The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and stakeholders have called for improved living wage for public servants to ensure their commitment to service.
The call was made at the 7th National Policy Dialogue on “Living Wages and Corruption in Nigeria”, organized bythe Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN), the training arm of ICPC, in collaboration with Micheal Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, with support from MacArthur Foundation.
The event, which took place at the ICPC headquarters,and which was aimed at pushing for an enabling environment for Nigeria workers considering the prevalent economic realities, was declared opened by arepresentative of the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment.
The keynote speaker, Professor Dafe Otobo, a retired professor of Industrial Relations, University of Lagos, Nigeria, in his presentation, stated that to effectively address living wages and corruption in Nigeria, it was important for government to focus on provision of basic amenities and enabling environment for its citizens.
According to him, “The issue of corruption in Nigeria runs deep, intertwining with various aspects of the society. The goal of living wage is to allow employees have enough income for an adequate standard of living.”
Prof. Otobo noted that the benefits of living wage would boost employee satisfaction and higher productivity. He, therefore, urged the federal and state governments to address living wage and provide a decent wage system in consonance with the economic realities.
“Basic amenities are a necessity, federal and state government should work towards providing better health services, good roads, good educational system and other basic amenities to make life better.” he added.
In his welcome remarks, Prof. Owasanoye underscored the importance of the theme, noting that the Policy Dialogue was not only timely but necessary looking at Nigeria’s current socio-economic realities which calls for urgent equitable living wage policy for the country.
He revealed that a survey conducted by ICPC showed that there had been several minimum wage policies since 1981 but little or no attention had been paid to actual living wages for public servants.
The outgoing ICPC boss explained that it had become necessary to take into cognizance the fact that the public service was the vehicle through which government at all levels delivered services to the people. Therefore, neglecting a fundamental aspect of public servants could result to corrupt practices in the service.
In his words, “This Policy Dialogue on Living Wages and Corruption becomes very necessary when we takecognizance of the fact that the public service is the vehicle through which government at all levels deliver a broad range of public goods and services to the people. Invariably, a corrupt public service inhibits the distribution and timely supply of these public goods and services in equal measure to every citizen, thereby marginalizing the weaker and more vulnerable segments of the nation’s population.’’
He recommended that all stakeholders develop and contribute a set of indicators relevant to the working conditions of public servants in order to enrich the national living wage policy document.
“Your contributions as key stakeholders, should be data-driven and should be based on scientific forecasts of likely economic changes in the near to long term, to properly guide policy direction and cost of living adjustments. This we hope, will reduce, and possibly eradicate, the frequent disputes between the government and its workforce, which mostly arise as a result of sudden economic shocks, or pressures from rent seekers”.
The ICPC boss noted that the outcome of the dialogue would enable the government to develop a balanced and applicable wage bill policy for the country.
Declaring the event open, the Hon. Minister of Labourand Employment, Simon Bako Lalong, who was represented by Alex Olebe, a director in the Ministry, described the dialogue as ‘apt and timely’. He went on to note that the dialogue was tasked at reducing corruption – a major challenges facing governments and policy makers in the country.
The Hon. Minister stressed the need for an extensive deliberation on ways issues bordering on living wage could be handled in order to prevent corruption in and outside the workplace.
Lalong noted that the Federal Government was workingtowards making life more meaningful for workers and Nigerians in fulfilling its “Renewed Hope Agenda for Unity and Prosperity for all.”
“I wish to state that the importance of a dialogue such as this cannot be over-emphasized because the task of reducing corruption has been one major challenge facing governments and policy makers either in the developed or developing countries across the world. As you are all aware, poor reward system contributes in sharp practices outside the existence of greed and need based corruptive tendencies by individuals” he said.
Earlier, delivering a goodwill message, the Chairman, National Salaries and Wages Commission Mr. Ekpo Ntanoted that the hallmark of good governance is payment of living wages by private and public sectors which remains one of the formidable tools needed to combat corruption.
Nta noted that with the current minimum wage being paid workers, so many Nigerians are condemned to poverty unless they have some other means of taking advantage of the system to corruptly empower themselves in other to augment their legitimate income.
“Considering the nexus between poverty occasioned by payment of a minimum wage that could not sustain the workers, a government desirous of stamping out graft must make haste to put in place machineries that would ensure that workers are paid sustainable salaries.” he said.
Also in his goodwill message, the President, Trade Union Congress (TUC) Engr, Festus Osifo, represented by Dr. Tommy Etim Okon, stressed that there was need for more action than promises because workers are getting more impatient due to hardship.
Osifo said the workers are facing enormous pressures that are making life very difficult for them. He thereforehoped that the outcome of the discussion would aid government live up its promises and responsibility by ensuring the welfare of workers and Nigerians in general.
The event, which also had goodwill messages fromNigeria Labour Congress, Head of Civil Service of the Federation, featured a robust panel discussion on Living Wages and Corruption in Nigeria moderated by Comrade Issa Aremu, mni. Panelists were Dr. Dasuki Arabi, Director-General, Bureau for Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Prof. Uchenna Uwaleke of Nasarawa State University, and Mr. Martins Oloja of Guardian Newspapers.