Plateau State Head of Civil Service, Izam Atang Azi, In this interview with our Correspondent JUDE DANGWAM, disclosed how the Civil Service received an unprecedented reform in the last five years of Governor Simon Lalong.
What are some of the developments that the Plateau State Civil Service can boost of in the last five years?
You know the Civil Service is only a service delivery agency, we may not have physical project for people to see, but our own is human capital development. By ensuring that the welfare of workers is uplifted and also ensuring that we have a good working relationship between government and labour.
Base on that, we are able to achieve a lot in the payment of salaries and pension gratuities. Because of this, we then have a situation where civil servants are more comfortable and can even access loans that can help them to do one or two things.
When we came in, the ministries were scattered, especially, those in the storey building because renovation work was not completed. So, we had to appeal to His Excellency and funds were released to the contractors and they were able to do some appreciable work and now all the ministries are back to their respective offices, which have now made work easy.
In the areas of industrial harmony, when this government came in the workers were on strike over outstanding salaries and other issues. So, government was able to clear all the seven month salaries of workers and eight months pension arrears and since then, we have stability in the payment of salaries and pensions.
In addition to that, there was this issues of ‘No Work No Pay’ policy of the previous administration, these are withheld salaries that this government inherited. The workers in the local government, the teachers in primary schools and also the staff of tertiary institutions in the state as well as doctors under the Ministry of Health, that is Plateau hospitals and the Hospital Management board; all had withheld salaries because of the No Work No Pay policy.
So, the case had been in Court, but upon the coming of this administration in 2015, there was an understanding and the governor accepted settlement out of Court and government has, so far, paid 99 percent of the workers who were affected by the No Work No Pay policy, both at the local and state government.
We just have few cases that we are working on, but 99 percent of withheld salaries had been paid, and government had to spend over N7 billion on all the payments for those period.
You know, a committee was earlier on set up to look into the accumulation, and then the committee was able come out with an established list of those who were been owned both at the state and the local government. Aside that, we were able to settled some contending issues with staff of tertiary institutions in the state, this government has fully implemented their salary structure hundred percent (100%) whether teaching or non teaching staff, which before now, it was not up to one hundred percent.
The state governor then approved the retirement age of staff of the Polytechnic at 65 years and apart from that, all the tertiary institutions in the state now are scheduled bodies, which means their pension now will be more stable and you can move from one place to another.
This is because, when an Agency is not scheduled, it is difficult for you to move from that Agency to another or transfer your service, but now, a staff of Finance can transfer his service to any of the tertiary institutions as long as they have the vacancy and you have the qualification and they are ready to accept you which was not like that before now.
There was this issue of call migration; government has been able to even pay the arrears of such migrations. Even the doctors, their salaries structure was reviewed to eighty (80%) by this government in 2016. Before the year 2016, their salaries were not up to that! This is because the Governor realized that some of the doctors were leaving for a better greener pasture, so because of that he had to review their salaries to 80% these are medical doctors and even veterinary doctors are included since 2016. For some of them we had to even pay them some arrears base on that reviewed.
What is the workforce of Plateau State civil servants and what is the level of promotion in the last five years?
In the area of promotions, this government has done well in the promotion of civil servants, because promotion was suspended before the government came on board. So, when this government came in, promotion was done to all those who were due for promotion and we have almost 15,000 who have been promoted so far and the exercise is still ongoing.
Almost every year now, the workers are being promoted and are even been paid three months arrears of this promotions, which you know very well that there are states in this country that don’t pay promotion arrears any longer but here we do if you have arrears!.
Another issue is that because of the stability in the payment of salaries, we have been able to enter into an agreement with the Federal Mortgage Bank in 2017. A MoU was signed for the N1million home renovation loans to be given to civil servants and I can tell you that as at the moment, they have so far disbursed about N906 million to 950 civil servants who have benefited from this loan already and is an ongoing process. In fact if not because this COVID-19, we are expecting them to disbursed another N322 million to another set of about 390 civil servants.
This initiative has help most civil servants because many of them are coming