministries and agencies handling its finances and labour unions has been fixed for September 12, where the books will be opened.
Buhari gave the directive on Friday after he met with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, at the State House, Abuja.
Top officials of the Ministry of Finance/Budget/National Planning; Central Bank of Nigeria; Accountant-General of the Federation; and the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, among others, will be at the meeting from the government’s side.
Ngige had visited Buhari primarily to brief him on the strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors.
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The doctors had called off the strike only on Thursday after they struck some agreement with the government.
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But, during the meeting with the President, he directed that the government’s books should be opened to all labour unions so that they would be on the same page with government on the state of finances.
Ngige spoke with State House Correspondents after he emerged from the closed-door meeting with the President.
He said, “The President has approved for us to have a bigger government side meeting with the organised private labour; all the government institutions that have to do with the finances of government so that we meet with them and show them the books.
“So, the invitation is going out to them this afternoon (Friday) -the Nigeria Labour Congress; the Trade Union Congress and their affiliates or supporters and friends in the Civil Society Organisations. The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, so, I will relate more with the Chief of Staff to the President and the leadership of the unions today so that we do this meeting tomorrow.
“At the meeting, government finances, challenges and everything will be laid bare on the table. Their own fears and what they think are also good for the Nigerian people especially the workers; they will also table them so that we look at them.”
The former senator, who also spoke on the recent hike in electricity tariff, claimed that it was an option the regulatory body; Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), could allow for the system to come to terms with the realities of today.
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Ngige, a former Governor of Anambra State, explained further, “The electricity tariff as you know, the Electricity Regulatory Commission approved the increase based on certain electricity band R1 and R2 and even in the R2 band, you have soft bands so that we can protect the rural poor and people who are in the suburbs.
“So, we are going to look at them holistically because we want a stable labour industrial union in the country.
“The President has been briefed and he is in tune and has given the support to talk to everybody we need to talk to.”
On the strike being planned by the various non-academic labour unions in the universities, the minister said the issue still boiled down to finances.
He told reporters that unions in the university system too had been invited to a meeting to see the government’s books.
Ngige stated, “The tripartite unions of university system, including some colleges of education and some hospitals; Non-Academic Staff of Universities (NASU); Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU); and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), we have invited them to a meeting. The leadership met with me last week and the major thrust of the challenges they have is on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) system.
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“They claim and allege that the IPPIS system is over-deducting some line items like taxes, the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxes they claim the IPPIS system is charging more than they suppose to debit. The also claim that some allowances that are peculiar to the university system like responsibility allowance, hazard allowance, field trip allowance and education of children allowance; that the IPPIS has stopped all of them.
“At the government level, we have discussed and we now want to do a special session with them. They can come with their facts and the Accountant-General will lead his team, the National Salaries and Incomes and Wages will also come and the Ministry of Labour will lead and then we will discuss and find out who is treating the other unfairly.”