Civil servants, workers in the private sector and other stakeholders in the economy have taken a swipe on the current disparity in their salaries and blamed the trend for corruption and poor economic growth of the country.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that civil servants working in many `high profile’ ministries, departments and agencies of Federal Government earn more than their counterparts in `low profile organisations’.
The salaries and working conditions of workers in some key establishments like Central Bank of Nigeria and NNPC are far beyond others with equal qualifications in other establishments.
Some of them, who spoke with NAN in some North-Central states of the country, called for urgent review that would put wages at par, or at least reduce the disparity to boost the morale of all workers and ensure optimum productivity.
Mr Sunday Emmanuel, a media consultant in Jos, for instance, described as “very strange”, a situation where graduates’ start-up salaries in some Federal Government establishments could quadrupple that of their counterparts in other Federal Government organisations.
“The situation is saddening; two workers working for the same employer but with a wide disparity in their entitlements.
“When we have situations like that, it is difficult to get the best from workers that do not believe that they are getting the maximum attention,” he said.
Emmanuel said that the situation had created “classes” among the workers, with people already employed in some organisations struggling to move to others where they felt the packages was better.
Mrs Josephine Adankat, a teacher, said: “There is usually no rationale behind the disparity either by job description or number of hours in service; in most cases, the disparity is just inexplicabe.
Workers in Nasarawa State also decried the disparity with Mr Abdullahi Adeka, Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), saying the situation was killing productivity among workers.
Adeka advised government to fashion out ways of addressing the issues as all civil servants were exposed to same market forces and utilities.
Mr Jimoh Musa, Nasarawa state Chairman of Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), said it was unjustifiable for workers performing the same tasks in different agencies to be paid different salaries.
He therefore advocated for the harmonisation of salaries to enhance productivity and ensure job satisfaction.
Similaly, Federal Government workers in Taraba said it was unfair for workers in the same federal service with the same qualification and grade level to earn salaries with huge differences.
Mr Robbert Angyu, a worker, said: “The Federal Government should review the salary structure in the spirit of change so as to be fair to all workers.”
The Taraba Commissioner for Finance, Mr Jessy Ashumade, frowned at the gap, adding that harmonising the salaries would encourage civil servants to remain and grow within a particular system and encourage specialisation.
The Niger State chapters of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) also decried the disparities.
The state Chairman of the TUC, Malam Tanimu Yunusa, said that the existing salary structure would not encourage civil servants.
“I suggest that the salary should be harmonised while allowances can differ based on the job or profession.
“For instance, a nurse should not be deprived of his shift duty allowance, while a doctor must be paid the call duty allowance. That can form the little difference and would also be understood by others.”
Mr Yahaya Ndako, NLC state Chairman, called for a return to the old structure where civil servants in the country earned the same salary.
“These salary disparities were created by the same government because before now local, state and federal workers with same qualification and grade level earned same salary .
Ndako decried a situation where a federal civil servant on GL eight earned N80,000 while another counterpart with same qualification and same grade level in another department earned N250,000.
A cross section of Nigerians in Lokoja kicked against the current situation and said it was not healthy for the service because it might impede quality service delivery to the people.
Alhaji Nnda Umar, a retired Director in the Kogi State Local Government Service Commission, observed that the development had bred unnecessary enmity in the public service .
NAN reported that Mr John Ushie, Chairman of Cross River chapter of NLC, called on the Salaries and Wages Commission to harmonise the salaries.
“It is a very interesting situation where you find workers of the same cadre earning different salaries simply because they work in different ministries, departments and agencies.
“The same salary disparity also exists between federal, state and local government workers.
The chairman added that the disparity was unnecessary since all workers would always go to the same market.
An economist, Dr Ikechukwu Obiora, also said the situation was alien to advanced democracy.
“In normal situations, disparity can only exist in the private sector or in cases of professionalism in special areas,’’ he said.
