By Nduka Chiejina and Frank Ikpefan, Abuja,
There was anxiety yesterday in the Federal Civil Service as the Federal Government unfolded plans to reduce the size of the work force.
Already, government is working out an exit package for workers that would be affected.
However, there was disquiet as Labour described the plan to sack workers as a reversal of the much advertised Federal Government’s employment drive.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Mrs. Zainab Ahmed said it was imperative to reduce the size of government because of the huge huge amount government spent on recurrent expenditure annually.
Fears are rife that the merger of agencies being proposed will compound the unemployment crisis in the country.
However, the minister said government’s mode of reducing the workforce will not entirely be in line with the Stephen Oronsaye Report.
She said government is working on an “exit package” to be paid to those that will be affected.
Mrs. Ahmed said: “There is a special committee, led by the SGF, that is working on the review of agencies, with a view to collapsing them partly using the Oransanye Report. At the end of it, what we want to do is to reduce the size of government and also to reduce the size of personnel cost and part of it will be designing the exit packages that are realistic”.
Explaining the reason for the proposed sack, the finance minister said: “We are revenue challenged. So, everything we do, we can’t put an exit package if you are not willing to cash it immediately. So, when you are asking people to exit by choice, you must be able to give them that package as they are exiting”.
She added: “There are so many things that are happening. These are not easy decisions to make because they affect people and families. So, you have to make sure that whatever we commit to we are actually going to deliver on it”.
The minister fielded questions at the Public Presentation and Breakdown of Highlights of the 2022 Appropriation Act in Abuja.
Mrs. Ahmed said the Federal Government will start repaying the $3.4 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan collected last year, based on the repayment schedule agreed to by the two parties.
The finance minister stated that President Muhammadu Buhari has ratcheted up his monitoring of the performances of ministers in his cabinet, adding that he now monitors the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) every quarter, instead of annually.
On when Nigeria will start using credible population figures to plan the economy, the finance minister said “the country is almost ready for the census exercise. What is needed is the date, which the National Population Commission will communicate to President Muhammadu Buhari”.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) said it closed 2021 fiscal year with a tax revenue collection of N6.4 trillion.
Contributing virtually to the budget breakdown session, Executive Chairman of FIRS, Muhammad Nami said the tax authority generated N6.4 trillion in 2021, adding that, non-oil sector revenue accounted for 70 percent of the revenue.
He said: “In 2021, FIRS realized N6.4 trillion as tax collection for the first time with the assistance of Information Technology (ICT) deployment”, he said.
The finance minister stated that as at November 2021, Federal Government of Nigeria’s (FGN’s) aggregate revenue was N5.51 trillion, representing 74 percent of what was targeted in the year. This was made up of FGN share of oil revenues N970.3 billion (representing 53 percnt performance of the prorated sum in the 2021 budget).
Labour unions have called for caution, urging the Federal Government to have a rethink over sack.
The unions asked the Federal Government to ensure that affected workers should be paid their full entitlements.
Presidents of two federal workers’ unions, who spoke with our correspondent are; Comrade (Chief) Lawrence Amaechi, President, Nigeria Civil Service Union and President, Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Dr Tommy Okon, expressed worry about the sack.
Amaechi said his union would monitor the implementation of the White Paper of the Oronsaye Committee Report.
He said: “If at the time of implementation we are satisfied that Mr A must go, we will ask where is his cheque? Is it complete? Give it to him and he will go and better his life.
“The Oronsaye committee white paper has long been gazetted. At this point, we cannot stop it. It is just to follow the implementation; how it will not affect our workers badly.
“When the implementation starts, we will know how to fight it.”
President, ASCSN, Dr Okon, said the union’s position on the planned retrenchment would be made public after meeting its organs.
He said: “We have to meet as a Congress and take a decision that will be all encompassing. I cannot speak on the position yet, until we meet. Once we meet, then, we will make our position known.
“The Central Working Committee will meet to look at the decision and even at the National Joint Council level we will meet. Once our decision is made we will communicate it to all parastatals.”