It has never been on record that civil servants in Yobe state embarked on strike due to inefficiency. YUSUF YUSUF reports that the state government has been up to the task.
Civil service is said to be the driver for not only ensuring infrastructural development but also a catalyst to the actualisation of public services and government’s policies.
They also play an important role in providing required advice and support for either ministers, commissioners or government officials to excel.
Over the years, the civil service in Nigeria at both the federal, state and local government levels had been suffering from a number of challenges for it to function very well. This sheer neglect thereby resulted in poor productivity mainly due to lack of training, poor remunerations and entitlements, delayed promotions, non-implementation of new minimum wage, among others.
The needless industrial disharmony especially by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that crippled universities has caused a lot of setback in the last 23 years that the union partook in 16 strike actions demanding for funding for the revitalisation of public universities, payment of earned academic allowances in addition to implementation of other agreements reached.
Many states across the country are yet to fully implement the 30, 000 naira minimum wage despite the high rate of inflation. As a result of this, life has continued to deteriorate for civil servants among other workers especially with the recent removal of fuel subsidy.
The situation is equally fuelling another strike, this time, a warning and if nothing is done, it may result in a prolong strike action.
The state civil service
In Yobe state, the story appears to be different. Since its creation on August 27 1991 from former Borno state by the then Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babbangida, the vision was how to take the state to a greater heights.
All governors including the Military Administrators have ensured stability in the civil service as a system by supporting its growth in whatever way so as to effectively deliver government’s policies, programmes which helped in averting workers from embarking on industrial action in the state.
In April 2022, a seasoned civil servant Alhaji Garba Bilal who rose through the ranks in different ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and in different capacities including permanent secretary was appointed by Governor Mai Mala Buni as the Head of the Civil Service.
His assumption to office as outlined by Governor Buni over his appointment sparked innovative measures aimed at rejuvenating the civil service and give it a new outlook for effective delivery of government’s mandate.
All promotions of civil servants in the state and local government areas are done as at when due. Civil service examinations are conducted about three times a year to ensure promotions are not delayed especially for state workers. Immediately after the promotions, salaries of the promoted staff are adjusted for them to enjoy the new grade levels.
Yobe civil service is the luckiest as it had never in history embarked on strike action due to non-payment of salaries. Salaries are paid as at when due; in fact, on or before 25th of every month. Governor Mai Mala Buni when he assumed office on May 29, 2019 in his acceptance speech pledged to pay salaries promptly and since then, he has kept to his words.
Under Governor Mai Mala Buni’s administration, building the capacity of civil servants had received the most remarkable attention. Hundreds of civil servants have been granted approval for in-service to further their education at various institutions of higher learning both across Nigeria and abroad or short term training in seminars and workshops.
Apart from the in-house capacity building, the government is training its civil servants periodically at the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) among other institutions of civil service.
The recent one is the training of 19 civil servants on Advanced Human Resource Management, another 19 in Middle Management Courses, 10 in Administrative Principles, 9 in Treasury Management and 19 in Financial Management Courses at ASCON Lagos.
The regular training of workers had recently earned the state government award as the most prudent state in financial management.
This is the first time in the history of Yobe state that applicants were picked from each of the 178 political wards to be employed into the state civil service totaling 2,670 at once. The major beneficiary of the employment is the education sector where the governor declared a state of emergency at the Basic and Secondary Schools level. A total number of 998 teaching staff were employed in this sector with some posted to the Teaching Service Board (TSB) while others to the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
This is one of the major sectors where the governor had spent billions of naira after upgrading some general hospitals to specialists hospitals as well as establishing new general hospitals and Maternal/ Child Centre. Here, the governor approved the employment of 993 personnel to man the facilities including the 138 Primary Healthcare Centres constructed. Other sectors which received the gesture include the judiciary, newly established Yobe State Ambulances and Emergency Services, among others.
All civil servants who retired from the state civil service and the local government service commission are paid their pensions monthly alongside salaries of civil servants. Once a civil servant retires, it is on record that the following month he or she gets the pension while the gratuity is being compiled for payment by a special committee set-up by the government.
Yobe state government has continued to ensure it provides soft furniture loans to civil servants with free interest repayable between three to five years depending on the employee’s grade level.
The most recent one is the soft loan granted by the Federal Mortgage Bank to the state civil servants to build houses. Since the creation of the state, the civil servants had never enjoyed this loan except under the government of Mai Mala Buni and the exercise, which is a continuous one, will help the workers to acquire their personal houses before retirement.
Other welfare is the construction of over 2,000 one-bedroom, two- bedroom and three- bedroom houses to civil servants in the state. This was commissioned by the former President, Muhammadu Buhari and since issued out but later reduced the cost by 50 percent for all category of beneficiaries.
The government has made it a policy to employ all indigenous health workers into the state civil service on graduation apart from automatic employment to students studying Medicine in tertiary institutions.
All these efforts by the government has been the major reasons industrial action, protests or demonstration by workers in the state are seen as a taboo, as many of the demands of workers were met harmoniously and accordingly.
For Yobe civil servants, its a new dawn.