What is your honest assessment of government policy of 50 % pay cut from salaries of the executives of present government both at Federal and some States government levels?
Well, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not a realistic polices. They should look for better things to do to make Nigeria a better place for all of us to leave in. Pay cut is not the way out and solution to the present predicament we find ourselves. If we are looking for change and they are calling for pay cut, I want to assured them that they will come and meet workers one day. They have an uphill task to come and meet workers. If they think they are going to use psychology on workers to mean that when they finish their own they will come to the workers to cut down their salary, it will never work, because all of us are living witnesses on the dwindling nature of Nigeria especially with this sudden devaluation of Naira. Dollar to a Naira now is going down to between N230 and N240. So, how do you expect somebody to come up with that kind of things for workers? I’m looking at it as a strategy used by political office holders to try to arrive at pay cut for civil servant. Majority of these political office holders are already comfortable, most of their children are not schooling in Nigeria. Majority of the workers are just looking for a leaving wage to rely upon. So, instead of the politics of pay cut they should rather look at the real problems of Nigeria and see how they can confront it head long. There are other things they can do to make Nigerians better. Are trying to tell us that the chief executives rely on their salary to sponsor their children to schools in overseas and leave the luxury life style they are living with their monthly salary? The millions been spent by their families within a month or two cannot be said to the monthly salary they earned.
The essence of the pay cut policy, which did not extend to allowances, is to save more money for development, is there anything wrong in that?
There is no any saving that is going to be enough from 50% wage cut, the leakages that are found in government circles are the ones responsible but not wages. It is the leakages through fictitious contract, over blotted contract and ghost workers among others are the cost. The contractors and their client who is the government are part and parcel of the public office holders. They know the way they have been doing it, and they know how to go about it. If they can look for all this loopholes and close them, I believe It will be a better pay cut than the one they are doing now. This salary pay cut will not amount to anything.
As a former Chairman of TUC, how will you react to the recent media report credited to Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, calling for kill or scrap of NNPC?
Frankly speaking, that statement is not supposed to come from a person like El-Rufai. I condemn that statement in totality. As a leader in the level of a governor, there are some statements you don’t make. Instead, you allow others to make the statement. We shouldn’t be in a hurry to draw conclusion, or make such kind of statement. Such statement could contribute in charging up the political atmosphere. I don’t support it, and don’t welcome it. My reasons are that, if you’re going to scrap or kill NNPC, how many organizations are you going to kill? Are the states governments free from this corruption? You said NNPC will kill the country if the country did not kill NNPC, what will you say about the state governments? So, are you going to scrap all the states too? I think we should weigh the speeches and statement we make. It’s not supposed to be so. I think what the government should do is not only in NNPC. There are lots of civil servants in Abuja, who are the most comfortable people today because of wealth they acquire. Look at people and threat them individually. Looking at NNPC as a block is unfair. Just like today, you cannot conclude that all the governors are corrupt. The governor of Kaduna State was a Ministers of FCT; you cannot say that all the Ministers were corrupt even though some of them have been accused of corruption at one time or the other. So, for him to generalize it is wrong. There is nowhere in the worlds where you don’t find countries managing their oil energy resources. The company must exist. All they need to do is the come up with committee to look into the entire organization and identify where there is need for some adjustment. There have been several committees that have come up with such findings. They should look at the former ones, dust them and implement them if they are okay, and if not, come up with another committee and see how they can put NNPC in its right pedestrian. It is not only NNPC, but other organizations suffering the same faith.
As comrade and as a unionist, what is your candid opinion about the Biometric Variation of civil servants in Kaduna State under the current regime in which some people lost their lives recently in the process?
Well, governments have the right to conduct the exercise, but as far as I’m concerned a lot of these exercises are counterproductive. The hours you will use to work to make the state better are used for queuing up. Just imagine how we lost some our colleagues in Zaria, because of such exercise. The government knows when and where the ghost workers are likely to come from. And if they have to do it, it shouldn’t be an exercise that would be given a tie up programme. They can schedule it and run for at least six months or a year where the impact will not be felt so much as it were.
A lot has been happening since May when El-Rufai assumed the mantle of leadership, such as the ban on street begging, hawking, recovering government lands, cancellation of Sallah package among others, tell us your views on these?
Well, I’m fully in support of some of the policies especially the one that has to do with reducing the number of ministries from 19 to 13. It has been a common knowledge that civil societies, activists, opinion leaders and labor organizations have been agitating for the reduction of cost of governance. Cost of governance can reduce if you don’t have elaborate number of advisers or ministries. The ministries can be reduced to a sizeable one, but if doing so will not cause a lot of unemployment in the state anyway. On issue of recovering of government lands, it is okay by me, but it should not be done on the basis of individuals who supported one particular political party and the ones who did not. Once you’re elected, you should embrace everybody and carry him or her along irrespective of their political party affiliations. Don’t be vindictive. Leadership is from God. My advice to both state and Federal Government is to learn from what is practiced in advance democracy like that of American. For instance when President Obama contested against Hilary Clinton and won the primary election, by the time he won the general election he called her and gave her appointment. Once you’re in office, remove acrimony to avoid distractions and work together with everybody because the expectations are so high by the people.
Nigerians are divided over subsidy removal, why some are in support others are against, as former TUC Chairman where do you belong?
Fuel subsidy is a necessary evil. I’m not prescribing it to government, but no matter which party comes on board, the subsidy will be removed one day. If they want to remove it, so be it, but my advice is that it should be done in gradual process so that the effect will not be felt so much by the people. Even though the burden is so much on the government, the removal cannot be done in a day. People went on demonstration when they wanted to remove it. The people are among those who voted for the change; therefore it is better not to do it once without putting the necessary infrastructures in place to cushion the effect. On the ban of street begging, government should make provision for alternative way of their survival because they are human beings. You cannot just discard them like that without making provision for them.
-Former Chairman, Trade Union Congress (TUC) Kaduna State council Comrade Paul Yaro Jezhi in an interview with some journalists in Kaduna weekend vehemently condemned some APC government policies and absolved some, particularly Governor El-Rufai’s recent statement advocating the killing of NNPC, among others. Our correspondent, Idibia Gabriel, was there. Excerpts: