As most local governments in the country groan under the tight grip of Caretaker Chairmen, the secretary of the Oyo state chapter of the National Union of Local Government Employees(NULGE), Comrade Joseph Oguntimehin, in this interview with Solomon Adewunmi, describes the development as unconstitutional. Comrade Oguntimehin also speaks on other topical issues. Excerpts:
Q- How have your members fared under the present dispensation ?
A-To God be the glory, NULGE as a union, we have our limitations, but we have not fared badly, our members are receiving their salaries, even though it comes not at the time, we are expecting, for example, government policy, is that salaries should be paid on or before the 25th of every month, but since that came into being in the local government, we’ve not received salaries, earlier than the 10th or 15th of the following month. That has been the scenario all along in the local government. Apart from that, so well, so good. In the last two years, we have fared very well.
Q-Local government workers were retrenched sometime ago, what is the present position ?
A-Presently, we have about 120 of them that are yet to be recalled, efforts are being intensified to gte them recalled. As at last week, we met with His Excellency, and we are meeting again this week and we hope very soon the matter will be put to final rest. We are hopeful, we are optimistic, we believe His Excellency, and this holy month of Ramadan, we want to use the occasion, to appeal to his conscience, we’ve met with him ans so far more thasn ever before, efforts are been intensified to get them recalled.
Q-What is NULGE’s position on the contributory pension scheme ?
A-The scheme took off when I was secretary in Ogun state, our members ther embraced it, also when I was in Osun state, it also took off, but because of stories that later came out from what is happening, how state governments have been embezzling the money, workers here in Oyo state are wary, they are skeptical, they don’t want to rush into what they will later regret. Labour here has met with government and we have started talking. But the bottom line is that recently, the 2004 contributory pension law has just been amended and there is need to study the amendment, so as to see how it affects us.. The loopholes, lacuna, in the 2004 law has been uncovered, that is why the amendment was made by the National Assembly. So we will study the amendment and see how it will help our members. Definitely we will do it, but it will take time, it is already an act of the National Assembly, so no employer of labour can run away from it, it will just take some time. We know the benefits that go along with it, but we don’t want to rush into things that we will later regret.
Q-What about promotions, are your members happy ?
A-About three months ago, letters of promotion for 2011 was released in the state for civil and public servants, including local government workers. Right now the list for 2012 and 2013 are been compiled, those that are due for promotion for 2012 and 201 are been compiled right now. So that anytime before the end of the year, 2012 and 2013 promotions will be released, kudos to the sate government on this, because everybody who is working expects promotion as and when due, but because of lapses inherent in the system, in the past,it has not been coming as expected, But I give kudos to the present government, it wants to remove the backlog of promotions that have been left unattended to , in the past. It is a positive step towards the right direction, when all the backlogs are cleared, am sure that it will now be regular, people will now receive their promotions as and when due, it is a good omen, it is a sign of good things to come for us.
Q-What are your views on the caretaker arrangement in the state ?
A=Caretaker arrangement is appalling, it is not constitutional, the constitution did not make provision for any caretaker arrangement, but because Nigeria is a country where anything goes, where the Governors and government give themselves powers and authorities that are unconstitutional. That is why you have all these unconstitutional things happenings. But what is happening in Oyo state, they are now relying on a court ruling, and until the case id dispensed of, you cannot go ahead to elect local government councilors. So this is the problem. If there is quick dispensation of justice in the country, ther wouldn’t be problem in this area, but because of the lukewarm judicial system, in the country, that is why the problem persists. Justice delayed is justice denied. Until the case is dispensed with, nothing can be done. As regards to how it affects our members,, we are civil servants, we are there to work with whoever government, or the law puts there. But a democratically elected local government administration is better, because our members work better under an elected and fearless local government, because an elected local government will be responsible to the people, who elected them. But under caretaker arrangement, they will be responsible and answerable to the governor, who appointed them. It is like a military kind of arrangement and it is not ideal for our democracy. For democracy to move in this country, anything caretaker should be a thing of the past, it should not even occur at all, if there are disputes, let it be settled within three months, and let elected executives be put in place. So we are managing the system, we are doing whatever we are asked to do. We carry out our responsibilities as workers, as civil servants, without let or hindrance. But as I said we fare better under elected council system, we work better under this system.