Why FG can’t consider salary increase now – Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari Friday in Abuja said the public service remained the engine room of the government, and should attract the “best and brightest’’ that would fuel policies with fresh ideas, while assuring that the Orosanye White Paper Report would be implemented after review.

“I have directed that the Orosanye White Paper Report be subjected to immediate review to enable the government to take the most appropriate decision on its general recommendation,” the President told the Central Working Committee of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) at the State House.

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“I am aware that the review is about to be completed. While some may complain about the length of time it has taken thus far, the outcome of the various review teams would lead to some fundamental changes in the structure of our Civil Service and as such it must be subjected to rigorous review and scrutiny before presentation and implementation,” he said.

The President said the Secretary to the Government of the Federation would submit the harmonised white paper once it has been concluded.

He assured that the present administration remains focused on strengthening the service and ensuring it helps the government fulfill its objectives.

The President said the government understands the role of the Civil Service in policy formulation and implementation towards the provision of socio-economic and political benefits to our citizens.

“This administration remains focused on strengthening the service and ensuring it helps the government fulfill its objectives. The Civil Service must not be seen as a dumping ground for job-seekers, but must attract the best and the brightest who will contribute fresh ideas and a determination to solving our socio-economic problems.”

The President appreciated civil servants for their role in realising targets of the administration.

“The role and importance of the Civil Service cannot be over emphasised. A strong Civil Service is the bedrock on which good governance, policy execution and pathways for the delivery of democratic dividends can be achieved.

“I am further delighted to note your acknowledgement of the giant strides this administration has made since its inception in repositioning the Federal Civil Service for greater productivity and enhanced performance. I take note of the various milestone achievements you have listed which symbolises our commitment to the Civil Service in spite of the many challenges that we encountered from the beginning of this journey,’’ he said.

Salary review

On the request for salary review for civil servants by the committee, the President acknowledged the urgent need for a general salary review in the federal public service due to worldwide problems of high inflation amidst general economic disruption.

“I wish to urge you to appreciate the revenue constraints being presently faced by the government which is caused mainly by the activities of unscrupulous citizens through the theft of our crude oil, a major contributor to our revenue base.

“This is compounded by the global economic downturn as a result of the on-going Russian – Ukrainian war, which has led to price increases not just in the costs of goods and services globally, but also in the transportation of these goods and services across the globe.

The President said the investment in security assets had been at a huge cost, after several decades of negligence.

The President also told the Central Working Committee of ASCSN that request for restoration of the payment of gratuity to public service employees was one of the landmark provisions addressed in the 2004 Pension Reform Act.

“Therefore, implementing your request for the payment of a bulk sum of gratuity to retired civil servants would negate the intent and provisions of the Act.

“It should be acknowledged that a change in the implementation of the Act would require an amendment by the National Assembly. But more importantly, the Pension Reform Act is a better designed and robust system that allows for safety of pensioners funds and its payment,” he said.

On the harmonisation of salary in the public service, the President said a committee was set up for that purpose, under the Minister of Finance, which was still working.

“A report is being expected, to be submitted at the conclusion of its assignment, which would be studied for appropriate action.

“Let me thank you once more for this visit and to re-assure you that this administration would not tolerate any policy that would destabilise the service.

“I, therefore, implore you to always acknowledge your very important role as the engine room of government no matter the political party that is in power. This is the main reason you must remain non-partisan in the discharge of your duties.”

ASCSN’s commendations

In his remarks, the President of ASCSN, Dr. Tommy Okon, said the administration had been “worker-friendly’’ with implementation of far-reaching reforms, which include regular payment of salaries and allowances, increase in minimum wage, extension of retirement age for some workers, like teachers, and sustenance of the size of public service in spite of constraints of financing.

He called for an increase in salaries of civil servants following increasing cost of living, restoring full payment of gratuity at retirement, harmonisation of public service salaries and allowances, and increase in the budget of the National Housing Fund.

He said the increasing cost of living had made it difficult for many public servants to carry on in spite of the minimum wage review, stressing that benefits of all public servants should also be harmonised for fairness.

“There should be equal pay for jobs of equal value,” he said.

He commended the President for ensuring access and inclusivity in governance, stressing that it was the first time the association was meeting with the President of the country.