Labour unions voiced strong criticism on Wednesday against the Federal Government for reducing the supplementary budgetary allocation for wage awards to federal civil servants by N100 billion. The move, unveiled in the recently revised 2023 Supplementary Budget, sparked warnings from unions, emphasizing a breach of agreements.
Data from the revised budget revealed the government’s decision to cut the four-month wage award cost from around N210 billion to N110 billion. The controversy surrounding the budget also highlighted other amendments, including the replacement of the N5 billion presidential yacht allocation with Navy barges, an increase in the defense budget, and allocations for various projects.
The Ministry of Defence saw an additional allocation of N69.67 billion, while the Nigerian Navy received an extra N25 billion, with the controversial presidential yacht expenditure replaced by the purchase of a self-propelled barge. Other allocations included N19 billion for tugboats and N30 billion for the Defence Intelligence Agency.
The National Assembly had amended the budget following a public outcry over seemingly extravagant items, reflecting a broader concern about fiscal responsibility.
Labour unions, including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), condemned the reduction in wage awards, emphasizing the need for compliance with agreements reached during negotiations. The unions warned against further salary reductions, asserting that the agreed-upon wage award of N35,000 for federal workers should be upheld.
The Assistant General Secretary of NLC, Chris Onyeka, stated that if the reduction is aimed at cutting down the government’s expenses, it should be through reducing numerous aides and assistants rather than diminishing workers’ salaries. Meanwhile, Benson Upah, the Head of Information at NLC, expressed disappointment at the lack of prior information about the reduction.
The TUC’s National Deputy President, Tommy Etim, emphasized that the government must honor the agreement reached with organized labor, warning against playing games with wage awards.
Efforts to obtain an explanation from the Presidency on the wage reduction were unsuccessful at the time of filing this report.
The controversy adds to the challenges faced by workers, who are already grappling with the impact of escalating inflation on their finances. Civil servants, who received a single payment of N35,000 for September, await further compliance with the agreements made during negotiations with the Federal Government.