Why KB NLC Strike Is Long Overdue

By Habibu Bawa

In 2019, upon the approval of the new minimum wage and just after it’s take off, I wrote an article on the Daily Trust titled: ‘This Thing Called Minimum Wage in Kebbi’ which was later published on many blogs and till date accessible on the Internet. I wrote it to address the defects of the new salary scheme and implored the inclusion of Primary School Teachers and Local Government Employees.

Now for about 14 months, the State chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress is among many other reasons which are all revolving around  disbursement of Teachers Pensions Contributions, payment of leave grants, implementation of promotions and increment  and gratuity to retirees in addition to the minimum wage proved to be a mirage and in this, I shall explain why #18,000 of 2012 is higher in value than the #30, 000 the state government is yet to fully implement since 2019 and call for effective and judicial review of salaries in the state. Before then, let me reproduce a paragraph in the former article:

“In most organisations in Kebbi, the working time is 8 hours a day and 5 times a week which simply implies that, for every workday, even if the new minimum wage is applied to all workers, a low-income worker only gets N1500 a day before deductions to carter for food, shelter, transportation and other basic needs for himself and where applicable his family. This is the type of ‘chicken change’ workers go home with after hours of selfless service but yet not all could get.” With the new minimum wage yet implemented in the Local Government Education Board and Local Government Service Commission, many Primary School teachers and Local Government Employees go home with less than #900 for every working day and Zero for weekends.

First and foremost, let us compare the prices of commodities in 2012 before splitting the #18, 000 into pieces; In 2012, a litre of PMS that was #87 is between #168 to #180 in Kebbi, a plate measure of rice that was between #200 and #250 is between #450 to #500, a bottle of Groundnut oil that was sold at the rate of #140 is #400, a sachet of Paracetamol that was #20 is #50 now. Someone who paid #1500 for rent and #600 for electricity now pays #3000 and #1500 respectively in many towns in the Land of Equity. The list is endless, which simply means a sault in transport fare, feeding bill, accommodation, electricity and medical care.

By mere calculation, a low-income employee who earns #18,000 and goes to work routinely five times a week and 20 (sometimes more) a month and spent #100 on transportation and #300 on meal daily in 2012 will have to spend at least #200 on transportation and #600 on feeding alone, making him/her spend #4000 on transportation and #12,000 on food and will only be left with #2000 for VAT, SMS alert, stamp duty, POS and card maintenance charges by banks then electricity, rent, water, medicals and one will have no choice than to recharge phone and buy data for subscription. This is aside, friends and relatives that may ask for something, weekly congregational prayers and weekend days where a teacher is not expected to go to work but stay at home to mark assignments, read further or prepare test, class work or exam questions.

Governments at all levels must realize the need to build and strengthen Civil Servants most especially teachers and Local Government Employees who are mainly Community Health and Agricultural Extension Workers, many of whom are unrealized gold mines that should be roots of our transformation, reformation and development in this country. A situation where the State Government refused to increase their take home is counterproductive and detrimental to our progress in many sectors.

I’m yet to be convinced on why the Kebbi State chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress shouldn’t embark on avoidable but necessary industrial action as it’s only weapon against exploitation and apparent oppression of its members that made many teachers looked for other means out of this mess and abandoned our children’s education. Apart from the appointment of LGEA Chairmen which was laudable and merit-based and probably recruitment of Secondary School teachers last year, there’s obviously no significant policy to salvage the rotten educational system for nearly a decade in the State. The State has been lackadaisical towards it’s human capital in the educational sector and The State’s Local Government Service. Many were not paid leave grants for over two years and promotions were not implemented.

People resort to last choice when there is none, the about a decade old #18,000 is among the reasons why people look down on Primary School teaching and even those who accepted it when they couldn’t get any other job show I-don’t-care-attitude and look for alternatives to improve their standard of living. After all, who can endure poverty and hunger?

This is the best thing at this material time and we all owe a debt of since gratitude to Kebbi NLC and should support them in any way we can until the State Government ACCEPTS TO DO AND MEET all demands. By not implementing promotions, leave grants and minimum wage for Primary School Teachers and Local Government Employees, the state government is fast aborting and deteriorating education and extension services in the grassroot which is detrimental to our development.  Teachers are the Nation builders and their welfare and well-being must be made a priority.

I’ll not pray for an end to the just embarked industrial action by state’s NLC in near times nor will I join the leage of myopic activists who advise the State’s organized labour to suspend it’s well meant and timely action until the State Government does what is required to its human resources which is the only thing that will build passion and bring an end to exploitation of workers and also help low-income earners to increase their standards of living, reduce poverty and boost their morale.

Habibu Bawa is a public school teacher and can be reached at [email protected]

Arewa Agenda is a Publication of Young writers/journalist from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through positive narratives

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