Residents of Uyo shared similar sentiments by calling on the government to abrogate salaries disparity in the federal service.
They called on the Federal Government to stop the policies that allowed boards of federal agencies to fix jumbo salaries for their workers.
Mr Eshiet Edem, a banker, said that the laws establishing some institutions, which allowed them to fix high salaries for their workers should be expunged.
A don at the University of Uyo, Dr Aniekan Brown, noted that low salary could lead to abuse of work ethics and induce corruption in public service.
In the same vein, a schoolteacher, Mrs Glory Bassey, urged the Federal Government to devise measures to minimise the embarrassing trend of ostentatious living among some workers while others wallowed in abject poverty.
Dr Edidiong Ebitu, lecturer, University of Calabar, opined that salaries disparity was a function of the agency’s ability to pay.
Mr Imo Ekeh, a level 12 worker of a federal ministry in Rivers, said the agitation for harmonisation would continue until government did the needful and necessary thing.
“A worker at the NNPC may have different task from a worker at the Federal Ministry of Education, but they have to resume by 8:00 a.m. and close at about 4:00 p.m.
“My suggestion is that all workers, especially at the federal level, should have a unified salary structure, while workers who do extra tasks and overtime should be paid allowances.”
The Chairman of the NLC in Abia, Mr Uche Obigwe, said the existing did not promote industrial harmony.
The NLC leader described the practice as `discriminatory and unhealthy’ in the labour sector.
He said the disparity among workers on the same grade level and under the same employers, whether federal, state or local governments could not be justified.
A human rights activist, Ifeanyi Onwunneme, and immediate past Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) in Abia, condemned such disparity.
Prof. Aloysius Okolie, at the Political Science Department of the University of Nigeria (UNN), Nsukka, urged the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Responsibility Commission (RMAFC), to check wide poverty and income imbalance in the country.
He said those who earnestly worked hard were most times the least paid while indolent workers who were erroneously highly rated and less busy political attaches received jumbo pay at the end of the month.
“This is an aberration which must be checked in order to restore dignity to labour.’’
A civil servant, Mr John Okeke, said that workers in the non-revenue generating Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were most times neglected in pay rise as well as allowance schedule.
“The way the RMAFC is favouring some MDAs is not healthy and if we continue this way, it will not be long seasoned technical and professional hands will leave the service and redundancy sets in,’’ Okeke said.
But a Technology Consultant and Engineer, Elias Igwegbu, decried the call for harmonisation of salaries of civil servants.
Igwegbu told NAN that salary should not have anything to do with paper qualification, adding that every industry should be allowed to set salaries based on its productivity.
An Octogenarian and renown author, Prof. Anezi Okoro, also criticised the agitators of harmonisation of salaries, saying “it is not done in advanced countries’’.
Okoro, 85, said it would encourage corruption and laziness as those who did little or nothing in the
civil service would benefit more.
From Oyo State, NAN reported that labour leaders, economists and other stakeholders expressed the belief that only a harmonised salary structure would boost productivity and promote industrial harmony.
The Chairman of the NLC, Mr Waheed Olojede, urged the Federal Government to take a decisive decision in harmonising the salaries, with only certain institutions having the powers to approve special allowances.
Dr Tosin Adesina of the Department of Economics, University of Ibadan, also described the disparity as unfair.
A former Head of Service, Mrs Modupe Adekunle, said salary differentials might vary because of varying conditions of service.
Mr Akeem Adeoti, a financial analyst in Ijebu-Ode, said the disparity was normal, adding that different occupations were faced with varying degrees of risk as the hours of service also varied with different occupations.
Mr Ojo Fanimokun, the Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) in Ondo State, decried the huge disparity but stressed that such did not exist among workers in the state civil service.
The Chairman of the NLC in Ekiti, Mr Ade Adesanmi, also said it was illegal to pay workers performing the same duties in government offices different salaries.
The NLC boss clarified that though the fault was not that of the current government, the Muhammadu Buhari administration must strive to correct the imbalance.
