By Sani Adamu
By all accounts, the process of evolving an appropriate and enduring pay structure for Nigeria’s public service sector has been daunting and contentious.
Successive colonial and post-colonial administrations had to set up commissions and committees in an attempt to fashion out a sustainable pay system for workers in the public service.
They included the Hunt Commission in 1934; Bridges Committee of Enquiry of 1941; Tudor Davis Commission in 1945; the Harragin Commission of 1946; Miller Commission of 1947; the Gorsuch Commission of 1955; Elwood Grading Team of 1956; the 1959 Mbanefo Commission; the Morgan Commission of 1963.
Others were the Adebo Commission of 1970 – 1971, Public Service Review Commission of 1974 (which reviewed the Udoji Report of 1974) and the 1981 Cookey Commission.
Besides, the Federal Government also set up the Fatai Williams Committee in 1990 as well as the Longe Commission which reviewed the wages and salaries of staff of higher institutions in the country.
It also established other salary review panels and committees which included the Ayida Review Panel on the Civil Service Reforms in 1994; Vision 2010 Committee Report of 1997 and the Committee on Harmonisation of Remuneration in the Public Service in 1998.
Specifically, the Tudor Davis and Harragin Commission of 1945 and 1946, focused on the review of wages and general conditions of service.
The two commissions made fundamental changes in the Public Service by establishing the ‘Junior and Senior’ service cadres in the public service.
The 1947 Miller Commission, however, recommended the application of the principle of payment based on geographical location of workers, while the 1955 Gorsuch Commission faulted the division of the public service into ‘Senior’ and ‘Junior’ cadre and recommended five main grades.
But following the Sept. 27, 1963 general strike, the Morgan Commission of 1964/Elwood Grading Team, being the first post-independence public service reform commissions, recommended a uniform pay structure for officers performing identical duties.
To address some of the problems facing the public sector, the Adebo Salaries and Wages Review Commission of 1971 recommended the setting up of a Public Service Review Commission, mandated to exhaustively examine several fundamental issues such as the role of the Public Service Commission, the structure of the Civil Service, and its conditions of service and training arrangements.
The acceptance of the recommendations of the Commission led to the setting up of the Udoji Public Service Review Commission.
The Udoji Commission of 1974 recommended, among others, a Unified Grading and Salary Structure (UGSS) which would embrace all posts in the Civil Service from the lowest to the highest (Grade Levels 01 – 17).
However, the Williams and Williams Commission of 1975 was set up to correct the anomalies in the Udoji Review.
The Cookey Presidential Commission on Salaries and Conditions of Service of University Staff and the 1981Onosode Presidential Commission on Parastatals, created a new pay system for the university system, statutory corporations and Central Bank of Nigeria.
Also in 1990, the Justice Fatai Williams Committee set up to look into the request of doctors to opt out of the United Grading Salary System, created a separate salary structure for the health and medical services.
To further ensure proper remuneration for tertiary institutions, the Longe Commission which was set up in 1991, recommended a 30 per cent salary increase for staff of tertiary institutions within the Elongated University Salary Structure (EUSS).
Similarly, in order to address the disparity in public and private pay system, the Allison Ayida Panel of 1994, observed that the gap between the public and private sectors’ pay package was as wide as 300 to 500 per cent, in favour of the private sector.
Apparently not satisfied with the various salary adjustments in the past, the report of the Vision 2010 Committee of 1997, suggested a harmonised salary package for the public and private sectors
The report, therefore, recommended substantial upward review of wages and salaries; realistic minimum wage and an adequate reward system that could sustain an average worker and which would not be eroded by inflation at any time.
It also recommended a review of salaries and allowances every two years, based on a cost of living index to promote comparability of remuneration with the private sector.
This is in addition to its recommendation for the payment of generous housing allowances, to enable civil servants rent adequate accommodation and reduce their incessant demand to live in government quarters.
The vision 2010 report equally recommended the provision of assistance in the education of workers’ children, by paying education allowances on a maximum of four children per family until they graduate from secondary school.
However, the President Jonathan’s administration has expressed its readiness to formulate a pay policy framework that would guide payment of remunerations in the public service on a sustainable basis.
Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), announced this recently in Abuja at the opening of a workshop on Pay Policy, organised by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission,
Anyim, who was represented by Mr Charles Bonat, Permanent Secretary, General Services Office, said that such a policy would also moderate the wage bill.
He said it would also encourage and reward productivity, engender equity and recognise ability to pay while paying attention to the cost of living.
“Indeed, a pay policy that has these attributes will certainly lead to a positive transformation of the public service.
“The time is auspicious for it and this country has the capacity to produce a pay policy that other nations can refer to,” Anyim said.
But notwithstanding the government’s assurances, various trade unions have been agitating for special pay structure for their members.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU) are among such agitators.
Specifically, the two unions have been advocating a special Media Salary Structure (MSS) for their members in view of the peculiarities of their duties.
Mr Oluwayemisi Bamgbose, National President of RATTAWU, urged the Federal Government to ensure the implementation of the new MSS.
According to Bamgbose, media workers should be given their pride of place like other specialised workers.
He said that the delay in the implementation of the union’s recommendation was regrettable, but said that the struggle would be sustained to enhance media workers’ living standard.
“We are converging here basically on the new media salary; we have met with government and the Ministry of Information, a committee of all heads of the parastatals agencies had signed the salary structure.
“What we are proposing is for the government to pay us what other sectors like medical and education, among others, are earning.
“We have to fight for our right and this is a battle of the entire media workers and the cultural sector,’’ Bamigbose said.
Echoing Bamgbose’s position, Mr Dele Atunbi, Vice President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Zone B, renewed the union’s demand for the implementation of the new media salary structure.
Atunbi, in a statement to mark the 2014 Workers’ Day in Akure, believes the implementation of the new salary structure will reduce poverty among media workers.
He stressed the need for all industrial unions in the media industry to come together and work for the actualisation of the MSS.
However, critics of salary increase, have warned the government against arbitrary wage adjustment in view of its negative implication on the nation’s economy.
Nonetheless, observers want the government to take a holistic look at the nation’s wage policies in addressing the problems of disparities in the public sector.
They stress the need to ensure that wages and income policies are carefully articulated and developed within a broader regulatory framework. NAN