Monday, June 27, 2011

“Productivity is a measure of output from a production process, per unit of
input” –OECD Compendium on Productivity

The next war in Nigeria may have nothing to do with Boko Haram or Niger Delta, but all to do with labor and productivity. Currently the federal government of Nigeria and the states are in a logjam on who is responsible for the non implementation of the new minimum wage for public sector employees. The federal government and labor organizations claimed that they reached an agreement in principle that binds all state government to pay the agreed wage increase which seems substantial when you consider the paltry allocation each state gets from the federal purse. The various state governments claims they are not party to that an agreement even though they were invited to the negotiations. I believe at the heart of this grotesque imbroglio is the antiquated idea that workers earning should be fixed monthly irrespective of output.

I think the parties are putting the cart before the horse, any attempt to determine an arbitrary wage increase without an appreciation of productivity is bound to fail. What is more, it actually breeds corruption. Even though the supposed increased wage may look and sound substantial one needs to look at it against the backdrop of the huge inflationary trends in Nigeria. Every benefits of publicized wage increase to workers in Nigeria often invariably leads to arbitrary increase in cost of living and expense.

An arbitrary fixing of wage may also be the main reason why civil servants rarely stays at their job post as they are busy looking for other means to support their family. Anyone who thinks earning the newly set minimum wage will help increase productivity is dreaming. The new wage cannot feed a family of two for a week. So workers earning such pay will basically sign in and then run around looking for contracts or have a shop somewhere where they could make ends meet.A serious reform will overhaul the entire civil service, stream line jobs, state by state based on the needs of each community. The federal government for instance is top heavy without any commensurate performance and impact on local community. Some of the state government are so bloated and irrelevant to the community they are meant to serve. For instance, there is no reason why the Federal government should be involved in building houses, at best it should encourage states to pull resources together such as would encourage interlocal cooperation that would ensure prices of building materials such as cement et al would not be too exorbitant. The FGN should of course help such states access funds by providing guarantees for such interlocal agreement. Nigeria is perhaps the only "federal" government where the central government directly repairs and build road networks including putting up sign post on the so called federal highways, which in itself is an aberration.

A true federal government ensures regional government carried out its will through smart deployment of resources through federal legislation that tied funds to interlocal cooperation among local government and state governments. Duplication of services between federal, states and local government will be reduced and accountability will be better ensured. The current scenario makes for a bloated federal government.Who in their right mind, would for one second think if the Lagos-Ibadan expressway or Lagos-Benin expressway had been a primary project of regional governors with the same access to funds that FGN had invested on these roads for the past 12 years will still remain comatose and eyesore as it is?Heck the Lekki road that was concession-ed after the former is going at a faster pace than Lagos-Ibadan road where nothing but the signboard announcing the award of the contract had been in place for more than 2 years!

It is always difficult to make federal government accountable in the current scenario; a smaller federal government will put focus on “lazy” state and local governments. All the popular changes we have witnessed so far in the fourth republic have all come from visionary state government, be it Donald Duke’s Cross Rivers state or Governor Fashola’s Lagos. Democratic efforts for change in government in places like Ogun State, Imo State and Nassarawa state also come from state citizens tired of inept state government who are not doing anything for them. Whereas it is easy for politicians at the federal level to blame Federal Government ineptness on sharia, militants, Boko Haram, or any ethnic palaver, it is much more difficult for governors like Gbenga Daniel to blame lack of portable water in Ijebu Ode on sharia!

We need increased productivity but it can only come after a smart reform that will ensure that we do things differently and that will ensure we get maximum productivity from our civil service even while we paid them well for their services. It is suggested that such reforms must neither be political, nor political party driven! We are currently running a civil service with colonial mindset in the 21st century!

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