The Chairman of the state chapter of Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, Dr Olajide Taiwo, said the only way to tackle acrimony in the public service was to address the disparity.
The Secretary to the Ekiti State Government, Dr Modupe Alade, said cases of disparity in staff salaries were more evident in federal agencies.
In Osogbo, Mr Tosin Yusuf, a former Consultant to the Federal Government on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), said the disparity required urgent review to prevent industrial acrimony.
He said it was a structural error that needed to be corrected for industrial harmony and better performance.
In his view, Dr Kayode Ajulo, a Financial and Personnel Consultant, enjoined the Federal Government to amend the error to prevent the polarisation of the civil service.
Dr Seun Olayungbo, a lecturer in Economics at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said there was urgent need for salary harmonisation in the federal civil service.
“It’s unfair and not justifiable for civil servants with the same certificate and patronising the same market to be collecting different salaries.
The Secretary of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) in Kwara, Abayomi Afolabi, condemned the disparity, saying it was gross injustice.
Stakeholders in Kebbi, Kaduna and Kano states argued that the current trend had led to disillusionment among most workers.
An Economist, Mr Elaisha Dangiwa, noted that the disparity was partly responsible for corrupt tendencies in the Nigerian civil service.
Dangiwa who is a Lecturer in the Department of Economics, Kaduna State University (KASU), said there was no justification for workers with same certificate, employed on the same grade level to be receiving different salary packages.
“Corruption will continue to thrive in the civil service as long as workers salaries are not harmonised,” he stated.
“How can someone who works for eight to 12 hours daily earn far less than someone who works for only two to three hours daily because they belong to different MDAs?’’
He said inflation had reduced the value of the current N18, 000 minimum wage to mere peanuts, following high cost of goods and services in the country.
On his part, Dr Abuh Adah, a lecturer in the Department of Accountancy, Kaduna Polytechnic, also said government must address the issue of inflation that had reduced the purchasing power of Nigerians.
The Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Kebbi, Murtala Usman, supported the harmonisation of salaries, saying it would ensure equity in the public service.
Usman stressed that it would enhance dedication, improved performance and provision of quality service by public service workers.
“It is worrisome that a Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) officer receives over N115,000 as salary whereas a teacher on the same level receives N54,000 as salary.
“What has the teacher done to deserve such a disparity,” he asked.
Usman Adamu, a legal practitioner, called for the scrapping of Salaries and Wages Commission, and deregulation of salary issues to allow states and local governments determine their salaries based on ability to pay.
In the north eastern part of the country, workers, labour leaders and lecturers said the current disparity, no matter the reason for it, was counter-productive.
They argued that apart from dampening the morale of some workers, thereby having a negative effect on their productivity, the arrangement was causing disharmony among workers.
A Senior Lecturer at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Bauchi, Dr Mohammed Gambo, said the differences in salary did not encourage efficiency but constant change of jobs by workers in search of greener pastures.
“No job is more important than the other; every worker should be paid same salaries with their counterparts across all MDAs,’’ he said.
Mrs Hauwa Musa, a federal civil servant, described the difference in salaries between those in the ministries and agencies like NNPC, Federal Inland Revenue Service and NPA as mindboggling.
Alhaji Ali Grema, Borno Chairman of Trade Union Congress, said the country was witnessing a unique period of economic meltdown and the price of everything had already skyrocketed, hence the need to ensure equality in pay-packet.
However, some labour leaders in Adamawa defended the wage disparity among government agencies, saying the difference was due to the peculiarity of responsibilities.
“The military, for instance, and the security agencies are considered in this category due to the peculiar nature of their services, as such there is no way our wages can be the same,” he explained.
Dr Aminu Fagge of Economics Department, Federal University Dutse, is also one of those in support of salary disparity.
Fagge told NAN that there were peculiarities in the workforce, hence harmonising salary structure was not realistic.