In September 2019, the Kaduna State Government became the first government in the country to pay the new minimum wage and consequential adjustments. The state government followed this up by increasing the minimum pension of persons on the defined benefits scheme to N30,000 monthly.
This step to advance the welfare of workers significantly increased the wage burden of the state government and immediately sapped up the funds of many local governments. While the Kaduna State Government believes that public sector wages overall are still relatively low, their current levels are obviously limited by the resources available to the government. What each public servant earns might be puny in comparison to private sector wages, but the total wage bill consumes much of the revenues of the state. The desire to pay more is a sentiment that must bow to the limits prescribed by the ability to pay.
Kaduna State public finances have been severely stretched by the higher wage bills at a time when revenues from the Federation Account allocations Committee (FAAC) have not increased. KDSG has made significant progress in increasing its collection of internally generated revenue (IGR). Without hiking tax rates, the state government has almost quadrupled IGR from about N13bn in 2015 to over N50bn in 2020.
What the Kaduna State Government receives from FAAC since the middle of 2020, like most other sub-nationals, can barely pay salaries and overheads. In November 2020, KDSG had only N162.9m left after paying salaries. That month, Kaduna State got N4.83bn from FAAC and paid N4.66bn as wages.
In the last six months, personnel costs have accounted for between 84.97% and 96.63% of FAAC transfers received by the Kaduna State Government. In March 2021, Kaduna State had only N321m left after settling personnel costs. That month, the state got N4.819bn from FAAC and paid out N4.498bn, representing 93% of the money received. This does not include standing orders for overheads, funding security operations, running costs of schools and hospitals, and other overhead costs that the state has to bear for the machinery of government to run, for which the state government taps into IGR earnings.
This Kaduna State Government was elected to develop the state, not just to pay the salaries of public servants. It was elected to promote equality of opportunity, to build and run schools and hospitals, upgrade infrastructure and make the state more secure and attractive to the private sector for jobs and investments. Under the leadership of Malam Nasir El-Rufai, the Kaduna State Government is faithfully implementing this mandate, amidst challenges and constraints.
The government is an institution organised to deliver public goods, not to minister solely to the interests of the persons employed to help deliver mandate. Therefore, the state government has no choice but to shed some weight and reduce the size of the public service. It is a painful but necessary step to take, for the sake of the majority of the people of this state. The public service of the state with less than 100,000 employees (and their families) cannot be consuming more than 90% of government resources, with little left to positively impact the lives of the more than 9 million that are not political appointees or civil servants. It is gross injustice for such a micro-minority to consume the majority of the resources of the State.
Measures taken to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic have shown clearly that the public service requires much fewer persons than it currently employs. The public service is an important institution, and it should therefore maintain only an optimum size. Faced with a difficult situation, the Kaduna State Government is persuaded that it cannot refuse to act or act in ways that only conduce to populist sentiment, without solving the fundamental problem. The redundancies to be declared will affect political appointees and civil servants, and its purpose is to save funds and ensure that a strong and efficient public service exists to use those resources to implement progressive programmes and projects for the people, and thereby develop the state.
While seeking the responsibility to lead Kaduna State during the 2015 elections, Malam Nasir El-Rufai ran on a manifesto that included a commitment to a strong public service. The Kaduna State Government has therefore made it clear that the progress and future of the state depends on a competent public service, lean in size but super-efficient in conceiving programmes and delivering services, savvy with modern technology and well connected to the public it serves. In pursuit of this goal, KDSG launched the public service reform and revitalisation programme in 2016.
This was in line with the Kaduna State Government’s announcement at inception in May 2015 that it is determined to eliminate waste and ensure that government resources serve a majority of citizens rather than the few persons working for government, including political appointees and other public servants.
Therefore, KDSG began conducting verification of civil servants in 2015 to help ensure the integrity of the government payroll and weed out ghost workers. This verification needed to be a continuous exercise, undertaken at intervals to check and maintain the integrity of the personnel records.
The state government also signalled its discomfort at the high recurrent costs of the state, which meant that most public funds went into paying the wages of less than 100,000 public servants in a state with close to 10m people. While affirming the principle that those who work must be paid, the state government also asserted its recognition of the obligation to ensure that the people of the state must also be served by their government.
As part of the 2016 public service reform process, KDSG also reviewed salaries and was ready to announce new wages before the FG announced in 2018 that it was initiating a new national minimum wage process. It was that early preparation that enabled the Kaduna State Government to promptly comply with the new national minimum wage before any other government could or did.
In these tough times, government cannot encourage the illusion that the public service can be immune from the measures required to cope with the reality of low revenues. The extent of these required actions is being worked out at the State and Local Government levels, based on very transparent and objective criteria across all the three branches of the Government. The stories circulating in the social media about pruning local government personnel to 50, converting junior staff to casual staff and the like are false and should therefore be disregarded. These false claims are a rehash of the contents of a forged letter that was circulated just prior to the 2019 elections. Each and every decision taken will be in full compliance with the Kaduna State Public Service Law and any regulations made pursuant thereto, and other extant laws.
Government realises that the disengagements may have short-term psychological and financial impacts on the persons to be affected. Therefore, KDSG will not only work with the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) to expedite payments of any contributory pension benefits due to those so entitled to them but will also give preferential treatment to those disengaged that are willing to take advantage of the state government’s various agricultural and entrepreneurship development schemes. KDSG appeals for the understanding of everyone in Kaduna State and urges officers that may be affected to embrace alternatives in the private sector.
Special Adviser to the Governor (Media & Communication)
12th April 2021