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Jigawa: When Salary Increase Borders On The Ridiculous

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Imagine a state where the average worker in the health sector, regardless of profession or level of education, takes home the sum of two hundred thousand naira each month.   Picture a state where clinical assistants (C.A.), with a certificate from the school of  health technology, and whose termination point is GL08, take home over N80,000 monthly.    Imagine further that in the same state, academic staff in the five tertiary institutions are paid rent allowances ranging from N800,000 to 1,200,000 annually.   Imagine a state where the sum of two billion naira is set aside monthly for the payment of monthly salaries to civil servants.  

  Now imagine another state where a GL16/9 director, with 30 - 35 in service, has N65,000 as his take home package.   In this state the least paid workers, which make up 30% of the workforce, earn between N6,000 and N6,500 a month.   A fresh university graduate on GL08/2 gets N17,200 while a GL12/5 officer earns N25,000.   This state largely relies on the monthly allocations from the Federation Account of around N2.5 billion for all its capital and recurrent expenditures.  

  Surely, one would think, the two states are poles apart in terms of federal monthly allocations and internally generated revenue.   But in reality, both scenario play out in one and same state.   The state that collects an average of N2.5 billion, and with virtually no internally-generated revenue, is the same state that earmarks two billion naira as workers monthly salaries.    

  The whole thing started when Governor Lamido, in keeping with his earlier promise to better the lot of civil servants in the state, approved 53.7% upward review of workers salaries with effect from October 2010.   With this increase, the lowest paid workers package is upped from N6,500 to about N9,500.   University graduates will now take home N25,493.94 and a GL16/9 is to get just over N80,000.   No doubt, this gesture is a magnanimous one considering the fact that the state has received no increase in its monthly allocations from the Federation Account that would cover the increase in salaries valued at about N300 million.  

  All would have gone well but for the fact that just before the commencement of the implementation of the increase, the Jigawa government constituted a committee and charged it to sit down with representatives of the organized labour and obtain their views on the increase as well as find out from them whether the new package will address their agitations for better remunerations.   Seizing this opportunity, the representatives of health and tertiary institutions workers, who have been waiting for an opening, presented the committee with their brand new Federal Government-approved packages of CONHESS and CONMESS structures for the health workers and the CONTIDESS and COMPCASS structures tertiary institutions.  

  The pay structures were recently arrived at as befitting pay packages for the professionals in the two sectors by the national bodies of the health workers and academic unions.   In June 2010, the CONHESS (Consolidated Health Salary Structure) and CONMESS (Consolidated Medical Salary Structure) were implemented in all the Federal Government controlled health institutions such as the Federal Medical Centers. On their part, states in the Federation are in various stages of negotiations with the chapters' workers representatives on what percentages of the structures they can be able to pay.   Already, 11 states have agreed to pay the CONMESS structures to the medical doctors in their employ.   Citing huge expenditures involved in adoption the structure as a whole, Delta State has offered to pay 60% of CONMESS to its doctors; Kano has agreed to pay 63% and Gombe agreed to pay 55% on both the CONHESS and CONMESS structures.   On its part Borno state has commenced paying the 68 doctors in its employ upping its monthly expenditure on the medical doctors from N17 million to N32 million.  

  On collection of the consolidated pay structures, the committee was then tasked by government to, as obtains in other states, negotiate with the unionists representing the health and education sectors.   But curiously, instead of undertaking an examination of the components of the structures and taking pains to find out what is happening with similar negotiations across the country, the hapless committee simply concentrated on when the structures will be implemented.   The how and all other modalities receive little or no attention.   A case in point is the adoption of Rent Allowances to tertiary institutions workers, which now results in workers serving in Gumel, where the average annual rent is N25,000, collecting over N40,000 monthly as rent allowance.   Even in Dutse, the state capital, the average annual rent is N60,000 with the highest being that of a 3-bedroom house in the ultra-modern Inuwa Dutse Estate which goes for N250,000 and the lowest being N15,000 in the Bokoto area, but senior lecturers at the Dutse polytechnic now receive between N800,000 to N900,000 annually as rent allowances and the lowest lecturer on COMPCAS 07 nets N250,000.    

  The importance of negotiations and recalculations by such committees is evident in the fact that of all the states in the Federal Federation, that have so far implemented the CONHESS (Kano, Ondo and Gombe) have so far implemented the CONHESS, none agreed to adopt it 100%.   Also, the law authorizing the CONHESS structure clearly stipulates that it only applies to pharmacists, medical laboratories, nurses and other health workers in the health.   More so, even in the Federal Government, the structure is enjoyed only by the health professionals mentioned above.   But the Jigawa Committee decided that even accountants, cashiers, store officers, admin officers and other adhoc staff working in the hospitals should be beneficiaries.  

  Of all these pay structures, the CONMESS structure, which targets medical doctors, has so far received the most blessing.   A lot of states in the Federation, sensing a way to stop the exodus of medical doctors from their hospitals, are promising to adopt it.   The CONHESS structure, on the other hand, has so far received fewer blessings.   Important as nurses, CHEWS and other professionals are, the logistics of paying them on the structure because of their vast numbers, are giving states shivers.   Not so Jigawa State.   Of the over 17,000 workers in its employ, more than 7,000 work in the health sector.   Aside from the few who are medical doctors, all the others are placed on the CONHESS structure and are paid an average of N200,000 monthly.   There is evidence also that an exodus by accountants, admin offices and anybody else who can find a slot in a health facility, is under way, because a transfer means automatic conversion to CONHESS and an increase of about 300% in monthly salary.  

  Needless to say, some of this expenditure can be cut.    Workers welfare should not be at the detriment of our dear state.   At our current stage and with our resources, we don't have to be the state with the highest paid health personnel.   While there is evidence that adopting of the CONMESS structure, even in totality, will greatly benefit the state, we certainly can take a second look at the CONHESS structure with the view to fashioning it to suit our stage in development.   We also do not need to be giving our lecturers rent allowances as if they live in the FCT or other capitals in Africa when they actually live in Jigawa.   At our current developmental stage and with our great fortune of having Sule Lamido as our helmsman, we need all the resources we could garner towards our ongoing transformation.   Hopefully, a time would come when Jigawa would boast of having the best paid educational and health workers in the Federation, but we are not there yet.       Lawal M. Adamu

Gida Dubu,
Yadi, Dutse
Jigawa State 08032151478